Thoughts from an airport bar

Here I am again – same situation, different location.

Another airport bar killing time but at the same time trying everything I can to make time an irrelevant concept, to make the passage of time easier. A ridiculous concept to try and describe, let alone execute, especially considering my surroundings.

After all – an airport functions purely on the principle of time. ‘Estimated Time of Arrival’, ‘Estimated Time of Departure’, ‘delays’, ‘early arrivals’, ‘latest check-in-time’, ‘boarding time’ – time is everywhere - and San Francisco International Airport is no different.

So here I am, attempting to walk the fine line between ignoring time’s slow passage, whilst at the same time keeping an eye out to make sure that I don’t end up having to make a mad dash for my flight, arriving at the gate heaving and sweating like a bull in Pamplona at the San Fermin fiesta.

I check my watch, nonchalantly like. I’ve been here before. Four hours to kill in an airport is not an easy task for even the most creative of minds, let alone this humble scribe; and so it is – with an obvious lack of creativity – that I find myself in “The Firewood Café”, sipping on this, my fourth Corona.

At least this imported beer is given a certain air of authenticity by the bartender who serves it to me – an amicable chap in his mid-twenties of obvious Mexican origin. His features and accent are the obvious give away – but this is also one mean looking ‘hombre’. Not particularly tall but heavy set, with shoulders that look about 5 feet wide and hands that look like shovels.

I like this guy.

He commands the bar with a quiet, unspoken, confident air of authority and he serves everyone with a knowing smile that makes me think that he knows something that I don’t. I wish I knew what it was, because he’s had his fair share of obnoxious assholes to deal with, even in the short space of time that I’ve been here.

To my left I have a group of barely incomprehensible English people who mumble their orders and then take the piss out of him for not understanding them – although obviously not to his face. I know I would want this guy in my team. And still he keeps smiling.

His supervisor is an interesting character as well, of Latino origin herself, she struts the bar like mutton dressed as – well…..ahm…..mutton, occasionally shouting out the food order numbers when the pizzas arrive from the kitchen and even less accasionally, shock, horror – actually serving people. She cuts a fairly intimidating presence behind the bar – way too much make-up, way too big earrings, shocking pink lipstick, long hair pulled severely off her face.

And then an interesting thing happens.

Sat here as I am, at the corner of the bar, I am privy to all that unfurls before me.

The supervisor shouts out the pizza order number, her voice threatening to break glass.
Her voice raised more and still no one comes forth to claim their pizza.
Exasperated, she cries out one more time. She is stood six feet from me. I already fear for the poor fool that’s been ignoring her.

Just then, from behind my right shoulder, a guy appears. English, in his 50’s and judging from his posh, clipped accent and his attire - he was wearing a white suit with a fedora, making him look like the man from Del Monte for Christ’s sake – he was obviously not from a background where he would be used to coming and collecting his own food order.

I had already noticed this guy when he came in and had him and his mate already pegged as people that were somewhat out of their depth when they ordered corona and asked what they were supposed to do with the lime.

“Did you say sixteen?”, came the crisp, Home Counties accent – the accent, I am ashamed to admit, that always manages to get my back up. This is the accent of “The Obnoxious English Gentleman” (TOEG). Perhaps it’s a throwback to my days of working in Belfast International airport. The amount of rude business men that I met never ceased to amaze me. Do they teach that at business school? And it always seemed like the southern English were worse. I apologise for my prejudice – the accent just has that affect on me.

Anyway I think this TOEG had met his match on this particular occasion.

The supervisor just stared at him blankly, like he had crawled from under a rock.

“Is this sixteen?” he persisted, lifting the box and looking at the receipt attached to it, which I am sure had ‘16’ emblazoned across it.

“So this is sixteen?”

She just simply gave the man a withering look and as he walked off with his “SIXTEEN!!” she then glanced at me, no doubt aware that I had been witnessing the whole scene play out in front of me. Rolling her eyes, she gave me a look that seemed to say “Can you believe that eejit?” although I’m sure it would have been something more rude.

And in Spanish.

It was only then, that I realised just how piercing blue her eyes were. They shone like diamonds, no doubt further accentuated by the make up that she was wearing. I felt weak at the knees when she looked at me. I shrugged my shoulders and gave her my best “Watchya gonna do” kind of smile.

She winked at me. I liked this lady. She scared the life out of me but I liked her. I don’t mean fancy her – God knows she was no oil painting but still – there was something about her that I liked.

I was asked by somebody on this trip to the US if “men liked their women to be a bitch.” I had to think about the response and ended up giving a totally non committal “In certain circumstances, I suppose so, yes”.

I am supposing this was one of those circumstances.

And now – with the my “ETD” 1 hour away and a bladder fit to burst, I feel that it is perhaps a good opportunity to leave this anecdotal tale. You see, for it has served its purpose for me – it passed the time of day – and I hope that it has done the same for you.

The fact that the Corona stocks are finished and the only other option is “Bud Lite” has got absolutely nothing to do with it…

April 2005