Enroute

So here I am: half way through my layover in Dallas, tucked away in a little sitting area next to one of those generic airport bar/restaurants bedecked with the logos of local teams (the Dallas Cowboys’ star features prominently on this one, of course), and I’ve finally decided to pull out my MacBook. I should conserve the battery because the charger is in my luggage.

There is a couple sitting kitty-cornered to me. They keep staring in my direction. I don’t think they’re staring at me (or at my awe-inspiring MacBook); I think they’re watching the comings and goings of the planes outside the tall window behind me, but I don’t want to look in their direction to confirm it.

I’m watching the people passing by. There goes a chick with a nice ass. And another. There goes a fat guy in an Iowa State jacket. From the bar/restaurant I can hear an Alabama fan talking at the bar, presumably to a few other people who I can’t hear. He has a thick, southern drawl. Every few minutes he as to remind everyone he’s from Alabama.

I have a headache. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I’m tired, because I got three hours of sleep last night. The Super Shuttle was outside my apartment, waiting to pick me up, at 4:45 a.m. — five minutes before the “15-minute pick-up window” began.

This is my first trip to DFW since my infamous 18-hour layover in March. I thought my return would be agonizing, that the sight of the terminals on approach would induce flashbacks. But it’s nothing like that: I don’t even care. I was a little nostalgic, though. As I walked Terminal B I thought, “There’s the shoe shine stand I sat at for two hours. There’s where I ate the pasta salad in the morning. There’s where I read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and made an attempt to get some shut-eye.” One place I haven’t paid a visit to is the TGIFriday’s where I laid on a booth and used my backpack as a pillow. Around 3 a.m. a guy sitting outside the restaurant near a row of vending machines started smoking a cigarette. He could no longer take the torture of the airport’s smoke-free policy and lit up. I was pissed, but there was a whole lot of pissed going around that night so he had to take a ticket and wait his turn.

I thought DFW offered free wi-fi, but I can’t connect because the network requires a password. I’m not going to get up and search around for instructions; I can live without the internet.

Of course, just as I wrote that I closed the computer and walked around to find instructions on how to connect to the wireless network. In March I remember a poster touting the airport’s free wi-fi service. Back then it didn’t do me any good, but that poster was everywhere. Now when I have the ability to use it there’s not so much as one word regarding connectivity. An information brochure mentions a wireless network available throughout but doesn’t give any instructions on how to use it.

Case in point: some guy just walked up to me and said, “Hey — do you have free internet?”

“I don’t know how to do it, either,” I said. He shook his head and walked away.

On my walk I passed the TGIFriday’s where I napped. Napping, I suppose, is not the word for what I did. I laid down and closed my eyes, drifting in and out of a restive state but always remained within the reach of consciousness. I have to say it was a good use for a restaurant I have no interest in anymore.

Speaking of which, as a vegetarian and someone who avoids large chain restaurants, I have to resort to eating shit I would never normally touch. Shamefully, I bought two orders of fries at the Gold Arches after getting off the plane, then ate a Snickers bar a half hour later, and I just downed a Mountain Dew thinking the caffeine kick would cure my headache. It’s working, but I need to take a nap on the flight to Cedar Rapids.

DFW is not a bad airport. It’s big, there’s a cool inter-terminal tram, and there are tons of very interesting people to watch. Each airport has it’s own type of clientele. In Orange County there are a lot of business travelers and wealthy, sterile people who look like they were sold in a catalog; they are the epitome of the single-serving friends from “Fight Club.” Everyone at John Wayne looks like they have a gym membership, a top-notch dermatologist (I swear there’s a cure for acne that only wealthy teenagers are privy of), and stay tan 365 days a year (granted, it’s not hard to do in Southern California). The DFW patrons are a different breed. Everyone is paler, at least the white people; there are noticeably more blacks here than in Orange County. There are a lot more decrepit old folks who need to be taken to their gates in wheelchairs or those extended golf carts. I can tell it’s hunting season because there are a lot of men walking around with camouflage jackets and hats.

Speaking of camouflage, there are tons of service men and women, most of whom are not returning for the holidays but are flying out to Iraq. I feel for them and wish them best. It’s strange that for as conservative and military obsessed Orange County is, it’s rare to see a young man or woman wearing their desert fatigues.

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