Monday, October 4, 2010

News-zilla and Running the Gantlet

Behold! The News-zilla Screen at Gate D28
I'm traveling this week in order to attend a conference at a major city in the American Midwest. That's how I found myself in a hub airport. It appears that since I was last in this place flat screens have moved to the next level. They have multiplied,consolidated, and they may be about to take over the world.

Propelled by the investment and sponsorship of Samsung, it's been decided at the airport in question that it would be ideal if multiple LCD screens are stacked together to form a giant wall-size rectangle of television which brings the innocent airport lounger and gate sitter 24/7 cable news.

Live from NYC...
Although the total effect is Orwellian-1984ish, I don't have any special problem with this video upgrade except that as long as I'm waiting for my flight it makes it hard for me to remain Van Winkled. I had to almost slap myself to keep my eyes from being drawn to the images in front of me on the wall.

Is the woman about to jump out a hotel window?
The temptation to subcumb to the News-zilla reached its peak when I saw a young man suddenly stop staring at his laptop and jerk his head and look up at the millions of dancing pixels. Had something happened on the screen? I didn't dare look, even though I wanted to.

That Isn't All...
People in transit read newspapers. They really do. They're almost always men. They spread the newspaper pages wide. The black and white headlines, and sometimes subheads, are easily readable from a few feet away at the gate and aboard the airplane.

Like a shy Victorian who can't stand an inadvertent glimpse of a lady's ankle, I had to advert my eyes from the Wall Street Journal and USA Today.

There are also big glaring posters slapped to flat surfaces all around me advertising new products and TV shows. Don't look! I told myself.

Thrilling Conclusion
I thought schlepping my carry-on bag and stripping down for the security check were chief arduous requirements of air travel in the 21st century. Now I've made things worse for myself. I have to run this gantlet to avoid the News-zilla and his minions.

But I would be dissembling if I didn't admit there's a fun side to escaping the media's attempts to reach out and touch me. It reminds me of being a child and hiding from my brothers when they wanted to get older brother to play with them. I hold my breath and they walk on past my secret hiding place, muttering in frustration. Where did he go?

And I'm quietly laughing to myself. Because I've won. At least for now. - V.W.

PS: A question arose about whether it's "gantlet" or "gauntlet." Although people pronounce it "gauntlet," the word spelled that way actually refers to a glove, as in "throw down the gauntlet". "Gantlet," per the AP Style Book,  is the proper spelling of an obstacle course designed to severely test a person.


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