June 13, 2006

Airport Insomnia

I’ve been waking up a lot in the middle of night lately. I’m not sure why, because I have been going to bed at a reasonable time. But I have still been waking up at 4:00 AM with that strange bleary-eyed but hyper feeling you get when you’re traveling and you have to wake up at some ungodly hour to get to the airport on time. You have your luggage and you are nervous and excited but also tired and you really want to go on vacation but you also kinda wish that you were back in your cozy bed instead of in this unnaturally frigid airport with all the other people who woke up early this morning. Those archetypes of American society—the regional businessmen wearing golf shirts and light jackets, even in February; the men from new York or Chicago with topcoats, expensive suits and unfamiliar shoes. The loud, waddling folk with center-part feathered haircuts that haven’t been stylish for 20-odd years, and hair color that’s much too garish to be real. Sometimes there is an improbable couple: The good ol’ boy with too much gel in his hair, accompanied by a younger Asian woman with four-inch olive green stilettos, a dragon-appliquéd green and gold leather jacket, and a Louis Vuitton hobo bag. It's tempting to ask, "How are those shoes workin' out for you?" I mean, I also like to look presentable when I fly, but comfort is important, and any heel higher than two inches is out of the question.

The flight attendants stroll by, always neat, tidy and organized, their compact roll-aboards probably filled by airline-issued operations research formulas that have revealed the optimum packing arrangement. It always seems too early for anyone to have made that much effort in doing their hair and makeup, but here they are, a whole terminal full of women with gravity-defying bangs, blue eyeliner, and enough blush to give Pat Benatar circa 1981 a run for her money. Miss Manners would never approve, but sometimes I feel like accosting women who are wearing too much blusher and saying, “Excuse me, you really should rub that in a bit more—you look like you’ve just been slapped. Hard. Add a black eye, and you could win Miss Battered America—is that the look you’re going for?” And they’re probably looking at me, with my hair still damp underneath, no time for mascara or blush, looking pale under the fluorescent lights, and thinking, “That girl looks positively peaked. Too bad her mama never showed her how to use makeup.”

And then I drift back to sleep and dream about a party where there’s a vast array of brightly-colored, sparkling cosmetics on a rock island in the middle of a pool, and I’m trying to grab as many as I can before they sink out of sight, releasing their glittery beauty into the water.

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