Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Airport Bars: A Case Study in Story Value

I was flying home the other day - Arms sure are tired! (forgive me, I had to) - and had a couple of hours to kill before my flight departed so I sidled up to a bar (the only bar) in the Lubbock airport and ordered a beer.

Frequent travelers who enjoy people watching as much as I do LOVE airport bars. The transience of the other personalities is so palatable and that I'm-never-going-to-see-you-again voice in the back of many of their heads is so strong that they will air the dirtiest of secrets, release the most reprehensible inner beliefs, and sometimes completely fabricate a life to an absolute stranger just because they can. And the great thing is that one (assuming one is more of the listening ilk than of the confessing ilk) has to do almost nothing to coax this out of them. They WANT to do it. Sitting at a bar, ordering a beer, and looking approachable is often enough to attract a talker. They're like moths to flames. Granted, you can never quite be sure what is going to be said and you run the risk of hearing something that upsets you and/or causes you to lose your faith in marriage, government, the arts, religion, schools, men, women, family, the military, big business, the entertainment industry, dogs, sports, Halloween, or the decency of all humankind, but regular readers of this blog will realize that this is a small price to pay for story value. Put in simple terms:

Personal Discomfort (what is said + what is done) - Disbelief < Story Value


PD (ws + wd) - D < SV

It's science.

Anyhow, I'm sitting in this bar in the airport in Lubbock watching these three soggy, middle-aged salesmen chug boxed wine and literally dry hump a young, svelte blonde thing who is headed to New Orleans for a bachelorette party and chuckling to myself when Rick sits down right next to me.

Rick looked normal enough. Rick turned out not to be normal. If Rick were a character in a screenplay, he would be introduced thusly:

[Rick enters from the left side of the bar. He briefly surveys the patrons, then walks confidently, but with a slight chip on his shoulder and seats himself next to the young(ish) man at the bar who is drinking alone. Rick wears cowboy cut jeans with work boots and a denim shirt tucked in to reveal a healthy paunch. Rick's collar is open to the third button and a gold chain dangles there ensnared by his graying chest hair. The sleeves of the shirt are rolled to 3/4 length to reveal a faded, indecipherable tattoo on the back of his right forearm. Rick's salt and pepper hair is styled in a tight crew cut. He wears aviator shaped yellow lensed glasses. Rick orders a double Jack and Coke in a pint glass. Rick taps his drink with his large, gold pinky ring before speaking.]

And speak, Rick did. In thirty minutes, I learned the following:

Rick's son's best buddy was slated to be the high school valedictorian but one day got stoned to the Bejesus Belt and decided to rob the small town 3pm...maskless. His son's buddy made it two blocks with the $63.00 haul before he was apprehended. Oh, and Rick's son was with him. Rick made his son spend the night in jail to teach him a lesson.

Said lesson didn't work. Rick's son, years later, is currently in the clink.

Rick's daughter is a softball player and can throw smoke in fast pitch soft ball. Rick cannot comprehend how anyone can throw a ball that fast underhanded.

Rick is a construction supervisor and his current project is "seven ways of fucked up." It's not his fault though.

Rick met his wife while living as a foster child in her parents' house.

Rick's parents and parents-in-law are the same people.

Rick's current neighborhood has a large number of Vietnamese families moving in.

Rick believes this is why the family cat has gone missing. "You know they eat cats," Rick questions me and the bar in general after double Jack and Coke #2.

Rick wishes "The Whites" would stop getting forced out of their neighborhoods by people like "The Cat Eaters."

Rick is trying to get his card for the Senior PGA Tour. Qualifying rules have thus far prevented him from qualifying, but he's got sponsors lined up to foot the bill now and will be on tour in no time.

Rick has to ride in a golf cart when he plays on account of his disability.

Rick has chronic back pain.

Rick's chronic back pain stems from the second time he was struck by lightning.

Rick's gonna have one more Jack and Coke and then go catch his plane.

Rick was "Damned glad to meet [me]!"

PD(ws + wd) - D < SV

Like I said, it's science.

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