Standing in the airport, Thursday afternoon, we were waiting to pass through security, long lines of people waiting to board their planes. And we did what anyone waiting would do – we people watched.
People watching in the airport is top notch – the best people watching has to offer with the widest diversity of people all in one location passing through. And I am a notorious people watcher. I imagine one day when I am old, someone could just drop me off at the mall all day, park me at a bench, and I would keep myself well-entertained. Just leave me there for about 12 hours, bring me coffee from time to time and let me watch the show.
So there I was at the airport, a place where people watching can send a people watcher in sensory overload, system shutdown, so much to look at, so many sights to see. I can’t turn my head fast enough, so my husband does it for me instead.
“Never trust a man carrying a colorful bag,” Chris said, nudging me towards a man a few lines over carrying what could only be described as a colorful mess of a bag. Clearly, he was carrying it for his wife. And what’s worse is what kind of wife would make her husband carry that kind of bag? The kind that would belted denim wear shorts too short, hair styled with a million different layers sprayed in place wearing white Keds that I swear I hadn’t seen on sale since 1985. Big gold hoop earrings, blue eyeliner. Yikes.
I’m sorry if I’ve just described you. But I have a feeling I didn’t. And I have a feeling I didn’t even describe anyone you’ve hung out with in the past 20 years. But that’s my point here – you see, I/we don’t see people like that often.
And that’s why I have to look. Because it makes my mind wonder in its love-to-weave-an-imaginary-story-in-my-head-kind-of-way; makes me wonder where do these people come from? How did they get here? And where will they go?
But looking around I realized that it’s not people like that who are out of place. No, it’s me. Actually, it’s us. Because if you’re reading this you’re probably a person similar to me.
Which makes me wonder where the heck are we hiding ourselves to the point that we don’t even recognize the people that really are common place? That we don’t even recognize that we are really the type of people that are out of place.
So where have we been hiding? I suppose in masters swim practices, and on our bikes riding westward towards fields of corn, or running on trails. And it’s not until we board a plane to go hide ourselves a thousand miles further in the mountains of Colorado that we find people like this.
People like this. It’s not an insult, or an “I’m better than you” statement. It’s just an observation that people like that are all over the place and people like us aren’t. You know what I mean. Take a look at yourself, take a look at your friends. Chances are you are all a bunch of Keen-wearing, Athleta online shopping, Timbuktu bag carrying sporty fitness freaks that argue things like tubular vs. clincher, where have all the 650’s gone, what do you think of those new Newton shoes, and can you believe Tollakson biked a 2:02?
So it’s understandable that when you put yourself into an airport with a large sample of people that are representative of the more American whole – you get a real tasty slice of American life. You see things – a lot of scary things that you haven’t seen since, oh, circa 1980, things that you thought were long gone, things you only read about in magazines, things that make you look twice.
But for everything you notice, you realize that you have violated just as bad. In fact, for every violation you see, you can think of a violation that you just committed in your own terms. Hear me out:
A man carrying a purse. I don’t care if it’s cool in Europe, a man carrying a purse is not a cool thing. But a man carrying a Timbuktu bag – very cool. Especially if he’s riding single speed.
A man wearing a lilac purple business shirt with a dark purple tie. Ok, you will never get the deal wearing that. But a man with muscular legs wearing a multi-colored jersey and tight lycra shorts? Now we got a deal.
Another woman with bangs hairsprayed into place. Please set your hair free. Or better yet, trap it under a helmet for over 8 hours a week bound up by rubberbands.
A woman with hair so bleached blond that it looked white. Better yet, how about cramming your hair dry under a rubber swim cap while submerging your head in chlorinated water for a few nights a week and see what color your hair turns out?
A lot of women carrying those giant bags with straps held by hoops big enough to jump through. What is she carrying in that bag? A small child? Kind of a like a woman carrying a Zipp transition bag stuffed with two pairs of shoes, a wetsuit, towel, helmet, and enough food to feed 10 children.
Flip flops. Lots and lots of cheap plastic flip flops. Do the words plantar fasciitis mean anything to these people? And if they did would they instead be wearing a pair of sandals that are so darn functional that your fashionista friends are dreading that yet again you will show up for dinner wearing a skirt and Keens?
And so, fair is fair. For as much people watching that I do in the airport and in life, I am sure it is coming right back at me. I am sure someone is saying, who’s the mini chick with thick thighs, a sporty orange shirt, ugly sandals, and veins popping out of her arms. And if I’ve just described you or your girlfriend, fear not, you are not alone. Let’s share a slice of life – or lifestyle – and keep each other company while we people watch the day away.