En route to San Francisco, we arrived at LAX around 9:30 for an 11:00 flight and, with boarding passes and driver’s licenses in hand, went through security screening quickly. Turning 75 has had unexpected benefits.  Then, everything stops. In the Departures list, our flight was listed as delayed till 12:05; it would, of course, be delayed further. That’s the way these things go. There’s free wifi in the terminal; that helped some, especially for my husband who is still plumbing the depths of delight to be found in his new, upgraded smart phone. I can’t get my IPad to connect though I must admit I don’t try very hard. That leaves me lots of time to muse.

I’m actually quite good at musing. Untied from any specific task, like a dinghy unmoored from its dock, my mind bobs about among the flotsam and jetsam around me, skimming from oddity to oddity, from familiar to fantastic, deliriously happy in its aimlessness. It’s what got me through the long tedium of housekeeping before my MP3 with audio books became available. When engaged in a writing task and stuck for a word, I wander aimlessly through the house, as if I expected to find it among the dust on the end tables.  And sometimes good ideas or practical solutions emerge from the very pointlessness of my mind on tour. I consider musing creative.

My eyes wander over the airport waiting lounge. It is a typical travelers’ utopia, that is to say, in the original meaning of the word (Thank you, Thomas More), it is “nowhere.” The same shops, the same eating outlets, the same books and magazines–a limited choice–are on sale here as in every other airport I’ve ever been in. This could be Atlanta or Cleveland or Sioux Falls. Only the See’s chocolate kiosk, just beyond the security checkpoint, hints at Southern California.
There’s a Carl’s Jr. outlet at one end of our lounge. And that triggers an old memory. The soda fountains of my childhood are gone. High round stools, a bar for a footrest, a Coke made before your eyes of syrup and seltzer water–all gone. Replaced by McDonald’s, Carl’s Jr. and Taco Bell, each with a drive-through window.

A few minutes later, a little girl pirouettes by, adorned in a pink tutu a size or two too large for her. Dressing up, the fun of it. Echoes of Halloween. The ad hoc Halloween costumes of my grammar school days are gone now too. Come to think of it, grammar schools are no more. We now have primary, middle and high schools or, in other configurations, elementary, junior high and high schools. The costumes I donned for end-of-October mischief and what the British might call getting candy with menaces. consisted of Dad’s gardening pants, tied at the waist with a piece of old clothes line and rolled up legs. To this I added an old flannel shirt and Mother’s wide-brimmed gardening hat with large bits of junk tied on (including the wax fruit from the bowl on the dining room table, a nod to Carmen Miranda). Mother’s eye brow pencil, properly licked, provided the rakish mustache and sideburns that turned me into a hobo (the word is another anachronism). Today’s kids have no such creative challenge. Pop up stores provide boxes with ready-made outfits, the majority of them Disney spin-offs.
Whoa. Wait a minute. I’m starting to sound like an old lady, even if only in my own mind. I give myself a shake. If I’m not careful, I’ll start acting my age and that’s the kiss of death. I look around once more.

My eyes light on something that brings a smile to my face. Here’s a pattern of social life that has lived on through all the changes. It’s truly comforting to realize that out of the multitude of diverse ethnic cultures with which America has been blessed, we have forged some unifying and seemingly permanent practices. And there it is: the line of women snaking from a women’s bathroom in which too few stalls have been built. “They endured.”
With a sigh of satisfaction, I take my IPad from my bag and start a new novel.

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