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Tom Doing Some People Watching At the Airport

TSA employees hard at work enhancing the traveling experience. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

This weekend I jet off to Texas for my 50th College Class Reunion. Yes, I’m that old. Kilgore College is my alma mater, I went there on a basketball scholarship and they are honoring the teams I played with and inducting one of our players into the Texas Basketball Hall of Fame.

I flew from Bozeman to Shreveport, Louisiana and that was a three-stop trip. I flew one leg to Salt Lake, another to Atlanta and the final one to Shreveport. So I got to do a little people watching for the day during some of the layovers.

Airport Dress

Many of you have probably seen web sites depicting Wal-Mart people dressed in all sorts of outrageous outfits. Well airports are a close second. All manner and type of dress can be found in an airport. Salt Lake and Atlanta are huge hubs for Delta Airlines and gave me a lot of inspiration for this post.

I doubt that anyone would be surprised if I told you that, for the most part, older women are usually the best dressed. Women overall are better dressed than their male counterparts. Men appear to have selected whatever was on top of the dirty clothes pile. Women rarely wear dresses or skirts. Ninety-nine out of a hundred would be wearing either designer type jeans or slacks. Shorts on women are also rare but not on men. Khaki shorts, a t-shirt with a stupid saying and flip-flops are becoming more and more popular among more masculine travelers. It’s not hard to understand why most of these snappy dressers are traveling alone.

Luggage

Skis, musical instruments of all kinds have always found their way into an overhead compartment. Today I saw trash bags, cardboard boxes with rope handles, pillowcases, one person must have run out of trash bags because her answer was ten or so grocery store bags all tied together, I even saw a pet carrier full of clothes —and no pet.

Near each boarding gate is a box, with a sigh that says, “If your suitcase can’t fit in this box it must be checked.” On every trip there is always some idiot that insists that he can make his case fit the box. I remember one guy who kept taking clothes out of his overstuffed bag and putting them on to reduce the size of the bag.

Shoes

The vast majority of people, even women, opt for sensible shoes. But, every now and then there comes a “Barbie Doll” strutting down the concourse in the stiletto heels. Barbie is almost always blonde, an 8-inch waist, and either nosebleed height heels or some kind of Rodeo Drive leather knee boots.

As I mentioned above, a lot of men are moving to flip-flops. Why? — Because you have to take off your shoes at security. For men that’s not a wise thing to request. While women have many, many, many pairs of shoes men have two. One for dress that’s almost never worn, and the ones they wear every single day. I’m not even going to attempt to describe what might be living in those shoes but men have an additional problem. Socks. Men don’t always have matching ones, ones without holes, or ones that are clean without days of advanced planning. So cheap flip-flops are the easy answer.

Some Final Thoughts

I’m probably looking at 800 to a thousand people up and down the concourse at both Atlanta and Salt Lake airports. I doubt if there is a single one of them that paid the same price for their seat as the person who will be sitting next to them. We go bonkers over gas prices but we are strangely silent about what we paid for our airfare. We somehow know that if we brag about the great deal we got, someone else will make us feel foolish for overpaying so much.

Priceline, Hotwired, Expedia, and Kayak are waiting to give you the best airfare, hotel, rental car package. My travel advice? —Dust off the flip-flops, grab the clothes on top of the hamper, and just enjoy the trip.

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