Salt Lake Zombies

January 9th, 2010

Hanging out at the Salt Lake City airport the other night, I noticed an interesting phenomenon. My airline, like many, had assigned all passengers a “boarding group” number; in our case, we were all in groups numbering from one to four with the ones – all seated at the front of the airplane – given first boarding priority. (An aside: wouldn’t it make more sense to load the plane with passengers from back to front?) The gate agent took her time scanning the boarding passes for all of the ones. Being a four myself, this gave me quite a bit of time to observe that all of the rest of us were drawn, irresistibly and almost magnetically, to form a kind of semi-circle around the area where the privileged ones were standing in line to be scanned. It was an odd juxtaposition: the chosen few, all lined up and orderly while behind them a looming, unruly, mumbling, shuffling horde watched their every twitch and miniscule advance. The ones chatted amongst themselves, seemingly oblivious. The twos, threes and fours, however, shared a single, unified focus: all eyes fixed on the gate agent and her line of chosen people, all bodies pressing against an invisible barrier – that unmarked zone that cannot be crossed until one’s assigned number has been called. The minute the gate agent announced that the twos could joint the line, several dozen bodies, already bent forward at improbable angles, practically fell over the barrier and materialized instantly in line. It seems that the more effectively you loom, the less distance there is between you and the line, and when your number is called… you can just kind of melt across the distance.

It’s like the art of projection, or the law of attraction: if you narrow your focus completely and totally to visualizing that you are in the gate agent’s line even though you are not, you will somehow be able to travel faster than the speed of light when she calls your number – therefore securing a better position in line and the glory that entails: if you are further ahead in the boarding line, obviously, you will arrive at your destination faster.

But the looming, hulking, silent and fixated horde also reminds me of a certain cinematic genre. The next time I’m smashed up against the invisible barrier, along with three-quarters of my fellow passengers, gazing with rapt attention at the chosen few and trying not to salivate, I’m going to start moaning “braiiiiiiiins, braiiiiiiiiins!”

Under my breath, of course; but if others catch on and join in, well, maybe those ones will move a bit faster, and without being quite so smug.

Entry Filed under: Observable Phenomena