Welcome to People 101: Observations from the ATL

airport picture

I’ve got to be honest with you, I enjoy people watching.  I mean, really, who doesn’t?  But I could do it as a profession.  You know, mosey up to the tree with lunch pail in hand, “Hi Sam, Hi Ralph” my co-worker, clock in, then sit on the pasture and watch the sheep.

Looney Tunes fans will get my reference.  It’s funny.  Trust me.

But I digress.  I could watch people (whom I call sheep. Affectionately, of course) all day.  If there were a P.W.D. (People Watching Department), I’d like to be Supervisor.  Maybe even Manager.  Nah, I don’t want that kind of responsibility.  Let’s stick with Supervisor.  But still, I digress…

I’m a little jet-lagged, so please forgive the digression.  Truth is, I loathe sitting in an airplane seat for hours on end, but I love nothing more than the opportunity to walk through some of the country’s busiest airports and people watch.

Yesterday was one such occasion.  And I found myself in one of the best places to casually observe the goofy bi-ped called “Human”: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

The ATL.

In case you hadn’t heard, ATL is the busiest airport in the world.  PERFECT!!  Lots of people.  And man, they come in all shapes and sizes.  ATL is chock full of variety, which is perfect for the seasoned People Watcher.

Just sit in any concourse in the ATL and you can see things you may not see anywhere else in the world.  You see, people watching in an airport is unique to people watching at, say…Disneyland.  Let me break it down for you.

Welcome to People 101.

Within the class of “Humans” there are different “Genus” to look out for when People Watching.  They are;

The Tourist – These are small pack animals generally found at Disneyland, Sea World and the like.  They can easily be distinguished in amusement parks from “The Local”.

The Local – Often found at beach boardwalks, county fairs, street fairs, etc.  The pack animal variety is often teenagers, and can often be found People Watching themselves.  For best viewing, watch “The Local” in mated pairs or as a solitary animal.

The Worker – Great downtown metropolitan People Watching often involves “The Worker”.  They can either be solitary animals or found in a pack.  Both are great for watching.  Keep a sharp eye out for the species “Late Worker” as they tend to be quite fast.  If you are lucky to see one, they are quite enjoyable to watch as well.

The Activist – A herd breed.  This human is often found gathered in the middle of a street with other members of the herd.  Viewing can sometimes be dangerous, as some species of “Activist” have been known to stampede.

The Traveler – Can be either a solitary animal or a pack animal.  On occasion, “The Traveler” will be exhibiting signs of also being “A Tourist”.  This hybrid species is often the most enjoyable to watch.

Now you know.

Within the genus of “Traveler” there are several species.  They are Seasoned, Experienced, and the often humorous and certainly most enjoyable Clueless.  There is entertainment value in all three.

Yesterday I was traveling through the ATL and had a little over an hour to sit and watch.  An added bonus was that I was there relatively early in the day, so many members of “The Traveler” were showing signs of morning sickness like unkempt hair, droopy eyes, general dislike for any time of day before 11:59 am, and shuffling feet.  Of course, many members of all species shuffle their feet naturally which presents an enjoyable opportunity for the People Watcher in identifying different sub-species.

The “Seasoned Traveler” is easily distinguished, but still comes in a variety of shapes and sizes.  The business sub-species are often dressed in slacks (for both male and female), a button down shirt or blouse, a blazer and the identifying mark of comfortable shoes.  The business traveler will opt for loafers or other slip on shoe.  The casual seasoned traveler sub-species will pair either long pants or shorts with a variety of shirts, and comfortable shoes (most often running shoes).  This sub-species can be found carrying a jacket for those chilly cross-continent flights.  Female seasoned travelers will be found wearing flats in either lace-up or slip on.  The choice of luggage is similar between business and casual sub-species of seasoned traveler, consisting of the compact rolling carry-on with attached hand-bag.  Clip on horseshoe shaped travel pillows are another, easily identifiable trademark of the seasoned traveler.  Older seasoned travelers can be found with matching luggage, while budget seasoned travelers will be identified with their “mix-and-match” luggage.

The “Experienced” traveler is not much different from the “Seasoned”, but still easily identified.  Experienced travelers are noted to carry a backpack versus the attached hand-bag carry-on, however the experienced traveler will still be utilizing the efficiency of rolling luggage.  Additionally, experienced travelers will either pack their travel pillow or utilize the clip-on method.  Occasionally the experienced traveler is of the business sub-species, and the backpack is replaced with the over-the-shoulder satchel or computer bag.  Both seasoned and experienced travelers have been known to expertly navigate concourse traffic while imbibing from a Starbucks sippy-cup or rapidly texting on their iPhone (or both).  This can be done as they’ve mastered the luggage aspect of travel by utilizing one hand operation and the attachment/backpack carry.

Mastery of both attire and luggage is what clearly separates the “Seasoned/Experienced” from the bumbling “Clueless” species.  Clueless can easily be spotted on the airport Serengeti, distinguished by their overly packed, non-rolling luggage forcing them to stop every few gates to drop their bags and re-adjust.  The “Utterly Clueless” sub-species can be found carrying bags with no handles at all.  Additionally, the clueless traveler can be found carrying a full sized pillow they have brought from their den.

Children are notably excluded from this classification, as full sized pillows, woobies, teddy bears and more are travel essentials to keep the lambs from stampeding.

The male clueless traveler can be identified by his struggle to carry the luggage of every member of his pack.  Though his desire to be an “Experienced” traveler by purchasing rolling luggage may be noteworthy, his attempt to handle five pieces of rolling luggage at one time negates any experienced earned.  However, it must be mentioned that he is most likely married to another traveler in the “Clueless” species.  The male clueless traveler is most likely tripping over and/or losing his flip-flops while speed stumbling down the concourse to catch his already departed plane.

The female clueless traveler is identified by her oversized purse, oversized (read: squeezes into an overhead bin like a bowling ball in a mail slot) luggage and oversized Nordstrom “It’s not really another carry-on” bag, while juggling her iPhone, Starbucks sippy-cup, airport cinnamon roll take out, lipstick and InStyle magazine.  She will be wearing a short sleeved blouse, an extra tight skirt and four inch heels.  The “Mating” sub-species of female clueless traveler will be sporting an extra short skirt, an extra low-cut blouse and extra high heels and will be applying the before mentioned lipstick while texting on the phone and meandering back and forth down the concourse.  The mating female’s call will most notably be “I’m really cold” or “My feet are killing me.”

For both males and females of “Clueless”, they can easily be identified if your back is turned toward them by listening for cries of “Can you tell me how to find where I’m supposed to be?” or “I don’t think I’m going to make it there on time wearing these flip-flops” or “Do we have to walk the whole way?”

The clueless traveler is most often a docile creature, but can be riled to stampede on occasion.  Even in stampede the clueless traveler is a joy to watch, especially with an experienced Airline Zookeeper managing the situation.  It is not uncommon for seasoned and experienced travelers to applaud deft handling of a clueless stampede.

In truth, the biggest threat caused by the clueless traveler is their inability to travel in efficient migration patterns through the airport.  One can find seasoned and experienced travelers expertly navigating their way through the herds like snakes on a prairie.

The hybrid Traveler/Tourist is most often of the “Clueless” species.  They can be identified by their “I LOVE (enter city name here)” t-shirts and hats, sunburns, glassed over eyes and compulsion to take multiple “Selfie” photographs while waiting for their plane.  Teenaged Traveler/Tourist variety is easily distinguishable by both boy and girl.  The boys will most often be feet shuffling drones, displaying either complete disdain for their surroundings or completely immersed in a game of “Total Death War Annihilation” on their smartphone.  Girls are generally noted to rapidly be texting, chatting or engaged in Face Time, speaking the indiscernible high-pitched dialect of the breed.  Repeated phrases of “I miss you so much.  No I miss YOU so much.” may be heard.

Adult males and females of the Traveler/Tourist can often be found wielding cash or plastic and investing thousands of dollars in food, chachkies and more from nearly every vendor on a concourse.  They can be distinguished by their calls of “OOOOhhhh….Martha would LOVE this, don’tcha think Earl?” or “Hey Patty, you’d look just great in this ‘Property of Hoboken Athletic Department’ belt buckle!”

Of course, these are just a few examples of the different species and sub-species of “Human”.  There are many, many species, both discovered and undiscovered.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this lecture of People 101.  Next class we will explore the different Genus in the Order of “Human Driver”.

HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT : Share your favorite personal experiences of “Traveler”.

5 thoughts on “Welcome to People 101: Observations from the ATL”

  1. OMG, that is so funny…. I have to think about it, but you can betcha that I should have some story. But really first have to think about that !!!

  2. Having traveled a lot in my younger years, I relate to EVERYTHING you said. And not only was I a watcher, but now realize I was being watched as well. I really enjoyed this and can’t wait for the Driver post.

  3. I have been in ATL & yes, lots of very interesting travelers. You made me laugh as I read along & realized that I have indeed seen people like you have so cleverly described. No travel story is jumping out at me at this moment. Will have to think on it. Thanks again for the info. You are indeed a true Supervisor of People Watching. Kudos

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