Midday Matinee is our people watching, people doing and people being feature. Join the Woodland Creatures for an afternoon break.

Well, they’d have to be random, wouldn’t they, since I’m nursing yet another cold, can’t get warm, and think I left my brain somewhere between Frankfurt and Charlotte. I filed a baggage claim for it, but haven’t heard anything yet.

Flying over the Atlantic has become one of those trials by fire. Nine hours in a tube with too many people and a cabin staff that disappears except for required “hydration” rounds with juice and water. You do get dehydrated. The water made my stomach turn over, the juice was forbidden because I’m diabetic. So I asked for a Diet Coke. Nope. Come to the back of the plane to get one.

Well, my balance isn’t great. So my daughter went back to get it for me and had to argue with the attendant. Argue. They sure didn’t want to let go of that coke.

You try to maintain sanity by paying an outrageous price for headphones that don’t work well and watching movies on a screen so small it would make an iPad look huge.

So I’m squeezed into the toothpaste tube they call an airplane these days. But honestly, if you talk to foks around you, life can get interesting.

For example, this really huge guy sat at the end of our row. Six-foot-five, and Schwarzeneggar would have envied his build. He was wearing a Marine Corps cap, which led naturally to conversation, as well as an airline pin identifying him as an employee. Turned out he boxed for the Marine Corps as a heavyweight before becoming an air marshal. He wasn’t working on our flight, simply deadheading to visit a friend.

But that’s when things got interesting, and I can only assume it happened because this air marshal was black. He had to change seats because the one at the end of our row was reserved. He waited a bit watching, then took the seat right in front of me just before we pulled back from the terminal.

This immediately set off the guy in the middle of the row who was, frankly, a little Caesar type with a German accent. “Go back to your seat,” he snapped at our air marshal friend. “You don’t belong here. Go to the back.”

Now how could Little Kaiser know this? Why, because this guy was black and couldn’t possibly have paid to sit in a premium row. He sure hadn’t seen a ticket.

The air marshal calmly asked, “Did you pay for this seat, sir?”

Of course Little Kaiser hadn’t. He huffed. “You should sit in your own seat in the back.”

At which point my partner leaned forward and said to Little Kaiser, “He works for the airline. He sits wherever there is an empty seat.”

Little Kaiser shut up, and during the course of the flight his wife kept smiling and chatting briefly to air marshal, apparently embarrassed by her husband’s behavior. I will note for the record that Little Kaiser made no such demands of a young blonde who took the seat directly beside him.

So I pondered human ugliness, even as we were making friends with the very nice lady who was in the reserved seat the marshal had needed to vacate. You can have some really fun conversations when you only speak a little German and the other person only speaks a little English. We had a rip-roaring good time until it was time to settle into sleep.

I got frisked by a food hunting customs dog upon return. Cute little guy, a beagle, and he pushed gently and persistently at my elbow until his handler asked me, “Do you have any food?” I answered that I had none. She said, “He’s poking you because it’s his job to find food. You’re sure you don’t have fruit, or a plant or something?” I assured her I didn’t, then a light went on. “They fed us just before we landed. Stale sandwiches. I’m probably still covered in crumbs.”

The agent laughed and said, “That must be why he’s signaling for everyone on this flight.”

Customs was nice, even someone to stand there and give us a hearty, “Welcome home!” That actually felt surprisingly good. Security wasn’t bad, a big change from a few years ago. But I can tell you for sure they’re profiling anyone with slightly dusky skin. That disturbed me, to see who they selected to go through the body scanners. If I were Middle Eastern, or Italian or Greek, I’d probably be seriously irritated by this stuff.

In the end, though, we made it home with lots of good memories.

I just wish they’d find my brain.

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