With time to kill, I’m sitting at a seafood restaurant in the Houston airport. I’m reading, sitting quietly while trying to get a meal in before my flight takes off. But Dad 2.0 Summit has, as good conferences are known to do, stimulated my brain to the point of not being able to concentrate.
So I start people watching. Who are my fellow seafood-goers? Why are they in Houston? Where are they going?
Take for instance, the young couple sitting next to me in matching fedoras. Obviously coming back from vacation. They would never have the chutzpah to wear matching hats in their hometown. But where is home? Somewhere cold. He wears a heavy leather jacket, and she wears a bulky, long shawl sweater. It was 70 degrees in Houston today.
What about the older couple next to them? They’re barely talking to each other, which makes me sad. But should it? Does their lack of communication mean that something went wrong in their relationship? After their kids left the house, did they realize they no longer had anything in common? Did they struggle to find common interests? They must be in Houston to visit grandchildren. Are they now only together out of a sense of duty?
Or maybe I am just cynical. Maybe the time spent with their grandchildren was fulfilling but tiring. And now they have a mutual satisfaction that has no need for words.
The man in the overly large, button up white shirt is obviously on a business trip. He desperately checks his BlackBerry, but finds it unfulfilling. He hates his job; would rather be home with his kids. But he’s afraid. With the job market like it is, he thinks there is no opportunity for him.
Scanning the room, I try to find people that radiate some sense of contentment with their lives. Two men at the bar. One with his eye on the game, the other animatedly describing something to him. Different races. Best friends? Coworkers? Lady Gaga fans? She was, after all, playing Houston last night. What if these two have a secret Gaga pact? They’re the only two who know about their mutual obsession, and the thrill of keeping the secret from their office coworkers has made them fast friends.
The older woman sitting directly in front of me, in her 60s. What has compelled her to travel alone? Does she have a sister who is ill? She reminds me so much of my grandmother. Maybe she has a husband who refuses to travel, and she insisted on going to see her grandchildren in a different state. Now that she is here, she seems to be having second thoughts. Can she make the journey alone? Will she be able to navigate the confusing airport, city, culture that she is about to fly in to?
And then there is me. What would someone think about me? Sitting solitary, reading my New Yorker fiction, typing on my MacBook. Geeky glasses. Do they consider me some kind of upper middle class snob? Heading north, by the looks of my sweater and accompanying peacoat. Democrat? Probably.
Definitely not from Houston.