If not for a late plane today I would have left Hanoi believing that most Hanoiites are sourpusses. Instead, I spent two hours in a room full of locals, waiting to board the delayed flight to Saigon. With the exception of one vacant chair, the seats directly across from me were all filled with men – most of them dressed in suits and ties. At my back, a couple of rows away, a TV was tuned to one of those campy martial arts movies, with Vietnamese subtitles running across the bottom. Slowly, I became aware that all of these proper-looking men were watching this ridiculous movie. Some of them were openly and avidly watching it. Others were feigning only a casual interest, but it was obvious that they were hanging on every word. About this time, two tiny little girls from one of the duty free counters sat down together in the remaining empty chair and, holding onto each others’ hands, became transfixed by the program as well.
Only one man – his nose buried in a newspaper – seemed to have no interest. Suddenly I caught this guy surreptitiously sneaking glances over the top of his newspaper. His head didn’t move – just his eyes, as they rolled up and over the newspaper every few seconds, in an attempt to hide his interest in the movie. Little by little, each of the men began to chuckle at the antics in the movie. Soon they were laughing out loud and joshing with each other over the movie. I looked beyond my aisle and saw that, as far as I could see, every face was painted with a broad smile. Even the guy with the newspaper finally relented and openly watched the TV.
So despite the delay, by the time we got on the plane everyone was in a pretty good mood – me included. For a few moments I thought I was going to get lucky and be in a row with no passenger in the middle seat but it was filled at the last minute by a short man in jeans, a knit top, a baseball cap, and simple sandals. From his appearance I guessed he was a Continue reading