The Glass is Half Full


Dispatch From the Air

Seat 19C Aisle Northwest Airlines. Thursday November 6th, 2008 8:35 AM

I checked in at the computer kiosk at LAX, swiped my passport, and oh..what's this? "Do you want to change your seat for an extra $30?"
Tempting since I was in a middle seat, packed like a lump of soggy tuna salad between unknown slices of bread. I made the leap at paying an extra
$30 for the aisle seat. What marketing, getting me to buy at the last minute, luring me into a 18" slide to the left in comfort.

Story continues below

I am amazed at how optimistic the people of this country are, an example of that hope for a change was on Tuesday when we elected our first African American President who embodied the best chance we have at a brighter future. In President Elect Barack Obama's acceptance speech he told us we can have that future of prosperity with hard work and by working together, he said "Yes We Can" and we cheered louder each time we heard him say it .

Hope and Optimism

One of the ways our optimism can be gauged is by the hope that travelers have, the hope of that there is a possibility of shoving a huge carry on into the overhead compartment.
Safely belted into my $30 aisle seat, I watched rolling bag after rolling bag go up the aisle; some so large that they got caught at each seat, the grunting of the owner in sync with each armrest. Why don't they just check that bag? On one hand we are optimistic, but we are not trusting on the other. One too many lost luggage stories have made the rounds, in our minds our bags disappear into the baggage hold which then dumps out over the ocean.

My seat mate tried to squeeze a large duffle into the floor space in front of her, it resisted like a cat going into a bath. The stewardess took it away to the dark recesses of the hold which of course empties out over Death Valley. This gave me an opening to start a conversation with her. She was visiting Los Angeles to appear on the show "Judge Joe Brown", for a short two day stay. Kenita had found the show online and applied her case and before you knew it she was on her way to Los Angeles. Now she couldn't get out of Los Angeles fast enough, she shortened it by 10 hours because she just wanted to go home. Kenita had been at the airport since 1 AM waiting on stand bye.

"So what was it like to be on that show?" I inquired.

The experience was nothing like People Magazine makes it out to be like on a set in "Hollywood" to be, no fawning assistants, endless craft services, limos or paparazzi; just a small room with someone trying to lay make up on you like a bricklayer with mortar . Before arriving, she was prepped by the show runner on the phone and was told to make it "dramatic", Kenita refused and said she was just going to tell the truth. Despite her saying she would not be "dramatic", the show still flew her out. The day of the show, she was again asked to be "dramatic" for the camera, please scream and point accusing fingers if you could they pleaded, and throw in a tear or two. Herded into a small room, she waited to be called on set. Her case was simple, she was suing her ex-boyfriend for $500. She had loaned it to him, and he was claiming it was a gift. The only proof she had were text messages and an affidavit from a friend. The appearance before Judge Joe Brown took all of 10 minutes and she lost. The Judge called it for the defendant because she had no paperwork. She received $500 for her trouble and since the verdict was found in favor of the boyfriend, he received $1000. If it was me, I would've stood there open mouthed because it was just another slap to the face, caught between the fantasy courtroom drama that just played out in front of me and my powerlessness with a decision by a television judge. Judge Brown provided the slap down with the bang of the gavel all in one fell swoop.

Before she realized it, she was herded off the set so that the next case could be heard. In one day they will shoot over 20 cases. With nothing more than a one line prep beforehand to the judge.

Kenita was on her way home, and taking with her a distaste for the entertainment business of Hollywood. I was more surprised that the show had to go as far as Detroit to bring in content. Now she was flying back home, back to where she is studying Criminology. I am sure that in a few days, Kenita will see the benefit of this experience not in monetary returns but in seeing what is real and what is not, who to trust and who to not.

Optimism is inherent in all of us. We open our eyes each morning and put our feet to the floor. Even in our darkest hours, we know that there will be another sunrise, another sunset, and we move forward, timed by nature and the cycle of the earth around the sun. Our nature is to move forward knowing it might not work out, but we try anyways because we have to. I see Los Angeles as a glass half full, a city of hope and opportunity where we can bring our baggage with the hope that it all fits in.

Image: Ophelia Chong / Moleskine series

We are dedicated to providing you with articles like this one. Show your support with a tax-deductible contribution to KCET. After all, public media is meant for the public. It belongs to all of us.

Keep Reading