Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Airport Observations

I happen to spend a lot of time in airports because of the travel requirements of my job. As such, I fairly often run into, as others would describe them, "celebrities," or public figures, such as politicians, TV and sports personalities, and talking heads.

What's fascinating is that these public figures are rarely recognized within the airport, as people are entirely focused on their own travel experience. With our celebrity-obsessed culture, these same figures would cause a stir if they were in a restaurant or shopping area, but seem able to hide in the anonymity of the airport frenzy.

During the O.J. trial, the weekend before the verdict I was flying down to L.A. from Oakland seated behind Christopher Darden, the co-prosecutor with Marcia Clark. Granted he's not a recognizeable figure now, but at the time his face was splashed on every tabloid and newspaper in the country. He had been on cable TV for months, and the fate of O.J. lay in his hands. And the media coverage was wall-to-wall with the deliberations and the pending verdict. I made a point to walk through the terminal right behind him to see if he was recognized. No one made the connection during the transit through the concourse, recovering his baggage, and out the door.

Similar experiences with politicians. Governors, Bush Cabinet officials, Senators, TV reporters, etc. seem to travel fairly anonymously. More important politicians are often the last called onto the plane, emerging from a holding room near the gate. Gate agents seem to be trained in how to accomodate celebrities, either whisking them into first class prior to boarding, or making sure they're the last to board. I once had to compete with George Stephanopoulos for a seat; the little dork won.

Maybe politicians just aren't celebrities, and it's only politics junkies like me who see them as such. The point is, if you're into celebrity-spotting, keep your eyes peeled at the airport. You won't have any competition.