Non-event in a locationless place:

I love airport bars – not only because they get me though the horror of flying – I love them because they are the true crossroads of America. Around me are some of the regulars: the guy wearing an earpiece and an embroidered polo shirt who loves his sales job, the guy sitting next to him, the deflated salesman who hates his job. Between the two, it’s easy to tell which one wears boxers and which one wears briefs.

I love the thickness of desperation in airport bars. It makes the mundane seem interesting: a foreign accent always draws attention. And in the domestic terminal, the Brits tend to feature theirs more than, say, the Germans.

Upon further exploration, I can tell who’s on his way to Vegas. It’s all in the way he throws his cash payment on the bar, with a cocky flick of the wrist. He recently re-pierced his ear – perhaps a fresh divorce.

I love watching people flirt in airport bars. Are they going to, like, do it in the restroom? The guy with the British accent has his claws in the lady to my left. She has such delicate wrists for such a monumentous bacon-cheeseburger. It’s actually kind of sexy how well she’s handling herself against its meaty girth. She and the Brit start playfully arguing about the merits of California, a perfect topic for him to feature his Britishness; it’s cultural, geographic, political. It’s given him the opportunity to say things like: “Here in California, you think that you’re the center of the world, [pronounced ‘wulld’] but I assure you, you’d be nowhere without us.” I’m not quite sure what the hell he’s talking about, but she eating it up. And she’s eating the heck out of that burger. Boy oh boy, is she ever hungry.

He’s much better looking than she, and they both know it. Maybe they will have sex in the restroom. He’s done this sort of thing before, flirt I mean.

A bunch of cops come in and are milling about. I wonder if they sense that I have a Fanon book in my bag. I’m wearing a pink sweater, so they assume I’m gay, not a security threat unless I plan on having sex in the restroom.

The job-loving, briefs-wearing salesman has left. His flight back home to the middle of the country must be boarding. Soon he’ll be enjoying the comforts of his local Applebee’s while feigning interest in his wife’s “while you were away” stories.

The thin-wristed burger lady is also on her way out. She tells Brit her name: Angelica. Brit, I’m sorry, “Daniel,” tells her that he sells tee shirts online. Ouch! He is kind of pathetic, but undeniably cute in that clean-cut-but-gruff kind of way that Brits can pull off. Maybe I am gay.

My flight boards in a couple of minutes. Should I close my tab? Oops, I ordered another drink, a single. Angelica the burger queen is gathering her belongings, but ear-pierced Vegas divorcé is still going strong. I’m sure everyone on that side of the bar is thrilled to be sitting within earshot. He has some pretty amazing vocal range; I can hear him from clear across the bar and the piped-in ZZ Top’s pretty darn loud.

I can’t quite make out what Vegas is saying. In fact, he doesn’t even seem to be talking to anyone in particular. He’s like a grotesque hand puppet, just yammering along in the middle of space with his eyes rolling around in his jack-o-lantern face. God, I’m judgmental.

Maybe it’s that I see myself in all of these people. God, I’m self-absorbed.

Close my tab, down my drink, and I’m off to Austin for a long weekend before the new semester begins – one last hurrah.

Someone else fills my seat.

27 responses to “Non-event in a locationless place:”

  1. Beth W says:

    Good morning Whatsit. I loved the post Scott. It drew me in and held.

  2. Rachel says:

    Having recently been stuck at O’Hare for several hours (and grudgingly eaten at the airport Chili’s), I related to your post altogether too much. If that Chili’s was “the true crossroads of America,” we’re all in trouble.

  3. Dave says:

    it’s easy to tell which one wears boxers and which one wears briefs.

    How? Their demeanor, or panty lines?

  4. PB says:

    You have evoked a mood and setting with depressing accuracy.

    I spend eons of wasted time in airports and always listen and frequently take notes – I think to myself: I am so separate (read better) from the rest of the desperate masses because I am observing, yet the minute I pick up my cell phone I become fodder for the person listening next to me. I wonder who was sizing you up while you were watching the others? Stuck in some strange city, a captive of the airlines, it is no wonder we all collectively yet in isolation start turning on each other – at least intellectually. I think they did studies with overcrowded rat colonies and they all ate each other in the end.

    Perhaps the real heros are the Brit and Angelica – at least they were reaching for community. I give off the “talk to me at your own risk” vibes.

  5. Tim says:

    I love how well you set the scene and populate it with characters, Scotty. I wanna go to an airport bar with you!

    And what, nobody offered you anything out of a ziploc bag this time around? Disappointing.

  6. Scotty says:

    BW: Thanks.

    Rachel: Funny, the story actually takes place in a Chili’s…wait a minute…do you mean to tell me that that charming little bistro in LAX is part of a chain?! Goodness, the world does get better by the millennium. Marleyfan has reason to be optimistic after all!

    Dave: If you must know, it was due to the VPL through his NASA-style kakis. The truth is even more disturbing, because it took place in my imagination.

    PB: One of the people watching games I love to play is thinking about all the people around me, and that each one of them is someone else’s lost love – that for each person, there’s someone out there who would do anything to change places with me in order to have a chance encounter and win back their love.

    Tim: Jeremy was also disappointed that this story wasn’t the “baggie” story. Perhaps that will be my next airport bar post. Beware crazy Scotsmen with pharmaceuticals, people.

  7. trixie says:

    how do you tell if the person in the bar is wearing a blue terry-cloth bathrobe belt wrapped around his parts underneath his pants?

  8. Scotty says:

    That’s easy. He’s yelling, “Don’t turn around Jeremy! No matter what you do, don’t turn around!”

  9. Jeremy Zitter says:

    When I first read this I was like, Brit Daniel? The guy from the band Spoon? Then I was all, ohhhh, a Brit named Daniel. Fun post but, yeah, I wanna read the one about the other airport bar experience… though perhaps the reenactment is much better.

  10. WW says:

    ok, so what’s the baggie story?

  11. LP says:

    Yeah, Uncle Scotty! Tell the baggie story! Because I thought you were going there with this post, too, and when it ended I thought, “What!? He’s just going to walk on the plane like nothing happened back there?!”

    Or, was this a different bar, different airport, different day?

  12. I must say that the comments are really cryptic and insider-y today. Terry-cloth robe belts and ziploc baggies in airport bars? I am lost.

  13. Marleyfan says:

    Wonderful post Scott; I was drawn-in like a good book. Thank you. Did you study psychology? Speaking of Psych., where has our resident psychologist gone, I miss his posts…

  14. bryan says:

    #6 — when you responded to Beth as BW I was like “Huh?” But then I calmed myself down and said, “Damn it, those are her initials too.” And as long as I can keep a corner on the lower case version, you can go ahead and call her BW and i’ll be ok.

    Just don’t call her black and white, though, because one was too special to me.

    I’ll chime in my praises — I liked that this departed from typical TGW generic conventions. The narrative had a sense of urgency I liked — see now, analyze later.

  15. bryan says:

    But why does the title have a colon at the end? I almost took it out this morning but thought it might be there for some special effect.

  16. Great post. I’m a big peoplewatcher in airports, or at least, I used to be. I usually gravitated to the biggest newsstand or bookstore – but that was pre-laptop.

    Post-laptop: I just spent a month hopping amongst every major airport up the West Coast – and all that really meant was that I caught up on the entire last season of THE SHIELD.

  17. trixie says:

    #12: that was just a straightforward question. nothing insidery about it. i just wanted to know.
    sorry if i upset your majesty.

  18. Scotty says:

    Sorry King of Norway. I know it’s irritating when the comments are so insidery. You can always start a new thread about insidery comments, but do it in a way that’s all cryptic and whatnot. Then it would be postmodern-insidery, a whole new genre.

    Black ‘n’ White: you don’t need to worry; your name’s a lock.

    Thanks Marley. I think all contributors are in it anymore just to get your seal of approval.

    WW: I think we should let the mystery prevail.

    Mr. Owen: always a pleasure. I’m sorry that we’ve lost you among the great people-watching horde.

  19. I used up my people-watching faculties while trying to determine if I was about to be arrested and cavity-searched during the Belgian Incident of ’07.

  20. swells says:

    And besides, Scotty awarded Beth W with her own special name, not Black-n-White which is Bryan’s alone. Beth’s is Backup Wife, of course.

  21. LP says:

    Not to be confused with sister-wife.

  22. I love this, Scott. I do these kinds of observations often, so this feels familiar, even if the setting of yours is not. I love how you place yourself amongst them, in the end. You have a pink shirt. You order one more.

  23. Beth W says:

    #14 I noticed the initials a long time ago (um, because I’m self-absorbed) but I was thrown for a second in #6.

    #20: To which I say, “I’ll always be your #2.”

  24. swells says:

    It’s a deal BW–sharing is caring!!

  25. Natasha says:

    Great post Scott! A big part of my job is watching and analyzing people. I do hiring not only for my business but for a couple of other businesses as well. I used to keep a diary of each encounter I had throughout the day and analysis of their clothes, words, actions etc. It was a hobby. Now I don’t have the time, but I still automatically do the analyzing. I also remember who said, ate, wore, drove, walked and acted like on each given day. Sometimes it seems to be a curse. Does it happen to you too or do you just stay with the airport analysis?

  26. Ivy says:

    I think the arrivals hall in the international airport in my home town has one of the sickest people watching set-ups ever. The seats for the people waiting to pick up their friends and relatives are set up like a theatre, so as people emerge, its like they walk on stage. But worse, and what they generally don’t know, is that they are being filmed just before they emerge (having just escaped the X-ray machines) so all their last minute adjustments of hair, clothes, facial expressions, are beamed out to the waiting crowds on a giant screen above everyone’s heads. It is singularly evil, yet strangely hilarious.

  27. Dude. Ivy, where did you grow up? I want to fly in wherever that is just so I can people watch for a few hours before leaving the airport.

    Or would that be suspicious/terrorist behavior?