Erasing a 2.5-hour-long layover by walking the mile long terminal, four times, at Dulles Airport, I see groups of people, families, newlyweds, older married couples, a few members of the military, business associates, sports teams, young lovers, and many others, all together, but seemingly uninterested in one another, engaged mostly with themselves.
One person might reluctantly rely on a member of their group to watch their gear during a bathroom break, but that's about the extent of obvious human connection I witness.
Even people with babies act a tiny bit put-off for having to be bothered with the disruptive tendencies of their infant, who is trying his or her darndest to steal its parents attention away from the latest entertaining friggin flood, that is gushing from a few of the ten TVs hanging in the bar across the way. Airport designers must think we think multiple TVs make us feel at home.
Pulling luggage through the terminal is done chin up, looking, way far down ahead for a gate marker, or a TV, or an easy to read, arrivals/departures, display board - looking anywhere but at another human being. I'm the only dink walking for exercise at one of the busiest airports in the world, making eye contact; and I find it odd when no one returns eye contact, or nods a hello.
I feel like a goof nodding friendly-like to a flight attendant or pilot. I'm at their work place, I respect their environs, I'm a client, isn't it natural I'd acknowledge them if only by a nod? And what the Cripes do I get in return? A safe flight to my sister's in New Mexico, which of course is what I paid for, and all I really need. But no nod. I won't even nod off on the flight.
The friendly smile I offer the people during my long airport walk seems to be unwanted and unwelcome. They'd rather peer at the skinny, photo-shopped bathing suit bedecked starlets, who stare back from the covers of magazines at Hudson News. Do the glossy starlets offer friendship and understanding that a smile from me can't? Pre-boarding sex and titillation from the magazine racks at Hudson News. It's all part of the plan to entertain us, to keep our minds off our travels, and make us feel loved. Thank god for Hudson News and six-pack Oreos.
More starlets and many experts gibbering information from inside TV sets dangling from ceilings in grubby, nouvea-riche- rec-room quality bars, help we plane passengers understand how to eat better, think better, look better, communicate better, have sex better, organize better, work better, work-out better, relax better, garden better, understand the new health-care system better, be better, feel better, and be better informed. And, the experts, like the magazine starlets, do it all without judging us.
I'm not like the starlets or TV people. I'm judgmental. I wouldn't have sex with you if you paid me 'cause of somethin' or another that isn't quite right about you. I'm also not nearly as smart at the starlets and TV people.
I can't tell you what the latest greatest car seat is, and I can't tell you the new health care system will actually work better for most of us, or what it will cost you, and I can't tell you how to prepare a 4 course summer meal that will feed 12. I can't tell you any of that. But I can nod you a hello.
Remember in the early 1970s how sterile and uninviting modern America looked when represented on TV or in a movie? Well the future has arrived, and killing time at Dulles Airport, I'm a miniature hard plastic figure standing alone on a cardboard prototype of a modern airport.
The old Vermont farmer won a free train ticket to New York City by being the third caller into his local radio station. When he got back, the radio announcer called him. "Old Joe, how was New York City?" The old farmer answered, "I don't know. There was so much going on at the depot, I never did see the village."
There is so much going on at the depot, we're all just too used to it.
To be continued
Rusty DeWees tours Vermont and Northern New York with his act "The Logger." His column appears weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.