Every day Life
I love to people watch. I think that the next generation is missing out on building people skills – and on lots of fun too - by choosing to look down at the digitized people and text on their tiny screens, instead of looking up at the world around them.
One of the best places to people watch is at the airport. There you see people at their best, and their worst. Patterns emerge. Stereotypes are reinforced, then shattered: Vacation-bound families of stressed-looking parents juggling bags and passes, bored teenagers, excited kids. Well-dressed older women, tidy and prim for the journey. Retirees in brightly-colored clothing who are taking it all in stride, relaxing with a cup of coffee and a book. A heavily-pierced young man politely allowing others to cut the line ahead of him. Harried men and women in business suits walk briskly by themselves, talking away on their Bluetooth-connected devices.
This week, I was at Logan airport for a 7:00 a.m. flight to Washington. As I drove to the airport at 5:15 a.m., I marveled at the traffic jam, the flood of cars at a crawl. Really? Who are all these people, and why were they on the road at this unspeakable hour?
As it turns out, most were heading to the airport. Inside the terminal, there were long lines. It was now 5:50 a.m. I punched in my information into the self-service computer and shuffled over to the crowded security area, and settled in for a long bout of people watching.
The best part of people watching at airports is at the security line, where the shedding game begins. Shoes come off. Clunky jewelry and watches are carefully placed in bins. Coats are dumped into small bins, unveiling rumpled sweatshirts or silk blouses underneath. On that morning, there was a middle-aged woman who quickly became my favorite attraction. She had on a fashionable head scarf. As she attempted to go through the metal detector, the security machine chirped and flashed. The TSA agent stepped over and asked her to remove her scarf. She complied, showing us a headful of large metal curler pins. There had to have been at last 15 of them. Realizing that they were going to take a few minutes to remove, the TSA agent asked her to step aside to do the deed. Others shuffled through the line. Hardware free, the woman then stepped to the front of the line and crossed through the security machine. The TSA agent once again stepped forward, frowning and pointing at her feet. She had forgotten to remove her shoes. Unfortunately, it was then my turn and I had no choice but to walk around her. I had been hoping to see what would have stopped her next.
As I write this blog, I’m back at the airport, this time for the return trip home. Today has a whole different vibe to it. The rush of the workday and getting to meetings, has been replaced with a sea of relaxed-looking passengers, anticipating the weekend adventure ahead, the return to friends and family. Here too are characters to entertain: The older woman in her purple sweater and red jacket. A middle-aged couple who sits side by side in silence, not touching or looking at each other. Several people are hunched over laptops, urgently getting things out of the way. A rather large gentleman eating a rather large, and rather messy, sandwich. The bearded man in Birkenstocks, shouting angrily at someone on his iPhone, oblivious to the rest of us. (The dichotomy of his footgear makes my head spin.).
Strolling confidently, a woman in a full length fur coat passes by, accompanied by a tall man with a felt fedora hat. It’s a warm November day, and I hope she’s heading to Canada or Alaska. A large extended family chats excitedly, greeting the rest of their party who just arrived. A smartly-dressed businessman sports a neatly-tied long ponytail of cornrows.
Inevitably, I spot the parent flying solo with their young child. This time, it’s the father who is competently maneuvering around people, finding a seat for his son, deftly pulling the tab off a small dish of grapes with one hand. I watch in admiration as he calmly talks to his curious child, sharing observations. After about five minutes, however, the Dad whips out his phone and starts texting away, oblivious to his son’s questions and chatter. The son, however, continues to look around with wide eyes, asking questions, making observations.
I spy a teenager, who is sprawled over two seats, hunched over her phone, oblivious to the chatter and movement around her. I urge to go over to her and tell her to break the silicon umbilical cord. If she does, she will find that the real entertainment is found by looking up, not down.