All of us waiting for the 8:30 Delta Shuttle to Washington were subjected to a modern-day dynamic in this era of the cellphone as public address system: if it's important to YOU, it should be important to all those around you.
I'm old enough to recall a time when calls placed to a loved one from an airport were hushed affairs, placed from a tiny booth with a hinged door that you closed up tight behind you. Onlookers could see only your moving lips as you discussed whatever topic needed discussing. It was back when phones were attached with wires, and back when the designers of the telephone foolishly assumed we would want the placement of the mouthpiece to correspond with the location of the average human mouth.
We know so much more now. These days, we've learned the EAR is a better place for the microphone. Sure, you need to talk a little louder to make the sound bend up and around to the side of your head, but do you know anyone whose looks wouldn't be enhanced by a clip-on earpiece with a cool blue flashing light? With this discovery, the era of the "Bluetooth over-share" was ushered into American life. Americans learned the thrill of conducting a full-throated telephone conversation in close quarters, for all to hear, for all to share. Intimate family topics can be discussed at loud volume -- without those old concerns over "privacy" -- our celebration of self means that complete strangers won't mind hearing it -- because it's a person or topic that's important to US.
This particular phone call could only have been louder had the woman in question used that really cool police cruiser-style microphone with the "push to talk" button on the side... that the gate agents use to tell us our "equipment has arrived." While two placid, kind-looking nuns from Mother Theresa's order looked on (and listened with the rest of us), the caller went through her travel schedule through January 14th. She lamented to her father about her mother's problems with bathing and hygiene, and issues so personal that they cannot be repeated here... though our phone-user felt no such qualms before her live lounge audience. No single thought went un-uttered during this painfully detailed tour of her family and personal life. She wondered aloud about home nursing help and mapped out a mock schedule for when a nurse would be most-needed during the day. I could see the problem: the aide would be needed most in the morning and in the evening -- that's two shifts, with slack time in between. The meter's running. I get it. The nuns seemed to get it, too. I don't know about the other 100-or-so attendees of this morning's impromptu LaGuardia Healthcare Workshop, but I'm sure most are currently dealing with one aspect or another of longterm healthcare for a loved one. The problem, of course, was that only one of us could talk about it so loudly and openly -- and she already had the floor.
When I saw the woman with the phone stand (she kept talking, like a champ, while gathering her things, telling her Dad that she was "gathering her things"), and when I noticed she was boarding the Washington flight, I almost boarded the Boston flight instead. In an instant, I decided against it. I'm supposed to interview the co-chairs of the Iraq Study Group, and it could be weeks until they make some sort of joint appearance in Boston.
I was tempted to call someone and tell them this whole story.