Saturday, October 15, 2005


Like many, I've had my share of delayed departures and long waits. Typically, the easiest way to deal with them is to curl up on a bench and catch a snooze, using my laptop for a hard pillow. The other alternative is to stick my nose in a book and ignore the airport clock with its slow-moving hands.

However, I've found a better alternative. After all, airports, bus stops and train stations are all great places to observe human nature. So I sit with my laptop open, fingers on keyboard, observe and write. I write down facial expressions, body types and snatches of interesting conversations. I file these under "Character Development." Later, when I need to find a disgruntled uncle type--and I have none in my family--I scan my file. Images flood back, and I find pieces of what I need from my own collection.

In particular, I take down notes about the clothing of travelers who obviously are of a different national origin than I am. I quickly describe the person's dress or clothing, color, apparent texture, how it fit. If a couple are talking, I try to catch a bit of their interplay, enough to write the inflection, placement of words, than might show a different orientation to spoken English. (Of course, if the conversation is intimate, personal, I don't copy.)

I feel much better about using this "delayed departure" time productively. Granted, I could work on my novel in progress, but I seem to balk at doing that in airport terminals.

Doing the note taking salves my conscience.

Good writing to you,

Pat Harrington

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