A dim view

Up at four to drive to airport this morning. Jeez. I'm sitting now at my gate, coffee in hand, surrounded by strangers tapping keyboards and thumbing smartphones and warming themselves by their Kindles...

I get a kick out of the way we space ourselves. The lounge area is now at an average of four seats between each party. The first person into the area picked a seat near a corner. Each of the new arrivals position ourselves at some internally calculated socially mandated distance. A couple arrives and performs a non-verbal dialogue of preferences; he wins, she goes for the coffee. We each place our things around us: nothing more than a handsbreath away, we set out the tools of travel like chefs prepping for a meal: laptop, phone, coffee, breakfast sandwich. Then, we chop and dice.

One person does something it seems that only one can do at a time: just watches. Her legs are crossed, her arm over the next seatback. She isn't multitasking, she's not avoiding eye-contact, she's not blogging. And, I hope, she can't read my screen and know I am watching her, too. I realize that we're losing not only the habit but the permission to simply gaze without purpose at the proceedings around us. It has perhaps become more polite to take up a screen and be busy. It's almost a moral position: I'm busy, I have purpose! That relaxed gazing is now reserved for smokers huddling outside buildings - though now they often keep one hand for puffing and one for thumbing, too.

A flight's passengers deplane and pass in front of us. They're fair game to people-watch. I work at home and live in a small town so watching random travellers is a novel promenade of styles. No one is talking: it's too early and they've been up even longer than I have, I assume. Plus, most are business travellers and alone - arriving for a long day in Washington DC and already dressed for the part.

I used to travel a great deal. I was a travel agent and had to know what I was selling. I managed high profile business travellers and celebrities. I once wrote tickets for the Jerry Lewis telethon. Question: is "Cher" a first name or a last? Is "Mr. T" to be "Mr. Mr. T?" Another question: is it privilege or infantile to cancel a flight on the Concorde because you can't get seats 2A and B?

Enough groggy rumination. Just thought I'd bring you along. I'll be in Boston in a few hours and have appointments and people to meet - people I've "known" but not met and, I hope, many new people - especially pediatricians - to introduce to the newer science and newer ways to help families save their kids. Very exciting, and an great honor to have F.E.A.S.T. doing this work.


  1. Oh Laura, I love watching people, and yes, I make eye contact and try to smile. It is really amazing how something so small and simple can change the face and interaction of so many. Good luck, my friend, although you won't need it. You'll move some people, that I am quite sure of. See you in Alexandria , real soon!

  2. I think your post is a testament of our culture's obsession with non-stop work and how it can really take us out of our present moments!


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