Crucial Minutia
it's the little things...
Cristina Pippa
All the World: Soldiers on a Plane
2 Comments | posted March 15th, 2007 at 10:08 am by Cristina Pippa

GATE AGENT: We will now begin boarding flight 4081 to San Francisco. All first class passengers and uniforms (pause) meaning (long pause) all soldiers.

The best-dressed business types in the crowd step back as four soldiers approach the gate. One is a woman. One has dark skin. One has a fresh scar on the back of his neck.

A man fearlessly reading an article entitled “Anatomy of a Plane Crash,” looks up at the soldiers from behind his copy of Popular Mechanics. A woman lowers her New York Times to her side, covering the picture of a war protest at which a woman lifts a giant sign reading, “Give me back my husband!”

GATE AGENT: Are you going home?

SOLDIER: Yes, ma’am.


GATE AGENT: Enjoy your two weeks then!

The soldiers nod. They pass the gate agent, one at a time, holding their tickets with lowered heads.

GATE AGENT: Thank you so much for being over there. We appreciate it. We appreciate it so much. Thank you for being there. We appreciate it so much. Thank you. Thank you so much. We appreciate it.

Silence as the soldiers enter the plane.


And there is your first taste of my All the World column. Sneakily scribbling down overheard conversations is one of my favorite things to do. It’s how I wrote my first play. I wondered if I could say that I actually wrote it, since it was composed primarily of words and sentences I heard on NYC’s streets. It turns out that playwrights and screenwriters are actually encouraged to record real life conversations and to use them with abandon. There are even books about this technique.

Ken Burns, whose new documentary The War is already sparking controversy, has said that he planned to be a feature film maker until his teachers, Jerome Liebling and Elaine Mayes, showed him the power of still photographs. He became convinced that there is more drama in history than in fiction.

I will always love fiction, but I believe that there is often more drama in the words spoken around us every day than those we hear in films or on stage. We just have to listen.

This entry was posted on Thursday, March 15th, 2007 at 10:08 am and is filed under In The News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

There are currently 2 responses

  1. I love overhearing conversations, but I never thought to write them down. What a brilliant idea. Love it. xo, Kimmi

    March 16th, 2007 | 10:41 am
  2. This is a compelling story that calls to mind my airport encounter. I was returning home from Seattle, sitting in an airport lounge waiting for my plane recently. I heard a surprising noise which grew louder as it came closer to me, and I finally recognized it as applause. There were no voices- only an accumulating round of applause. I looked up, wondering what rock star or sports figure was approaching, and then saw passing by on the revolving walk, a group of 6 or 8 soldiers dressed in combat fatigues. All around had tears in their eyes, as did I

    March 16th, 2007 | 2:41 pm

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