Sunday, January 25, 2009
You know all those pictures you see of pitiable people looking weary and exasperated, sleeping on airport floors or corkscrewed into germ-laden airport chairs trying to sleep or slumped over misshapen lumps of baggage – usually post snowstorm – when their flights have been cancelled or delayed for time indeterminate…. Well that was us in the San José airport two nights ago. And the good news is that I have now formulated a list of very entertaining things you can do to entertain yourself should you ever find yourself in a similar position:
1. Acquire new reference books. I have never met a reference book I didn’t like. The fact that I know nothing about canal locks only reinforces the necessity to buy Canal Locks on All Seven Continents. But that was another happy occasion. In the San José airport I was lucky enough to find excellent guides to find both the Tropical Fruits of CR and Tropical Trees of CR, as well as a laminated monograph describing the venomous snakes of the country (we have already alluded to those serpents in these pages). These purchases gave me several happy hours parsing the finer points of cherimoya (Annona cherimola) and mamónes chinos (Nephelium lappaceum), along with references to their organoleptic properties. I was going to buy a laminated & illustrated 8 x 12 card describing every kind of heliconia found in CR, but pecuniary considerations militated against that purchase.
2. Acquire and then ingest chocolate covered passion fruit. Since dark chocolate, as we all know, lowers blood pressure and since passion fruit is a fruit (hence the name), this means that chocolate covered fruits are a true health food and as such are worthy of consumption whenever possible.
3. Make new friends. We are now on the Christmas card list (and vice versa) of a gentleman and his wife from Orlando, Florida. They own the local Port-a-Potty franchise ( their name is Call A-Head) and have eight children, and get this: all eight children work with them in the business. I found this fact remarkable.
ME: So what’s it like working with all your children?
NEW FRIEND FROM ORLANDO: Great.
ME: There must be lots of tension between the siblings, huh?
NFFO: Actually, there’s really none.
ME: Sibling rivalry can get very complex, and nasty, don't you think?
NFFO: I wouldn't know anything about that.
ME: So how do you deal with threats of violence, or exposure to the SEC?
NFFO: That never happens.
ME: It all goes back to childhood and competition for parental attention and love.
NFFO: We love all our children equally. Always have.
ME: I bet there are some serious disagreements over what direction the business will take, in these troubled economic times.
NFFO: Nope, we all agree on a reasonable rate of expansion.
ME: As a parent, it must be hard to watch your kids become estranged from each other, over something as insignificant as money and their inheritance.
And so on.
4. When you have made all the friends you are likely to make at Gate 15, you can simply wander up and down between the rows of bolted-together chairs (because chairs are at risk of being stolen by would-be felons en route to Fort Lauderdale or Attica) and comment on the books people are reading. People unfailingly enjoy this. They like to be told that you know the author and he doesn’t look remotely like the back picture. (In his dreams, he never had that much hair.) They like even more to be told that you’ve already read the book, the plot is manipulative and the ending was highly unsatisfactory.
5. You will notice I made no mention whatsoever of the pleasures to be had by informing random strangers about the saints whose feast we are celebrating today, and what amusing things they said before being roasted alive or eaten by lions, and what sorts of visions they experienced. I do not mention this possibility because I realized that any hagiographical references during our lengthy and patience-taxing delay in San José (yup, named for a saint) would be regarded by the normally agreeable CSB as the Last Straw. Without even knowing of what consisted the first, second and subsequent straws, I just knew that saints would be the last. Which is why I didn’t once mention Blessed Henry Susa, the 13th century German mystic who, for 16 long years, wore a nightshirt with 150 nails facing inward (which gives a heightened awaareness to the concept of scratchy nightwear), until an angel appeared and told him to stop all this nonsense. Disgruntled, Henry threw his shirt into the Rhine.