The Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Place: Sitting on an airport bus in Washington Dulles airport, waiting for it to depart to the main terminal. Hans and I alone, traveling to meet Anders, who is in DC on business. Hans is dressed in his favorite AC Milan red and black-striped shirt, brand-new Washington DC flat-brimmed red and black hat that he has purchased 14 feet after he exited the airplane jetway at one of those overpriced carts, and his grey skinny jeans that are covered with what looks like black Sharpie graffiti. He is a vision of 11-year-old urban Americaness.
Hans has gotten one of the last seats (facing in) that line the outside of the bus. I am in front of him, standing between his legs, holding on to the overhead strap. He is flanked by a well-dressed, brown-skinned older gentleman and a younger woman, maybe in her 30s, dressed in a black tank top with a lacy bra peeking out. Sexy, yet tasteful.
The conversation goes thusly.
Hans: “Mom, my hair is getting longer. I don’t want to cut my hair. I want to grow it long.”
Gentleman: “That sounds like my son. I know that conversation well.” He has an accent, but speaks English perfectly.
Me: “We’ve kept his hair short for a long time, but I think it might be time to listen to him, huh?”
Gentleman: “I have two sons. Their hair (he pauses to find the words), it is very long.”
Me: “We’re from California, and a lot of the kids there have long hair. There was this one boy on our soccer team who had such long hair, he would run with one hand holding this hair out of his eyes. I kept wanting to give him a hair band.”
Hans: “And he played goalie sometime.”
Me: “Kind of hard to defend, catch the incoming ball, and see through the hair.”
Gentleman to Hans: Pointing to Hans’ shirt, “You a soccer player? “
Hans: “Yeah, I play soccer.”
Gentleman: “Did you see the USA game?
We explained that we heard the two goals while we were standing in the security line at SFO. The man admitted he was sitting in the departure lounge and missed the game. I asked him where he was from.
Gentleman: “I live in here, in DC, but I am Egyptian. Egypt didn’t make the World Cup this time because Algeria beat us. They’re in the US group, but we should beat them.” He then asked Hans if he knew what the next game being played was. Hans said something about how he thought the next game being played involved France.
Lady: “Well, France lost to Mexico already.” We all turned to her.
Gentleman: “Are you French?”
Lady: “Yes, I am.”
Gentleman: “I’m so sorry for your loss.”
Lady: “Our team has an awful coach.” Thus began a conversation about France’s upcoming matches and the internal problems currently plaguing their team.
The gentleman then pulled out his telephone, where he had a soccer app on it that told up-to-the-minute scores for the different groups. He and Hans looked at the different groups, which included the USA and the “Group of Death” which included Brazil, Ivory Coast, North Korea and Portugal, so named because 3 out of the 4 teams are amazing and staffed with superstars. (The North Koreans apparently paid Chinese people to sit in the stands and cheer for the team, to make it look like they had fans.)
Lessons Learned on Airport Bus:
- DC is filled with people from other countries.
- People from other countries LOVE soccer.
- Soccer brings people together.
- Being friendly takes no effort and helps pass the time.