Tuesday, January 09, 2007


This week I'll be on the road a bunch. I'm travelling to Hartford, Raleigh and Tampa. All for work, all for short bits. Airports like nearly any place that has bitter people in positions of bureaucratic authority, long lines, waiting, and grumpy patrons (often a result of things one, two and three) make me nervous. I worry I won't move quickly enough, or I'll miss a sign, or I'll be called to account in front of others, or that it'll take too long, or I'll be late. Etc. A worrier by inclination and experience airports and the DMV and other such places are my 7th circle of hell. As for flying itself, I love it. I fall asleep quickly and soundly. I eagerly look out the window and try to guess by the topography where in America I am. I love it. Good stuff. But the lines and waiting are taxing. The only pleasant part is watching people. It's a chance to understand the world in a strangely superficial way. But I get such enjoyment from thinking about the people I see. From trying to understand their choices, their path, their lives from incredibly small fragments of information. I like the things that observation allows and forces me to think. The process of thinking and analyzing and wondering is so enjoyable that in the end it hardly seems to matter that I'm almost certainly wrong about them. It's a selfish exercise, but one that I enjoy.

Something I observed while waiting around in airports this week.

1). In the Southwest gate area I saw a well dressed, professional (looking) woman wearing fancy shoes, stylish pants and a stylish top. Nothing too noteworthy there. However, as she turned to pickup her luggage I saw that her pants were festooned with writing. Apparently these stylish pants were taking a cue from those oh-so fashionable jersey (Jersey) shorts popular with the kids these days. You know the pants, those that sport oddly hostile or hubris inspired statements like "You Wish" or "I'm HOT." The veritable picture of class and wit, displayed where those traits must appear--on the pink sweat panted ass of someone from Georgetown. This woman's pants were black, and were cut in such a way that they suggested effort and maturity. The words written on her not yet, but I imagine soon to be sagging posterior were: "London Calling." What am I to make of this? Here is a woman clearly trying to be stylish, in an adult way, but is wearing pants with writing on the butt. But then the writing references the seminal album by the punk rock band The Clash. I can't imagine that The Clash would be really excited about a well to do woman parading around their album and song title like a brand without any context or message. It's just reducing those ideas and that music to a cute cultural reference. She's saying, "Look I've heard of this album." Something about that just seems odd, and maybe even a little off putting. Maybe I'm out of touch here, but I also think making a hoodie with the word Guernica across it would be wrong. Without a supporting message, or context those pants are basically the equivalent of Engrish -- those poorly translated Japanese signs and shirts that feature English sentences or phrases in in-apt arrangements or context. By taking a punk album, grafting it onto pants of a certain style, but with a design that evokes the young and awful hot pants of so many, her clothing was confused and confusing. Maybe I'm missing it, but I cannot figure out what statement a person is making about themselves or their taste or the world by wearing those pants, it's simply a celebration of being in on the joke. It's a celebration of a loose familiarity with pop culture without any consideration for the meaning behind the music, or the place of the reference within a larger societal context.

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