If airports were a type of food, they’d be soup. A jumble of people you’d never otherwise find mixed together come together to take off. Heathrow terminal three in particular is an odd place; on the soup scale it’d probably be minestrone, or maybe cock-a-leekie.
So, what better place to play games considering others’ identities?
Boston is home to iTunes-stalker, an game invented a couple of years ago in TGI Fridays with my brother. My family, of course, get to the airport hours too early. You know in that episode of outnumbered when the family gets to the airport with six hours to spare or whatever and then the plane is delayed by two hours. That was the situation.
Anyway, thanks to Apple making the whole shared libraries thing, it’s pretty easy to surreptitiously stalk others’ music collections: anyone with an open laptop becomes an unwitting participant. The aim of the game is to try to match the music collection to the person. The excitement comes when flights are called, laptops are closed and someone’s name drops off the list. The pairings of music and individual are always surprising. A forty-something dad might be the proud owner of an impressive collection of Taylor Swift or the girl in the dandelion summer dress might feature a ton of screamo in her top-25-most-played. The rise in ‘hipness’ of joy div tee shirts and stuff has actually made it a ton harder; you can really no longer count on someone having the complete works of Metallica just because they’re wearing a t-shirt screeching its name.
iTunes stalker is fine with a small airport like Boston, but Heathrow terminal three is too enormous for that branch of airport identity games. I get too frustrated when I can’t work out who just closed their laptop, and I know that I’ll probably end up getting frisked at the gate for behaving suspiciously if I play a game like iTunes stalker in Heathrow.
So I had to come up with something new when I was in the airport on Thursday. Probably less ingenious than iTunes stalker, but equally entertaining, is distinguishing between American and British teens. Again, Urban Outfitters has made this a lot harder. In London, denim cut-offs featuring the American flag are available more freely than their Union-Jack counterpart. Yet even dressed up in American styles, you can’t take the Brit out of the girl.
At the gate there were a couple of girls about my age wearing camp America tee shirts, their hair styled like 6ft leggy #NoFilter Tumblr Gals from LA. But even dressed up like their American counterparts, you could tell they were British. One girl self-consciously at the front of her top, evidently uncomfortable wearing an All-American t-shirt. It becomes clear that the girls didn’t know each other before arriving in the airport. They chat about the weather.
On the other side of me is a group of girls wearing bright Nike sneakers and eating Chex Mix. They’re comfortable in their t-shirts advertising a 10k run, and have their hair neatly tied back with bright hair elastics. As we all know, you’re only allowed to wear in your pony-tail once a week, and I guess they all picked today.
I’ll let you guess where they were from.