I hate airports! They bring out
the worst in me, and by that I mean I generally dislike people on a daily basis and I really dislike traveling with them in a glorified sardine can. Yes, I fully realize that this says a lot more about me than I would like. I don’t like facing the reality of a world that doesn’t look, sound, or think like me. But, geez, what happened to manners and etiquette? Those things aren’t regional, are they? Air and train travel used to be great social events. The whole point was to get to know traveling companions and enjoy each other’s company. Not so today; we put in earphones and pull out tablets and wrap ourselves in a technological cocoon the diameter of our plane seat. You don’t look left, and I won’t look right. We are strangers, and it is supposed to be that way.
Not so with the Southern traveler. You can spot one a mile away. You will not be able to avoid their “Southern hospitality” as it spills over and around every border of social graces that civilization has to offer. They are stereotypes unto themselves in the most comical of ways, and yet there they are, fumbling down the aisle and headed for the seat next to you.
Everyone’s Grandmother — Alice has been alone for a while now, ever since her husband, Ed, died a few years back in that incident in the silo with the tractor. They have 25 grandkids. You know because you just saw pictures of each of them. By name. One by one. The cats get the same treatment, as do a couple of the prized farm animals. This imposed meet and greet is at least accompanied by refreshments, which magically appear out of that huge satchel that was stuffed under the seat. You have to admit the peach cobbler is the best you have ever had, and the sweet tea was on par with Chick-fil-A (but was that a hint of mint?). You continue to have suspicions about the Transportation Security Administration because you have no idea how Alice got those darning needles and the jars of homemade preserves through the screener, especially since they make me throw my water bottle away every time.
SEC Sports Guy — A very large man going 350-plus on the hoof, but he always flies coach to save money. He is dressed head to toe in his favorite school’s gear, and he is loud. He has been to the game or he is on his way, and while he never played a down of football in his life, he is very sure of how to fix several key deficiencies with the coaching philosophy and how all the other schools cheat. It’s double-down time if his son or daughter plays a sport (even JV softball), as he is singularly responsible for the prodigy’s success. His job at the plant gives him plenty of time off as it seems they don’t want to hear his stories either.
Family Reunion Lady — Usually a subset of Grandma above, this traveler is on the way to the family reunion. You know this because the purple T-shirt with gold lettering tells you so. It includes the host church logo and catchphrase as well as the family tree. These events only happen in Louisiana and Georgia. Again, you will be regaled with stories and photographs, but the good news is that you will be added to the prayer chain. If the plane goes down at least you have that going for you.
The Country Lawyer — His actual name is Atticus, and he truly believes seersucker suits are chick magnets. He can’t talk about the case, but that is exactly what he does the whole flight long, adding plenty of thinly veiled innuendos and double-entendres. A jury of your peers will find you guilty just to make him stop.
Sorority Girl — The pastel T-shirt with gold Greek letters announces to the world that Buffy is on her way to get fitted for a bridesmaid’s dress. You can’t buy those things in Birmingham, don’t you know, one simply must go to New York City for the weekend. She and her boyfriend, Todd, are having problems because he doesn’t understand that hot yoga and English sidesaddle are actual minors for a college degree. You later learn that Todd may meet her in the Big Apple because he needs to get fitted for a seersucker suit.
As COVID-19 cases decline, more passengers will take to the air for travel to vacation destinations and family gatherings. You may not have the luxury of that extra seat between you and the next passenger. At that time, you may experience a Southern traveler or you may be one yourself. If so, enjoy that fried chicken leg and the baby pictures. Only a misanthrope such as I would do otherwise.