The IT developer was getting agitated with the short, but burly car salesman who sat at his table. They were both nursing drinks, a Long Island Ice Tea for the developer, a craft beer for the salesman.
“For the millionth time, I’m not interested in a new car. I like my little Camry, I’m not buying,” the man said.
“I hear you, I hear you. I’m not saying you should replace your Camry, I just thought you might like . . .”
“Stop, stop, please stop,” the developer said, slamming his fist on the table.
“. . . something sportier to run around the weekend,” the salesman finished out his sentence.
The two had been lobbing attacks and counters for the past twenty minutes and the discussion was starting to get louder and more heated.
Or was it?
At least that’s what I imagined. I have no idea what the two men were really discussing. Their hands were flying every which way and they seemed to be agitated with each other, but they just as likely could have been arguing over the Duke versus the University of North Carolina college basketball rivalry, Trump or Clinton in the U.S. Presidential race, the price of tea in China, or a million other topics.
In my mind, though, as I waited patiently in the Dulles International Airport for my daughter’s plane to arrive, I envisioned the two men sparring with each other over a new pricey sports car.
I’ve love public places, like airports, malls, libraries, and anywhere I can people watch. Some people are fascinated with the rich and famous: Kim Kardashian’s newest outrageous outfit, Taylor Swift’s latest beau, Tom Brady’s arrival to this place or that. Yea, that’s not me. Instead, I’m fascinated watching normal everyday people. I like to watch their natural reactions to normal everyday life events, the things we all deal with every day of our lives.
I enjoy seeing peoples’ faces and letting my imagination play out in real time, in mini-movie mode. It could be a family or even two lovers greeting each other for the first time in weeks, two friends chatting over coffee, or two strangers meeting for the first time.
My mind naturally drifts and imagines what must be going through each person’s mind, their loves, losses, aches and pains, and dreams. In many respects, it’s natural observation mixed-in with natural creativity, taking the scene to faraway places. In my mind, I’m able to play part movie director, part psychologist, part newspaper reporter.
Here’s how’s it works:
Scene: A young woman in her mid-20s props up her legs on her bag in an airport arrival lounge. She smiles when she sees a black woman in tight spandex chase after her four-year old daughter. The young woman lights up when she sees the child, but in the same move she coyly puts on her headphones.
My story: The young woman thinks the kid is fun, but she’s saddened too thinking about the daughter she lost. She got pregnant right after high school. She went through with the birth, against all odds, but lost the baby in delivery. She’s gone on with her life, but has never quite gotten over the pain. She’s a semester away from completing her masters in Biomedical Engineering, but she still thinks occasionally about her daughter, how old she would be now and what could have been.
Reality: Who knows for real? I’m certainly no psychic, but I’m sure of two things: the woman’s smile watching the little girl and the speed and deliberate manner in which she put on her headphones not to be interrupted.
Scene: A young man looks up at the list of the arriving flights in confusion and walks over to the Information Desk where a man in his late-60s responds to his questions.
My story: The info man responds patiently to each question. “Yes, like I told you a few minutes ago, the 5:25 p.m. flight from Paris is late. No, I don’t know why. And we haven’t gotten any updated arrival times yet.” He reassures the man that he’ll announce the updated information as soon as the airline passes it along to the desk.
The first chance the info man gets he takes a sip from his coffee, looks around the airport and asks himself the question he’s raised a million times over the past two years: “What the hell am I doing here? And where did my retirement dollars go?”
Reality: I’m not sure if it was a planned move by the airport, but each of the info center clerks looked to be well past retirement age. I suspect they sought out clerks with experience dealing with harried and impatient customer questions. God knows they needed someone calm behind the counter.
Scene: A middle aged lady walks through the arrival gate and is greeted by her hipster-looking adult son. They hug, but they seem to both be somewhere else. They seem to be going through the motions.
My story: The woman traveled from outside Chicago to see her son in Washington, D.C., but couldn’t help but think to herself: “I flew all this way to see my son and he’s not even happy to see me. I should have flown to Las Vegas to see Bernice. I would have liked to have tried my hand at the Black Jack table again.”
Reality: What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, right? I suspect I caught the woman and younger man at a bad time, but something tells me that I might not be too far off from the truth on this one. They didn’t look happy to see each other. She might not have wanted to travel to Vegas, but I’m pretty sure she wanted to be somewhere else. The guy certainly wanted to be anywhere but the airport.
In any event, I find that my imagination at the very least keeps me entertained and makes life interesting. On the negative side, I have to watch that I’m not that rude guy watching and staring everyone in the mall.
And oh yea, was I right about the two guys fighting over the car? Partially. They were fighting over what type of rental car to purchase for the next leg of their trip. The IT guy who pounded his fist on the table wanted a budget-friendly sedan, the pushy car salesman wanted a convertible.
With that luck, maybe I should think about a second career as a psychic or professional poker play. Okay, maybe not.