Friday, September 6, 2013

Week 2: observation and field work

One thing you might want to consider for week 2 is some field work, going out and collecting observations for your essay. Here's a pigeon's eye view from former student Elissa (the assignment was to be a fly-on-the-wall but she went for pigeons):

Airports are inarguably the busiest buildings in the world, around the globe. Thousands of people from every imaginable destination arrive and depart from them daily. A short time ago I made a trip to Buffalo with Bill and his entire family. We spent a good chunk of time sitting in airports. I love them. If you're a religious eavesdropper like myself, you know that a layover means something interesting to gawk at every 30 seconds for an undetermined amount of time. Some people grab a book, others crossword puzzles, everyone brings a walk-man. Some people are so exhausted they actually manage to find a way to take a nap in those cruel metal and plastic chairs. Aren't they cute, all lined up in rows like movie theater seats? I recently found out that some airlines offer cots on their international flights. Why can't they put some in the airports? What harm would that do? God forbid someone who's been flying for 13 hours wants to get a little rest during a four hour delay. Who's gonna miss their flight? We all have cell phones now, we're walking alarm clocks. Anyway, I'm off the subject.

I've been stalking flies around the house with a swatter for days so I have a particularly powerful aversion to them currently. I'd much rather be one of those little birds who gets into the airport and just hangs out getting pointed at by little kids who think "wow, even airports have pets."

The institution grey carpets absorb the echoes of intercom voices. There's the perpetual hum of jet engines that goes unnoticed after the first hour.From the rafters I spy a woman with two young children, "Yes I see the plane now let's go."
"Mommy, can I get a doughnut?"
"Yeah! I'm starving, please?"
"We are LATE, we are going to miss that plane. I have granola bars we'll eat those after we take off now come ON."
"Are we going to go on the escalator again?"

I spy two sharply dressed men sprinting through the crowd carrying laptops and briefcases and giggle at the sight of pressed business suits in a dead run.

I want to cry when I spot a young woman disgustedly throwing out her stale cinnamon roll, "I paid 6 bucks for that?"

I find a perch on top of one of the 24 clocks lined up above the flight schedule, "Honey, my plane is an hour delayed but I promise you I will be home in time to celebrate our anniversary.... whatever you want.... that sounds nice let's do that.... so how did Melany do on her Physics test? Yeah? That's great, she was worried about it.... what's that.... he did what.........I swear that kid just doesn't get it... I'll talk to him tomorrow... yep..... listen honey my calling card is about to run out of minutes....yeah..... uh huh...... listen honey I'll see you when I get home.... yes I will.... ah...yup... uh huh..... honey, I love y.... damn."

In a nearby gift shop I observe an elderly couple pawing through trinkets on a revolving rack, "Oh this is cute. Darla would love that. Oh my goodness Harold look at the price it's highway robbery."
"I'm sure we can find the kids something when we get to Chicago."
"Oh but look Harold... look at this one it's adorable."
*sigh* "Yep, that's cute too. Ooh, not cheap though, let's just pick out some books to read on the plane. We'll be back through here on our way home."
"Oh, I saw a Dunkin Donuts somewhere around here let's get some coffee."
"I don't want coffee it makes me piss too much."
"Well get decaff, decaff doesn't make you go."
"Of course it does it's a liquid."
"Yes but it's the caffeine that makes you go honey."
"What's the goddamn point to decaffeinated coffee? I need the caffeine to keep up with you, woman...."

In the distance I see an attractive couple find each other in the crowd. Judging by their make-out session I'd say haven't seen each other in a while.
"....missed you so much. Oh I have so much to show you!"
"Please include your bedroom in the tour."
She wraps her arms around him with cheerleader enthusiasm, "Oh you're awful! Are you hungry? I want to take you to my favorite restaurant. They have the best babyback ribs."
"I am pretty hungry. I want to see your place first though, kick my feet up for a few minutes.... "

I head for the food court to see if I can't score a french fry off of the floor. The ceiling is raised so high in this area my presence goes virtually unnoticed as I flit from one perch to another among the rafters.

Far below me a family of 5 gorges itself on Burger King value meals, "Space mountain is the coolest ride ever!"
"NO I liked the haunted house."
"That was cool, but I liked Sea World better."
"Marcus, be nice to your sister. Okay guys are we finished eating yet? I'D like to get home."

In a nearby Chinese buffet line a pair of new friends flirt timidly, "That was the funnest 6 hour flight I have ever been on."
"So uh, could I... maybe... get your number?"
"Well... you see... I kinda... *exhale* have a boyfriend. But you can still call me... as a friend.... if you want..."
"Uh, yeah.... sure......."

I decide it's time to tuck myself behind a beam and sleep off my french fry. On the way I spot a fly on the wall and snatch him up for dessert. Belly full, I let the voices and rolling luggage lull me to sleep.

Notice the rich detail, the intense quality of the observation, the humor, the clever premise, the strong lead-in, the inevitable suspicion that she is enhancing her material somewhat, the series of mini-tales, the dialogue. All fine stuff.

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