Thursday, June 3, 2010

Threat Level Orange

You know, some things are just universal - at least they are in my world. LOL! The cute little voices of babies and toddlers should be enough to make even the most hardened evil bastard smile. A woman's well-shaped butt cradled in a pair of sexy jeans makes men stop what they're doing, no matter their environment, giving pause to watch her sway on by and imagine for a brief, but detailed few seconds, how much we hate the boyfriend (or girlfriend) who gets to see her naked - before turning our attention back to our wives or girlfriends. The way Europeans dress (and how I snicker at them, unmatched and sometimes unkempt), not fully understanding if they are fashion-forward and uber trendy - or just a hot fried Eurotrash ghetto mess. Or how a mother can be brought to joyful tears by her baby....5 or 25....simply saying how much they love and miss her.

While the world morphs around us, it's nice to know that some things are constant - whether or not they exist only in your mind, unique to your perspective, grounding you in the storm of literal or metaphysical bullshit swirling around you.

I'm sitting in a causeway or corridor or whatever you'd call in at the San Francisco airport and it's comforting to know that I've just experienced all four of those constants and more. It doesn't matter that I'm not at home in Charlotte, or that nobody knows that I'm watching them and putting them into my blog. The same people I see in uptown and at the mall and Panthers games are walking by me, and I wonder where they're coming from and where they may be going. Planes taxi to their gates and, from this vantage point, I can see them screaming down the runway and lifting off into the cool oblivion of wherever they're headed next. Babies' voices are cooing in the distance. Gorgeous butts are crossing my line of vision. Children and teens and young adults who have been allowed to dress themselves regardless of their apparent colorblindness or inability to recognize shapes and patterns trundle by. And mothers, jawing on cell phones or pushing strollers along, are making their way into the rest of their days. I will never see any of these people again. But they are inextricably part of my constant.

They say that there is no better place for people watching than the airport. And whoever 'they' are, they're probably right. If you're old enough to remember the days when you could go anywhere inside an airport you wanted (sticking to public areas, of course), you might think back to meeting your party at the gate as they deplaned. You might remember not having to take your shoes and your belt off before passing through metal detectors and having your possessions x-rayed under the scrutiny of a TSA employee trained to distinguish C4 from that napkin-secured brownie in your briefcase. You'd probably even be able to recall the days when you could smoke right up until you boarded, only extinguishing your cancer stick when it burned to the filter, causing you to juggle the butt and latch of your seat belt at the same time. Hell, if you're old enough, you probably remember wearing a suit and tie or a pretty dress and not sitting next to any category of minority as you were whisked away on vacation or a business trip.

Times have changed, certainly, and the airport has changed, as well. Imagine it's the morning of September 10, 2001 and you're waiting for your flight back to wherever it is you call home. No one was coming through the intercom system telling you that the airport was currently under threat level orange. Twenty-four hours later, buildings would be engulfed in flames, thousands of people would be horribly murdered, a private after-hours West Wing tour would disappear into the smoke and ash clouds of a desparate few, and an impenetrable veil of security and uncertainty would begin draping itself across the future of air travel. Arab would become the new black, the landscape of what was acceptable profiling would be forever altered, conspiracy theorists and plain old nut jobs would have already begun shooting off cross-fired synapses like the fast-twitch muscle fibers of an Olympic sprinter, and we would sheepishly discover that our collective consciousness had been hijacked right along with those planes. The Phoenix, wrapped in the American flag and proudly boastful of the struggle and freedoms fought for by our forefathers spewing from every speech and magazine cover, rose in absolute defiance and signaled a true awakening to the new world we all had come to inhabit in the space of time too small to quantify, but too omnipresent to ignore.

To me, babies' voices will always be precious and women will always be ogled for a few innocent seconds and I will never understand what my wife and the fashion industry try to trick me into believing is cutting edge couture and mothers will always miss their children. Not everything universal in your life will be or has to be cute or sexist or xenophobic or sentimental. But before the world is turned on its ear again and everything you know about something so simple (and something we used to take for granted) is forever altered "for your protection," take a second and pick some constants of your own.

If you can't come up with can always swing by the airport.

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