Sat 30 Nov, 2002 10:33 pm
Smooshing, an international incident
It was a scant two weeks after the World Trade Center attack and the world was on edge. Jesse had planned his trip to Portugal and Spain months ahead and was not to be deterred. The flight out of Denver had been hectic with security and endless lines to get through and the flight schedules were in disarray. What should have been a simple flight from Denver to JFK had become a quagmire. And Jesse had needed to fly to Dulles International where he caught a commuter to New York City for a one night lay-over before catching his overnight flight to Lisbon. It had been 14 hours since Jesse had left Denver when he caught the motel shuttle and the driver looked at him and said "hey mon, you be from Texas?" Jesse answered that no, he was from Colorado. "Colorado, hey mon, where be that? Jesse quietly said "Aspen". "oh, mon Aspen, I do know that". The Best Western was mostly deserted (the rates were the same) and after a quick $18 hamburger in the restaurant downstairs, Jesse headed to his room for some sleep. No need for an early wakeup call as Jesse was scheduled to fly out at 7:30 the next evening but checkout was 11 a.m. and Jesse had to catch the airport shuttle.
Arriving at JFK around noon, Jesse headed downstairs from the main lobby for one more cup of coffee trying to waste as much time as possible. Soon after, he headed outside for a smoke dragging his carry-on and his back pack enjoying a relatively warm late September day. The airport was beginning to fill mostly with what appeared to Jesse being European and Indian peoples seemingly heading home. While Jesse had expected to see many American tourists heading for Europe apparently that was not the case. The lobby was filling with many families with children and lots of luggage sprawled about and trying to sort out the many changes in the airline schedules. Jesse found a row of seats off to the side, picked up a New York Times and settled in for the long wait before his flight.
At about two in the afternoon, that claxon alarm sort of sound began and Jesse looked around not seeing anything of note he went back to reading the letters to the editor. Soon afterwards blue uniformed persons began walking through the lobby telling everyone to step outside. No explanation given. Family's in the area were gathering up their luggage and their children and heading for the sliding doors and Jesse followed along. Right outside the main lobby was a 4 lane pick-up and delivery driveway and Jesse walked across to the retaining wall on the other side, sat down his baggage and, along with hundreds of others wondered, without much concern, what was happening. After about 15 minutes several more of the blue uniforms came outside and suggested that we were not far enough away and needed to proceed on down the ramp to the tarmac several blocks away. At this point Jesse noticed that the parking lots and entry-exit lanes were not moving, but one of the blues walking by said something about a security test. Oh well, Jesse thought, he still had many hours to wait and it was of no concern. Groups of families and a few couples struggling with their luggage meandered slowly down the ramp making their way to the tarmac off in the distance and hoping there would be shuttles to bring them back up with the mounds of luggage when this test was finished.
After about 45 minutes of walking down the long, winding ramp Jesse came out onto the tarmac behind the main parking lots in the front of the terminal. An unknown thousands of people were strewn about the acres of black fields of asphalt generally distraught with confusion. At the very bottom of the ramp Jesse put down his baggage and sat down leaning against the concrete wall looking out across the sea of humanity and cars going nowhere. Shortly thereafter a very cute young lady came near Jesse and, taking out a cloth of some kind from her flight bag to put down on the ground, she sat beside Jesse. She was an attracting young lady, tall and blond and well sunned and she was mad. Damn, damn, damn she kept saying. Jesse light a cigarette and politely nodded. "I just want to go home, my mother is going to be so upset" she said to no one in particular. But the accent Jesse was not accustomed to and turned to listen. She went on to say that her mother was driving all the way to Amsterdam to pick her up and would be so worried if she was not there. Jesse, by then was curious and asked her where she was going. "Home" she said, "I just want to go home". "And where is home?" Jesse asked. "Poland" she said with a sigh of resignation, "I have been in America for a year and I just want to go home". Then, for the first time, she turned and looked at Jesse and spoke "do you like country western music?" she asked. "well, Jesse said, "yeah some of it is ok". "My father loves it," she replied. Jesse said something about not thinking country western music would be well known in Poland. "O yes" she said, it's almost as popular as disco". Jesse just nodded not knowing how to respond to that. She rummaged through her bag digging out a stick of gum and Jesse asked her what she had been doing in America for a year. A student, she explained, she had been an exchange student in Burlington Vermont for the past year. She went on to tell Jesse that she had completed her degree in International Studies in Poland and then came to America for a year of Post Graduate work before attending Law School and joining the family law practice. Jesse, being polite, asked her how she found America and would she be coming back sometime. "No way" she said, "I would never come back to this country, it's barbaric". Somewhat taken aback by the strength of her statement, Jesse asked her why. "Well," she said" never have I seen such an absurd country, these people here take peanut butter and slather it all over a slice of bread, peanut butter is a salt, and then they take jelly which is a sugar, and slather that all over another slice of bread and then they smoosh it all together and eat it." Jesse did not say a word. "you can not imagine it, a salt and a sugar and smoosh it all together and eat it". "It's awful. I can never come back to a country that would do that." She continued "and its not even real bread, its some kind of white flowery pasty stuff, that they call bread."
Jesse looked up then and noticed that hordes of people were gathering up near one of the gates that led back to the main terminal but nothing seemed to actually be happening. People began to scurry towards the movement of others seemingly in anticipation of a event of some kind. Jesse just sat and watched but his Polish companion was up and moving towards the gate that so many others seemed interested in. Gradually the herd near the gate dwindled apart and Jesse lit another cigarette. Another hour passed making a total of almost 4 hours of sitting on the asphalt when suddenly the gate was opened and the throngs began bunching up trying to be the first back into the airport.
As Jesse finally brought up the rear of the onslaught and made it inside the ground floor, he noticed that there were several escalators going up to the 3rd floor area where the ticketing and check-in areas where. Now the odd thing was that there were two elevators next to the escalators but the people with the most luggage where attempting to get up the escalators and getting nowhere other than blocking the way for others. Jesse waited. In time people seemed to realize that using the elevators was about the only way they would get to the 3rd floor and Jesse easily made his way up the escalator, checked in for his flight, got his boarding pass and made his way to the boarding area. Jesse arrived in Lisbon early the next morning in a light rain, and caught the bus to Cascais.
peanut butter and jelly
salt and sugar
I guess she had a point there, of
some kind, though I am not really
sure. I left the US 7 days after the
9/11 thing - but my experience was
smooth sailing, in fact there didn't
appear to be as many travelers as
usual. The security WAS tighter,
but we were advised to come a bit
earlier, so off to Mexico we went
without a hitch. All of my friends
& relatives thought I must be mad
to travel just one week after the
9/11 thing. Me, I figured, since it had
just happened, what were the chances
it would happen again a week later?
It didn't, & I liked Mexico, since the
Mexican people are so very pleasant,
polite, courteous, happy, friendly,
gentle, kind, helpful. I didn't meet one
single person (of mexican heritage)
who behaved rudely. The few rude
obnoxious people I did meet were American
tourists. I was surprised by the large numbers
of Americans who were busy buying up
property in Mexico, sort of like a reaction
to the 9/11 thing. I wished I could stay
longer, but ill health, hospitalization
etc. made me come back to the US.
I have to agree with her about the US
being barbaric, though my reasons
may be different than hers. The
peanut butter and jelly thing, so what!
But, Americans are often hostile,
rude, in a hurry, and really behave in
an unpleasant & barbaric way. Maybe
the people in Poland are just as rude,
obnoxious, and in a hurry as we
Americans seem to be.
If she had been somehow trumped on the peanut butter and jelly observation she would likely have gone on a tangent of far ranging dissatisfactions with America. Much of it has to do with the circumstances of her own experience with people who live as she lives in her own country. When one grows up with slathered almost bread, one tends to be less critical.