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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Airport People

Today, I flew from Detroit to Sacramento. I love airports. I love people watching. I like eating in airport Chili's and microbreweries. I like buying magazines I never normally buy. But mostly, I like the people watching.

I've done this enough times now where its second nature. I guess I have an airport routine. Its not so much a routine as if I had things to cross off my list, its just like shopping at the same store for a few years and knowing the isles well enough to plan out your shopping without even knowing you are doing it.

Some things have changed over the years as I have become more familiar with the process. For instance, I am fine with getting to the airport in just enough time to check in and walk on the plane. And, I know that if I am in seating group #4 and they just started seating group #2, I have plenty of time to walk to the nearest restroom and do some last minute business so I don't have to cram myself into the 10 foot square toilet (notice: on airplanes they never call them restrooms because you never get any kind of rest in there. You spend the whole time balancing while trying not to touch anything).

Back to the people watching . . .

You meet the same people at airports and on planes over and over again. There are only a few types. It's the same kind of scenario as meeting new people when you change jobs. The other day, I was talking to our new youth pastor, Ben about this very thing (Ben rocks, by the way--a good find). Ben was saying that all the people in our office and in the youth group remind him of people back in Minnesota--where he came from. So, periodically Ben will call people by other names under his breath to be funny. Then he will tell you stories about the people he is comparing so-and-so to. Then, you end up laughing because it is so true. We all have clones of ourselves running around somewhere (this is ironic that I am thinking about clones because I am listening to Radiohead's "Kid A" on the iPod as I type this. "Kid A" is Thom Yorke's name for a mythical first cloned human being who he suggests is now living among us).

So, today I am taking notice of the people I haven't seen since a few weeks ago when I went to Nashville and then a couple of weeks before that when I flew to Ireland. They are not "really" the same people . . . as far as I know.

OLD LADY
Old lady acts like she has never flown before which may be the case but, I hardly believe it. Old Lady talks really loud as she counts and recounts her bags while shouting things at her husband--usually his name-- over and over, followed by a deep sigh and look of disgust. She then mutters things under her breath and looks around frantically--wondering if she is in the right line--or maybe just looking around for a faster moving one. She yells her husband's name again. A few times. She checks her itinerary over and over. Looks at the screen behind her. At her itinerary. At the screen. She says something semi-rude to the poor lady managing the line flow. Line Flow Lady then yells something to the crowd about the flight that is leaving to Miami and how all passengers that are straggling should come to the front of the line. Old Lady didn't hear what Line Flow Lady said but, thinks it must have been important and something she needs to hear but, didn't. She wasn't listening. She was too worried about looking at her itinerary again. She frantically tries to find out what Line Flow Lady was saying by asking her husband. She yells his name again and again. Sigh. Then, she ask me. I tell her the scoop and tell her that Check-In lady has been asking to help the next person in line for the last 30 seconds and it is her turn. She frantically gathers all fifteen of her bags that may be filled with presents for the grandkids but, I assume they are more likely filled with big heavy things like that hair dryer my grandma used to have in the 70's with the big hose that attaches to a shower-cap-like plastic head covering.

OLD MAN
Married to Old Lady. May be hard of hearing but, I think not. He has perfected the art of ignoring her. Maybe because she has belittled him his whole life. Maybe because she insists on saying his name over and over again even when he acknowledges him. Maybe because it's the only way he ever feels in control of something in a life that always seems out of control.

BARE BELLY THONG GIRL
I feel sorry for this girl because she is making more than a fashion statement I suppose. She looks lonely. I think she is going to visit her dad or her mom who lives a few states away. Her shirt is way too tight and she doesn't really have the shape that is flattered by tight shirts. She bends over a lot to fidget with her iPod, her purse, her magazine etc. exposing her trendy underwear to everyone who is not really interested in seeing it. I am at the top of that list.

TRAVELING WITH INFANTS FAMILY
Oh, boy. I know we used to travel with infants but, I don't think we were ever this family. However, this family probably thinks they are not that family either and they most assuredly are. Pre-soccer Mom is tired looking. She is constantly putting Jr.'s pootie or binky or paci or yum-yum back into his mouth as she pushes the stroller. The stroller is loaded--not only with Jr.--but, with handbags, diaper bags, purses, coats for everyone, a large zippy-bag full of Cheerios and a big teddy bear which probably should have been left at home. Jr. is fidgety and keeps trying to turn around to grab things but, he is fully restrained by a shoulder belt. This makes Jr. even more angry. Pre-Glued-to ESPN--Young-Dad is asking how he can help but, Pre-soccer mom just keeps giving him a look like he should instinctively know. This frustrates both of them and reminds them of the fight they had last night about how she wants him to help and he thinks he is helping but, obviously not in the way she thinks he should help and he should know how to help. They are running to the gate for the pre-board of families with small children and people in wheelchairs who need extra assistance. Everyone else in the terminal begins praying--maybe their first prayer of the day--that they will not have to sit by this family. I don't pray because I already know they are sitting by me. I always buy gum at the airport. I chew a piece but, the gum is really not for me. It is for Jr.'s sister who is also traveling. Pre-soccer mom has not yet learned that Jr.'s sister will scream the last five minutes of the flight because of the pressure. I am glad I can help but, I feel bad for Young Dad because he didn't think of it first and he will hear about it later. I think next time I will slip the gum to Young Dad and let him be the hero.

CELL PHONE GUY
Dude, you're in the airport. We can all hear you. Are you really that busy? I think you made 15 calls. Every one of those calls sounded like an emergency. I wonder if this is the job Cell Phone Guy always dreamed about and if this is how he pictured it.

LARGE MAN
This guy has the hardest time traveling but, that's what he does for a living. He is sweating profusely at 7:35 in the morning. He is in first class. This is good. By the time I get on the plane, his shoes are off and he is sleeping.

NICE OLD LADY WITH THE BOOK
I like to sit by this lady sometimes. She likes to travel alone to go see the grandkids and I think she is genuinely interested in me. She asks me lots of questions about where I live and where I am going. She thinks it's wonderful I am a pastor. This revelation leads her to tell me stories about how her grandkids are growing up in a world so much different than the one she grew up in. I know she won't talk the whole time because of the book. She likes to read. She sees my book, too. We have that in common. Today, we are blessed to have one empty seat between us the whole flight. This will make it easier to tolerate Traveling-With-Infants-Family. Nice Old Lady is not like the Old Lady we talked about in the beginning. The original Old Lady is now reading some tabloid across from me and her husband (who I just realized actually speaks) is carrying on a conversation with another lady on the plane.

HOME FROM COLLEGE GIRL
This girl must be going home just for the weekend because it is not a holiday. She is curled up in the fetal position and listening to her iPod. I guess she is listening to James Blunt or John Mayer. This is an educated guess based on my other guess that she just broke up with her boyfriend--or vice versa--and this is what necessitates the trip home for the weekend.

MIDDLE AGED SINGLE SALES GUY
This man is not attractive but, by virtue of his skill at conversing, he has managed to stir the attention of two women around him. He is laughing and asking a lot of questions about them. This is why they talk back. He is interested rather than interesting. Even the flight attendant chimes in on the conversation for awhile. He sells real estate, or IT stuff, or works at Intel or something like that. They are able to carry on a conversation in spite of Race Confusion Headphones Boy.

RACE CONFUSION HEADPHONES BOY
He is white. Very white. Partridge Family white. But, he thinks he is black. He has on headphones the size of Cinnabon rolls and forces us all to listen to the chimey/treble thick/hissing version of songs he usually plays while thumping down the road in his lowered Honda--which he also forces us to listen to. I am pretty sure the music is the Fugees. Good band. However, I don't think he appreciates the music. He just wants to be black. He is dressed not even as cool as Eminem (who doesn't have this complex--he's legit). He is dressed more like he just got out of Kohl's and bought every piece of trendy-yet-corporate-name-brand street wear. As a matter of fact, I bet the clothing company that makes his outfit probably has a name like "Streetwear". Only, they spell it S-T-R-E-E-T-W-A-R-E.

The list goes on and on. Recently Divorced Big Ring Lady, Scarred of Flying Girl, Pee Every Two Minutes Lady, Crabby Flight Attendant Lady, Dude Who Looks Funny in the Attendant Uniform, Shorts Year Round Guy. On and on and on.

I suddenly realize they probably have a name for me. What am I? Who am I? I have lots of guesses. The thing is, it's easy to categorize all these people because we are all the same. We all have the same hurts--the same patterns that shape us. The same problems and addictions. The same vices. The same wants. The same dreams.

I realize all these people go to my church--along with Sing Loud to Be Heard Lady, Kiss People on the Mouth Church Lady, Big Handshake Guy, Talk to Me Every Week About Dumb Stuff Guy, and Please Notice Us Couple.

I pray for the airport people as I leave the plane. God help me to be all things to all people. Help me love people where they are at. Just like you love me. I pray these things as I am standing next to Hurry Up and Grab Your Bags Just so We Can Wait Lady.

7 comments:

Eric Hilliard said...

You forgot: "Vomit Smell Puke Bag Guy"

Karysa said...

HAHAHA...that was amazing. But I guess that runs in the family.
Miss you dad! Love, Karysa

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JGanschow said...

brilliant, simply true.

Anonymous said...

John,

Hey, I love people watching... What I'd like is to suggest that the greatest song for people watching, the one you can stick on your ipod and listen too over and over again while watching all these things we call humans walk by, is Sunset Grill by Don Henley...

BTW the most amazing place i've ever people watched is by far the Emergency Room in Redding CA. Rednecks, drunks, hypocondriacs, old people, young wife beater, police... I'll definitely have to write about it sometime...

Jeff Henckel

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