Work and my daughter's wedding in Massachusetts put a longer stop to this than I thought they would. This post was started in the lobby of the Holiday Inn at the Houston Airport. We missed the connection for our flight to Veracruz because the flight into Boston from Houston using the plane we were to take was an hour and a half late. As the incoming-Houston-to-Boston flight, it had turned back to Houston mid-flight because someone on board had suffered some kind of medical emergency. That seems to me the mark of some continuing humanity in the rushed and impersonal world that the USA seems to be, for the most part, in its public spaces. The ripples of the delay washed over many people, but we are better for it.
Unfortunately Continental Airlines' treatment of the passengers delayed by this wasn't good. We had been told in Boston that if we missed our flight to Veracruz, Continental would take care of our hotel and two meals. But when got off the plane in Houston, we were met by an attendant who rammed a piece of paper in our hands with a telephone number where we could find motels where we could get a discount, not an airline paid-for room. He then literally shoved us on our way. It took someone else to point out where customer service was located. We were kind of annoyed: if we'd known that would happen, we'd have spent our unexpected waiting time in Boston. So my husband protested rather sternly when we arrived at the customer service desk He can look quite stern. I've always thought he doesn't know just how stern. The passenger assistance women responded belligerently refusing to even check whether we were telling the truth. First she said, snarlingly, it was weather, then she said it was air traffic control, neither of which Continental is liable for. When another passenger in the same boat, a tall, amiable graduate physics student repeated exactly what we said, the agent, everyone's idea of a nasty, burnt-out school teacher passing out of middle age, finally agreed to review the situation. At first she denied him, too. But then magically, the information on her screen changed. We were right! But the agent, glaring at my husband with jaw thrust out and wagging a finger, told him lack of courtesy would get him nowhere. She refused us meal vouchers.
In any event, the delay wasn't so bad after all. We spent much of the time at the Holiday Inn at the airport. It's a pretty nice one, decorated with a variety of geometric designs, often whimsically used. We sat for several hours in the lounge as did other people apparently waiting for flights. Clumps swirled through: teenagers bursting with energy and then quieting themselves, self-important men with their cellphones and blackberries at their ears or held out in front of them, a somewhat martial group of women, their chests leading the way, an African and a middle-easterner captured by the soccer game on the tv. I sprawled with my Kindle on a sofa looking out onto dense tropical greenery through louvered windows, their slats cocked at different angles to mute the sun's heat and brilliance.
Houston had been baking and dry for the previous three weeks, the temperature dancing around on both sides of the 100 degree mark. At one point, I caught site of glitter on the other side of the windows and realized it was raining: celebration in the lounge.
Which brings me to note that I sat in the lounge in my bulky sweater, brought for Boston weather. It couldn't have been above 72 degrees inside while it broiled outside. When we went to the airport, it was the same. One would think daily experience in Houston might have an impact on people's awareness of global warming, of energy use, etc. etc. If these public spaces, giant ones in the case of IAH, are so oblivious, what point is there in individuals making their own small efforts?