Recently I flew from East coast to West coast, spending a good bit of time in a couple of large airports where people-watching can be a studious pass-time for someone like me who has drawn and painted portraits and figures most of her life. People are fascinating. No two are alike, yet some are similar in features and attitudes. I mentally draw them. A fascinating way to wait for a flight.
Until this trip I’d not flown in over seven years. Flying is not like it used to be! In the 1960s and 70s it was a delight. Seats were comfortable, restrooms clean, meals acceptable–even occasionally delicious. Flight attendants were kind, young, and attractive. Passengers were quiet, thoughtful of others. This trip, I felt like my knees were in my throat so close together were the seats (and lucky me, I was in the middle). Unless ordered and paid for prior to flight, no food was given on our six-hour flight except a dry tasteless biscuit. The team of attendants looked old, haggard, and in need of a hair stylist. Passengers were many, crowded, and plugged in.
Not just on the plane but throughout each airport, at every gate, restaurant, passageway, waiting room, everyone was plugged in to some form of technology, mostly cell phones and video games. It was like outer space; actually, reminded me of a particular Star Trek episode from years ago, called “The Game,” in which everyone is addicted to a mind-controlling game attached to their eyes and ears. As I walked through the airport, that’s what it looked like. No one saw or heard beyond what they’d plugged into. Whatever fantasy entertainment occupied their time, it was apparently the most important thing going on for them. No one seemed aware of the existence of other human beings. Conversation mute.
I was busy mentally drawing: the young Muslim woman in a long dark skirt and hijab, pushing a wheel chair while speaking on her cell phone; the Hispanic airline worker with curls bouncing as she gesticulated to problem-solve for someone on her phone; the pilot, in his crisply pressed shirt, rapidly walking to his next flight, smiling into his mobile; the anxious woman with a scarred face sitting alone, staring into space, holding a computer tight on her lap; a businessman, down a few rows, working on his computer and simultaneously talking on his phone; the obvious outdoorsman with boots and fishing equipment sticking out of his backpack, laughing on his cell. I drew them all in my mind. The curve of a cast shadow on someone’s sleeve, the busy print of a dress, the rare reader of a book, the more frequent pattern of eyes glued to a screen. I wondered what they’d each do without technical attachments. Would they talk to the stranger sitting beside them? Would they know how to make sentences or is language a thing of the past?
All I know is I’m not eager to fly anytime soon. Each leg of my excursion, to and from, was a 17-hour ordeal, going from my home on the East coast to where my sons live on the western edge of our nation, involving 3-hour car trips, 2-hour bus travel, as well as the 6-hour plane flight and the many waiting times in-between. One good thing while journeying, I started, read, took notes, and finished a 384-page book. That was Enough by Cassidy Hutchison.
Artwork: Seated Figure, matted charcoal pencil, approx. 14″ x 20″, $75. While I’ve never found a nude model in the airport, I’ve had many models pose in my gallery throughout my life and it is always a serious endeavor to capture the human form.