The nature of the job being what it is, sometimes I have to travel with my collar on. Which generates funny looks and reactions from people in the airport.
Most betray shifty eyes. Right? I sense someone looking in my direction, you know, like we all do from time to time. I’m not trying to be tacitly confrontational or anything. I just sort of have this sense that someone’s stare is coming at me from two o’clock. So I glance that way only to see a pair of eyes quickly avert to nothing in particular, just this or that, anything but eye contact with the man in black.
Then there are others, like the four-foot something Latina who asked me if I could lift her bag into the overhead bin. No problem. But then to express her gratitude she went out of her way to say “God bless you” more than a few times throughout our 49-minute flight.
So, point is, people look at me much differently when I travel with my collar on than when I wear, say, blue jeans and a button down, like I will tomorrow when I come home.
So there I am, sitting in the airport, near my gate, waiting for ten or so minutes until boarding begins, noticing shifty, averting eyes here and there, all the while feeling increasingly like a side show at a circus of yore, meaning my grumpiness meter is rising, at least a little–got the picture?–when one of those announcements comes over the loudspeaker.
“All passengers of flight 1563, I need your attention,” the female Voice of Customer Service begins. “It is very important that the following two passengers come and see me at the desk in front of Gate A 30.”
And I’m thinking, okay, something’s up. Usually the Voice of Customer Service, the VCS, whether male or female, doesn’t preface an announcement with listen up everybody. And usually most airport waitees don’t listen, or only half-listen, from my experience anyway. So, being in a line of work that values communication, I begin to wonder, curiously, if this announcement tactic is working. And I begin to look around the crowded airport room.
Eyes avert my gaze seemingly everywhere, like rapid fire but only inverted, which suggests people are more intrigued by the side show than anything the VCS has to say, even when prefaced. But then I see a guy almost directly across from me actually staring into the air with a look on his face that tells me he is in fact listening intently, yes, to the VCS.
That’s when she completes her announcement: “Dr., uh, Ping and Passenger Pong, please come to the desk at Gate A 30.”
To which, still looking at the thoughtful man across the room, I guffaw out loud. (Not LOL, mind you, but GOL!)
Which caught the man’s attention.
Who looked in my direction.
Mine, the grumpy side show with the collar.
But no way was I going to avert my eyes.
I wouldn’t stoop so low.
To which his eyes bugged then looked upward, thoughtfully, as if to say “Why is this holy man laughing? What did the VCS just say?”
Then, obviously registering Ping and Pong, he looked backed at me and, like a game of Ping-Pong, let out a guffaw as well.
About then I noticed that no one else in the airport was sharing our joke. Either they hadn’t heard (most likely) or (less likely) they hadn’t seen the humor in it. Now eyes were on both of us, this corporate side show, which frankly gave me a case of the giggles. Which affected my newly found friend, who caught my contagion.
And now I had to look away. Him too. For if we looked up and happened to catch one another’s gaze, the case of the giggles would strike us again.
Which we did. Several times. Until I had to board my plane.
And which, I’m sure, added to the side show aura of traveling with a collar on.