By Omar Mamoon
By Kate Williams
By Pete Kane
By Molly Gore
By Lou Bustamante
By Anna Roth
Food-and-drink franchises at airports amaze me. Where else (except for the movies) will I gladly fork over ridiculous sums of money for a soft pretzel and a soda? I seem to have no problem buying a sub-par $18 lunch from a kid in a company baseball hat and a name tag. The rental fees these places have to pay must be staggering. Then there are those poor employees who are there at 5 a.m.; I'm there at 5 a.m. because I have to get somewhere and I know I can sleep on the plane. They are there at 5 a.m. because it's Wednesday and they have a shift. No thanks.
But best of all are the places that are trying to look posh, like the Vino Volo wine bar at SFO. It's like, well, a wine bar in a shopping mall. It's actually a pretty brilliant idea, because you can nab last-minute wine bottle gifts on your way in or out of the city, but like most wine-tasting places, it's full of rubes like myself who are just killing time and don't really feel like Starbucks. Oh! And there's free Wi-Fi, which is more than I can say for the rest of the airport.
If you haven't figured it out yet, I was at the airport, heading out to Washington, D.C., to lobby for tort reform. I always hit a new bar at the airport every time because the only way to get into these magical saloons is to pass through security. That's right folks, not just anyone can get into Vino Volo. It's the Studio 54 of transit hubs and the Homeland Security babe will really give your ID the once-over to see if you pass muster. In fact, I even had to stand in a sci-fi booth thingie with my arms up while strange men saw heat-sensitive photography of what I looked like with no clothes on. Unlike most tawdry nights I've spent, however, I did indeed find my shoes at the other side.
On to Vino Volo, to hopefully Vici.
The mind boggles at the many conversations you can overhear at the airport and I simply could not wait to horn in on some. As expected, it was me and about four fat guys in suits at the bar, ties loosened and pretending to be oenophiles. But we all knew that this was just the opening act; once they boarded the plane it would be about 45 minutes before they defecated on the food cart.
Two of them were traveling together and were having some sort of Glengarry Glen Ross forensic deconstruction of what went wrong in whatever soulless endeavor they had just undertaken. There was a lot of pointing and open facepalm supplication when the Irish-looking guy described what some apparent jerkoff had told him, then the vaguely Indian-looking guy would nod and chuckle. Then nod again. Irish guy wasn't letting him say much. It didn't really matter what they were talking about, because when you travel for work it's all the same: You are trying to get something across to someone, somehow.
Then there was a loner guy, like me I guess, in a dress shirt but with comfortable shoes, reading about how the Allies protected the art in Italy during World War II. I was reading about World War II as well, so we compared notes briefly. For as bad as the Italian fascists were, they were not gung-ho to turn over their Jews. So I guess on the scale of murderous bastards, Mussolini falls somewhere in the middle.
Then came the moneyshot: The wine snob who sauntered in wearing a Chanel-ish suit and perfume I vaguely associated with a rub-on ad from Marie Claire. She moved in a sharp staccato that clicked with her heels. This lady had rollers on her carry-on before they were patented. Did she really nod at the bartender like she knew her?
Yep. Look lady, the chairs and tables may indeed spill out into the main walkway of the airport, but this ain't a Parisian café.
While the rest of us had closed our eyes and pointed, this woman perused that menu. She asked a few questions about the dryness of a Malbec and the year of the whatever, but ended up with something white. She caught me staring at her so I immediately smiled in what I hope conveyed a "Nah, I don't find you amusing!" kind of way. She barely acknowledged me, which of course gave me permission to keep up my assumption that she generally sucked. [Cue Glenn Close, "I won't be ignored!"]
She didn't "much care" for the wine she ended up with, but she said she would finish it. Right sporting of her. I tried to make eye contact with the Italian history guy so I could convey a "Do you believe this chick?" thing, but no one else seemed to notice her, let alone be annoyed. I then realized that I am a sarcastic woman myself and I look for women like this to be annoyed with. I watched the viral video of Jesse Eisenberg supposedly being an asshole to an interviewer, but in my mind she had it coming, and he treaded a lot lighter than I would have. So yeah. Don't come into a McWine Bar and act like Orson Welles on an Ernest and Julio Gallo commercial with me in the vicinity.