Waiting for a flight. Ten-minute delay to boarding. Ten minutes pass. Then another ten-minute delay to boarding. Call it terminal waiting. I lift a book out of my slumped briefcase on the carpet.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the captain has informed me . . . that he has called in the ground crew for a maintenance check . . . the aircraft apparently hit a bird over the runway on its way in this morning.
I begin to read the inside flap, then the preface.
Rows of airport wait-seats face each other. Casually seated across is a man about my age. He’s dressed informally yet neatly— black top and black pants. And the apparel actually matches in color saturation. The outfit is punctuated by a set of clean chic sneakers.
Slung around his thick neck is a set of Bose (registered trademark) Quiet Comfort 15 (registered trademark) Acoustic Noise Cancelling (registered trademark) headphones. Tethered reading glasses rest upon his chest. He embraces an unopened thick paperback in his two large hands. Its title is not in view from my position.
But another waiting passenger nearby catches sight of its title. The two men become engaged in conversation, quickly advancing to a critique of music performed by Booker T and the MGs. I’m figuring the book is an R&B compendium. There is some mention of a connecting flight to Tennessee. I admire this art of engaging strangers in substantial conversation.
I return to my book—Japanese Flower Arrangement in a Nutshell—A Primer by Ellen Gordon Allen.* The copy I am reading was in its 13th printing by 1962. Despite its rather unsophisticated title, the author is revered. I had intended to concentrate hard in yet another attempt to learn my A, B, C forms and the distinction between Moribana and Heika flower arrangements.
The man downloads a music selection allowing the other man to listen on his headphones. Here I am—stalled on the forward page of my book. Houn Ohara is congratulating Mrs. Allen for writing the book. The Ohara School of Japanese Flower Arrangement had awarded its diploma “making her the first qualified teacher of the Ohara School in the United States since I became Headmaster,” he writes.
Consider our simultaneous activities. Just how opposite could I be from this other passenger, Master career-musician bon vivant?
In fact—I humor myself—we may have three things in common: (1) We still collect books made of paper (2) we have the luxury of time to pursue artful cultural studies and (3) we have a practiced acquiescence to airport delays.
*Ikebana International was founded in 1956 by Ellen Gordon Allen to promote friendship among the peoples of the world through their mutual love of nature and enjoyment of ikebana. The Washington, D.C., chapter was the first to be chartered by Tokyo headquarters. Source: Ikebana FAQs found at The United States National Arboretum
Also of interest is Ikebana International.
Nancy R. Peck