There is a seven-foot-tall bronze statue of George H.W. Bush in one of the terminals at the Houston airport. In this depiction, the former president’s forearm muscles ripple as he walks forward, into the wind, his suit jacket slung over his shoulder. It is impossible to believe he was ever really this strapped-out. There is notable pectoral definition even.
A group of Italian tourists gather in front of the bronze and gaze in awe, or something resembling awe.
On the plane I sit next to a pale man in a long, black duster coat. Upon his round-ish face he wears small, rimless spectacles and in his lap he holds a black, wide-brimmed hat. Based on these observations I could not tell if he was:
a cowboy-ish type
a Trenchcoat Mafia, D&D guy
the creepy Nazi from Raiders of the Lost Ark
Right away I know how I can tell which one he is: Sneak a look at his shoes. Is he wearing cowboy boots? Air Jordans? A particularly fascist wing-tip?
I look down and see only his socks. He’s kicked his shoes, or whatever they are, under the seat in front of him.
A few months ago I was on a flight and I was trying to do the in-flight crossword when, one by one, every pen I’d brought with me exploded.
They were modern pens, of the gel-roller genus and tip-ball species, yet pen evolution had for whatever reason left a tiny hole near their tips that would quickly blow knuckle-sized bubbles of black ink that would almost as quickly send their contents all over my puzzle. I’d open a pen, complete two or three entries, pop!, then cap up and wipe up. The man in the crème dress shirt sitting next to me was starting to get nervous.
I’ve brought pens with me on this trip. I’m hoping this kind will be able to withstand the altitude. But, really, it would seem suspect to start asking anybody in the airport, Will my pen blow uI mean exploI mean, will it hmm
The steward aboard the plane is serving beverages. He takes my drink order, then, addressing cowboy/trenchcoat/Nazi asks, How about you, wild man?
What does he KNOW?
The crossword in the Continental Airlines magazine is unimaginably difficult. (Though my pens are doing an excellent, non-explosive job of filling in the few blanks I can wage a guess at.) It’s ranging somewhere around a Times Saturdayhow is this possible? Jimmy Fallon and Queen Latifah are yukking it up on the awful in-flight movie, people are ordering fake dog rears out of the Air Mall, we’re all eating sloppy joes, and I’m trying to solve a crossword that’s been lifted straight from the back pages of the MENSA newsletter. What gives?
I stow my pens and puzzle and devote my attention to the movie, which by the end of it you’re really rooting for Fallon to get his stuff sorted out, even if you feel like you’re watching the next Andrew McCarthy.
After the movie, the airline presents some news segments, packaged as Continental TV or something like that. The concept sits around a newsroom that is as much of a newsroom as the kitchen you might expect were you to be watching a television cooking show. It has all the expected elements of a network news show, as well as a handful of well-hairdo’d hosts ready to give you your flight-fill of news, entertainment, and sports stories. The catch, however, is that they’re merely re-presenting CNN local-interest pieces. The double-catch, of course, is that CNN often re-reports on what other news sources have already turned in, a la, According to a story in today’s Washington Post , which means that Continental is presenting what CNN said about what [insert new source] said.
I watch, but still try to grab looks at the shoes of the guy next to me. He’ll have them off for the rest of the flight, and I’ll feel invasive if I track him in the terminal, and I never see him in baggage claim. Oh, but I look.