Touched – Part 1

I watch as the agent tries to scan my printed-at-home boarding pass, and fails. Tries again. And again. Finally, he slowly keys in the barcode numbers, stares at the screen, squints at my passport photo. Apparently satisfied, he hands pass and passport back to me.

Having cleared what should be the last hurdle to board the plane, I turn but pull up short, momentarily dazzled by too much choice in a process that doesn’t offer much. Two jet bridges connect to the corridor behind the gate desk.  Which one to take?

Seeing my hesitation, the airline agent gestures helpfully at the back side of the Big Guy, who cleared the gate ten seconds ahead of me and who is now disappearing confidently — and correctly, it turns out — down the righthand bridge.

“Follow that older gentleman.”

The agent has clearly noticed that the Big Guy and I are together — last names notwithstanding — and, just as clearly, that we are not a father/daughter duo. But what the heck is he saying?

Is he saying that it’s OK to poke fun at men in a way that we don’t tolerate for women, or for any other group? Or that a woman of a certain age (or well beyond it) necessarily wants to be taken for younger than she is? The nerve of this guy.

Playing smart-alecky games with strangers is tinged with uncertainty. Will they get it? Will they laugh? Will they retort? Will they hit? But folks in service jobs, doing the same tasks day after day for an endless stream of endlessly gracious customers, have to find a way to have some fun. I figure buddy’s little quip is one of his standard lines, used whenever the situation permits and the audience seems right.

Back in the day, I might have seen it as obnoxious. Now I appreciate a customer service person who talks to me, not to their coworkers. And I really appreciate almost any attempt to make a connection, to touch at some level.

Maybe my expectations have dropped since I was 20. Or maybe now I appreciate that his remark isn’t really an assault on all men or on older women; not a threat to all that is right and good in our society. Like many similar remarks, it’s just a little joke.

“Follow that older gentleman.”

I laugh and throw up a hand in the fencer’s acknowledgement: Touché. As it were.


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4 Responses to Touched – Part 1

  1. Tom Watson says:

    How’d the “older gentleman” feel about it?

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