For people-watching, airports are second only to hotel lobbies. In fact, they might even be better, since there is a larger mixture of human oddity at the airport: Businessmen, bratty kids, pasty musicians, and bloodthirsty terrorists all scurry about on their merry way, while I sit in self-righteous judgment of all of them. My vacation begins at the security gate.
When I traveled earlier in the year, there was much indignation about the all-over body scan thing that we all had to pass through. I don't see what the big deal is -- I just pretend I am bionic and it is the opener to my television show. On my most recent trip, no one was bitching about the machine, but there was still that same, baffling 4 percent of the population that never got the "no liquids" memo and want to argue about their confiscated Axe Deodorant Body Spray.
Once I am through the gauntlet, my next stop is always a bar -- drinking before a flight is really dumb and always makes me sick, but I love to watch other people do it.
Depending on the airport's location, you can count on some local-themed businesses. In Indiana, for example, they have an extensive line of cow-tipping merchandise. Chicago's O'Hare has sausage aplenty. S.F. plays up the foodie thing, so it's not surprising that Vino Volo seems to do a brisk business. The bar is not particularly inviting, with its strip-mall-worthy, sleek sweep of contemporary sophisti-mi-cation, but once I settled in I felt comfy enough.
My sommelier might just have been filling in during his break at TGI Friday's, but he was plucky and personable. I had begun to peruse the "small plates" menu when a booming voice greeted me from a few seats down. "Hellooo my lady!" I looked over to see a large, beaming man with a gap between his front teeth. Next to him was a young kid in a do-rag, smiling sheepishly.
"How-do?" I replied. He then asked me where I was going, where I had been, and if I would give him my phone number. His speech had characteristics of a French-speaking African, and he said he was indeed from Senegal. He also had on a wedding ring. "I have a boyfriend," I replied with a shrug of my shoulders. This information hit him like water off a baobab tree. I have always admired men like that, who cast a wide net and fear no rejection. He jumped right into conversation, principally about the fact that our airline had declared bankruptcy that morning...