New York’s LaGuardia Airport. Gate D6. Crowded seating area.
Wednesday. 11:41am. Destination: Chicago.
HE: Young 40’s. Well fed. Confident, boyish charm in a blue blazer. Thick, wind-blown Kennedy hair, parted on the left, craving its bi-weekly trim. Designer shoes, designer watch…or so it seems. Youthful enthusiasm in an old man’s game; assured temperament indicative of a good day; most likely a good year.
Legs crossed. Casually reclined. Overtly hosting a significant business meeting through the Blackberry on his ear. “The $200-million deal shouldn’t be much of a problem at all,” learns the man’s client…and all of Gate D6. Strategy. Goals. Investment performance. All conspicuously discussed with impudence.
SHE: Late 40’s. Slight of stature. Shoulder length, ginger hair…controlled, yet relenting to New York’s humidity. Weathered demeanor that could only come from decades of self-imposed tolerance. Tolerance at work. Tolerance at home. Arrogance from the office. Entitlement from teenagers.
Casually dressed. T-shirt. Jeans. Pink, untucked, button-down blouse. She’s not in the office. She’s not at home. This is her time. This is her space. Right now intrusive, obnoxious impertinence is unacceptable. Tolerance be damned.
HE: “…through your partnership with Bank of America. Oh…hang on a moment, my colleague is trying to call in. She should be a part of this discussion…”
SHE – from across the gate: “Excuse me…could you take your business meeting elsewhere? We’re all trying to work here, and we’re not in your business.”
The low murmur of other, well-mannered conversations fall silent. A palpable prick of tension fills the void…The meeting continues.
“Excuse me!” comes an emphatic reiteration. “I can still hear your business meeting. We are not part of your business. Please take it somewhere else!”
Relenting…somewhat, he lowers his tone without breaking stride. Seconds pass. An undertone of courteous conversation resumes ’round the gate. Conflict averted. Tension mitigated.
Glancing up from the protection of my smart phone, I lock eyes with the man seated next to HE. We exchange relieved grins. I lean forward. He leans in. “You know what this means don’t you?” I ask quietly so as not to interrupt the meeting.
“What’s that?” responds the neighbor, squinting in amusement.
“I guarantee you they’re sitting next to each other on this flight.”
Chuckling at the theory, we board the plane a few passengers behind SHE…then watch in complete astonishment as she stops at her row to find her ticketed assignment: 18F. There, in between SHE and her window seat, sits HE in 18E, Wall Street Journal sprawled out before him.
For the next two hours: Traveling companions. Associates of insolence. Poetry in travel.