Applause, please

From the “turning Italian” department.
After 3 hours of weather delays we did get off the ground.  For me it was only an hour delay, since I (barely) got a seat on the 2 hour earlier flight.  Filled of course.  I was squeezed between two real men.  A short stocky Hispanic guy, Peruvian look – straight Dutch Boy hair, dark skin the color of adobe, no neck, a round head jutting from the neck of a soccer shirt apparently veteran of many hours on the field of battle without seeing the inside of a washing machine.  Cell phone the size of a Big Mac held in his hand the whole flight, doing nothing but looking straight ahead, his beard evidencing at least a week of not noticing that yes, it grows.
And a younger black guy who was in basketball garb over a basketball build, with the ipod welded to ears permanently, white white against black black, retro afro hair.    Men act like only women worry style.  Style, like management, like politics, is not a choice of yes or no, but of quality.  Men included.
Nobody said a word nor exchanged a glance – they were men as bears, hibernating, except for the word “kewl” spoken by the black guy, accompanied by the smoothest of hand gestures when I signaled I’d like the seat between them.  And men say women are a mystery.
We eventually land in Providence.  In Italy, there would be applause.  If a plane lands, you applaud.  Why?   I used to think it was naïvete – the crew flying the plane can’t hear nor see it behind the cockpit door.  So why bother?  Is it so amazing a plane lands?  Flying is not exactly new.  Maybe in italy it is new – they are sort of new to the jet set, maybe because it’s not as wealthy a country as the U.S. and many people are just on their very first flight?
Yesterday we Anglos sat in stone silence when we landed.  No applause, no smiles, no exchange of even a glance among strangers sharing an experience.  Silence.
It bothered me.  After all, when you land, you have arrived where you want to.  You spent the money, you invested the day, the aggravation, the energy of making reservations, getting packed and to the airport on time.  We all shared that – every one of us bought a ticket, made plans, packed a suitcase, said goodbye, got the airport on time, waited in line after line, stood at gates with all the uncomfortable  seats taken, with babies and moms carrying them, with parents trying to keep kids entertained, with adults sprawled on the floor.  We spent $4 for a pint of water.  And after all that…  Here you are!  Here we are – 176 of us made it to Rhode Island this evening.
Wow!  Home.  Or to visit friends.  Or someplace new and strange to start whatever voyage – to a conference or an interview or work in a remote location.  Whatever doesn’t matter.  And you know what – we all fear flying, traveling.  Sometimes people die that way.  Everybody knows there’s a small but non zero risk in travel.  We are here!
It’s emotional, to land.  Especially yesterday.  We made it through the storms, the trees down on the Beltway, the standing room only airport, the overcrowded planes.  The sun was setting and we were (in my case) home.  But these Anglos, expressionless, cool, hands in pockets, waiting for something better, something to really impress them.  They need a much, much better reason to celebrate, to risk embarrassment at exposing an emotion.  Maybe winning the lottery is necessary to risk smiling and admitting something nice has happened.
When Dustin Hoffman in Wagging The Dog said “those are real tears”, he was saying “hey guys, here’s that rare example – an actual emotion being displayed”.  That line would not work in Pescara or Padua.   Finding an Anglo expressing an emotion, it’s  like finding a vein of silver in a remote patch of Nevada high desert.  Because with Anglos, to express an emotion maybe you have to get married or die.  Otherwise, better not to seem too easily moved.
Land?  I have landed before, don’t you know.  Maybe if it’s the moon, I’ll bother to look out the window.  Mars, a smile mayhaps.  Providence?  I’ll pass on that emotion thing.
So is it the Italians who aren’t getting it, are naïve to what travel is, who have the strange habit of expressing an emotion?  They reach home after flying across an ocean, a continent and a sea to return  from New York on that discount seat on the  American Airlines nonstop and what do they say to their families? “You know what was really strange?   Nobody applauded”.

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