Biscuit or Bagel ?

“Biscuit or bagel, butter or jam, water or juice?”

The words came out of her mouth as if she had swallowed a questioning machine: fast, monotonous, with a hollow, metallic sound. Then she stared at me waiting for an answer – three answers actually.

With the air rushing by at 485 miles per hour, barely one foot from my ears, I understood only half of her rap and had to ask her to repeat.


“Biscuit or bagel, butter or jam, … ” she played the same soundtrack once more. Her face showed more than a touch of annoyance: Can’t this guy hear me? Can’t he just make up his mind, like right now? she seemed to think. With a brisk motion she dropped the breakfast tray with my selection on the foldout table and turned away.

Wow, what was that?

A new version of “Something Special In The Air”?

She couldn’t possibly have been exhausted when she came to me. After all I was sitting in 3A and that made me her first customer, or client, or victim perhaps? 3A on this old MD80 was the foremost window seat, in First Class.
Yeah, you got it: I was flying First Class from Dallas to Denver.
I always fly First Class – no more of this ” buy your own water”-crap in Eco…

Just kidding, of course – but this time I really was flying in First.

Boarding Pass First

Why and how? Well, this is another story.

Anyway, I was somewhat confused, a little annoyed and definitely disappointed. What happened to the always friendly, most often even cheerful cabin crew? It was an eight AM flight, most likely the first departure of the day, but is that an explanation or excuse for almost rude behavior?

Was there possibly more blowing off than just temporary bad temper?

I had come into Dallas on an overnighter from Buenos Aires. Through the whole immigration shenanigans I had passed quickly, no grumpiness there. But then, out in the never ending corridors connecting hundreds of Terminals and Concourses with thousands of Gates, I sensed it again: a decidedly depressed, almost morose, undercurrent seemed to be flowing everywhere. People had sadness on their faces, worries in their eyes, they were hunched over half-empty paper-cups, talked absentmindedly into cellphones, dragged themselves and overstuffed carry-ons through the aisles. Their posture slouched, their movements jumpy, out of sync.
Nothing natural, fluid, much less elegant in their gestures.
An announcement added an aural aspect to that unexpected scene: ” To all passengers: the level of security is orange….”
Was it the “security” which made everybody so preoccupied? the old American paranoia, the widespread fear of conspiracies?

I thought about it and then I realized: ” It’s the economy, stupid!”

Of course! All these confused ghosts were running around in stiff business attire, trying to project a busy-ness through clothing, accessories and behavior. How could I not have seen that right away?
It appeared as if everybody was driven by external demands – and internal fear of not meeting, not satisfying them.
Suddenly everything seemed obvious and consistent.

Obvious? Well, seen through my glasses, anyway, glasses which carried a distinct South American tint.
Had it perhaps always been like this?
Was it only a change in my angle of view after almost three years in Argentina which made this scene seem so unreal, so distinctly non-American?

Whatever it was – it definitely gave another spin to “Argentina ist überall” (in German)

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