Terminal Velocity

“Hell… as every frequent traveler knows, is in Concourse D of O’Hare Airport.”  – Dave Barry

I have spent, over the course of my career, too much time in airport terminals. Chicago’s O’Hare, which in the past I have cited as the only airport in the world that screams at you, is endlessly dreary. Your senses and sensibilities are under continuous assault. You are surrounded – or, more accurately, engulfed – and invariably jostled by people who want to be somewhere else. And, oh, good luck finding Concourse D!

I was travelling with our overly methodical and obsessively punctual CEO, the Man from Glad. We were waiting to board a plane; since we were flying United, we knew waiting was more a reality to be endured than a process to be followed.

Suddenly, his cell phone began to ding. Ding. Ding. What the heck is that? To his horror, our CEO realized that he had screwed up time zones and we actually (theoretically?) had a presentation to give in 10 minutes to a major investor.

First we ran to the United desk and cancelled our flight. Then began a frantic search for a quiet spot with Wi-Fi where we could set up. Restaurants along Concourse B were not going to provide the privacy we needed, most certainly not Tortas Frontera with its griddle-baked pork chorizo tortas, Wolfgang Puck Café or the Garrett Popcorn emporium. Eventually, with only minutes to go, we found a place approximately near nothing in particular, under stairs, with little but a narrow ledge to sit on.

He unceremoniously ripped into his own giant foil bag of chips.

We were able to hook up with the investors and, cool as ice, as if presenting on the fly was standard practice, began our Powerpoint presentation.

Just one slide in, an airport ground crew employee in navy ARC-rated coveralls pulled up alongside, tore open a crinkly bag of Doritos, and launched into a very loud, open-mouthed chew. Munch, munch, crunch, crunch. Soon a buddy of his joined in, with a hoot and a high five. He unceremoniously ripped into his own giant foil bag of chips. Crunch, crunch, munch, munch. Seriously? I thought to myself. I mean, seriously?

What’s that noise? inquired one our straight-laced investors. Chomp. Hold on for just a minute, replied our insouciant CEO. Munch. He leaned over to our two interlopers. Lunch. Would you mind so very much moving elsewhere so that we can make a presentation? He pointed to my laptop with an exaggerated air of resignation and shrugged heavily. Sure thing, mate, said one of the crew. The two cinched their chip bags closed, rose with a noisy flourish and sauntered off.

It all reminds me of a line from Bennett Cerf, one of the founders of publishing giant Random House: Good manners, he said, is the noise you don’t make when you’re eating soup.

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