Do you love eavesdropping? Listening in on other people’s conversations? As a traveler and an expat you often hear the most riveting stuff at airports and in airplanes. Here’s what I couldn’t help overhearing one time at Kotoka Airport, Accra, Ghana.
DON’T BE AN IDIOT
My mate and I are sitting in the gate area waiting to board our flight to Johannesburg, South Africa. Behind us are two men having an animated conversation. Actually, only one is animated and doing most of the talking and his accent is American. It’s impossible not to overhear. He’s criticizing and reviling the environmentalists and is clearly not a treehugger.
“The environmentalists aren’t interesting in bringing up everybody to a higher level,” says he. “They’re bringing everybody down to a lower level.”
Intrigued now, I glance around surreptitiously to see what they look like. The American is in his fifties or so, has a freckled face and is almost bald except for a fringe around the edge of his scalp. He wears jeans and a blue shirt with a white collar. The other guy is South African going by his accent and is in his thirties. His hair is longish and lank, and his eyes are very blue in his tanned face. He wears Dockers and a checkered shirt with the sleeves rolled up. He looks a bit rough around the edges in a sexy way. Maybe he’s a white hunter, or maybe he owns a big vineyard. He’d make a good-looking hero for a romance novel. Trust me, I know.
But I digress.
“The idiot environmentalists don’t give a damn about people and their jobs,” the American says, and then goes on to elaborate about places that have been chemically contaminated and are declared to be no longer safe for human habitation, which is all a bunch of hogwash, he says. He tells a story, of which I do not catch every word, about him and his wife having a picnic in some contaminated area. As they were eating their tuna fish sandwiches, they watched the environmentalist idiots coming by, all dressed up in hazmat suits. He gives a sneering laugh. What a joke! He was just sitting there eating his sandwich, not worried for a minute!
The idiot environmentalists in their suits told him and his wife to get out of the place. “I told them to perform an unnatural act,” says Mr. Obnoxious proudly.
I pretend to read, trying to hear what other pearls of wisdom our brilliant scientist has to offer. The South African gets up from his chair saying he’s going to walk around a bit. No doubt he needs some time for digesting all this fascinating information.
After a while the South African is back, but Mr. Obnoxious is not yet finished with the subject of environmental concerns and is now pontificating about asbestos and how this is another scam of the idiot environmentalists, you know, to sow fear and terror among the masses. His house in Arizona has an asbestos roof and he’s lived there for thirty years. Not worried one little bit, he is.
He is a courageous man, picnicking in a chemically contaminated area and living under an asbestos roof. You’ve got to give him credit, don’t you think? Or maybe not.
Finally, the call to board the plane brings an end to his oratory. We get up to stand in line. I’m behind him and my eye catches a virulent looking, discolored growth on the side of his neck.
I’m sure it’s nothing.