The Lesser Spotted Travelling Humans

2011-04-06 00:00

SO there I was, sitting at yet another airport on another weekendafternoon. It must be the mostunpleasant place to be on a hot, long weekend. Perhaps this explains the bad mood of the passengers waiting for flights out of O. R. Tambo.

It’s the third time my flight has been delayed. I’m not going to mention the name of the airline responsible, but it rhymes with Makula. The last flights of the day are backed up and hundreds of tired passengers are irritable as we wait in the endless boarding queue.

We just know that the minute we leave the queue to get a coffee, the airline will open the boarding gates and take off without us.

So as we wait, ready to knee each other in the groin if anyone takes our place, I can’t help noticing how strange human beings are. Perhaps it’s something to do with the fact that I’ve just been in the bush for four days observing the behaviour of wild animals.

For example, there’s the Lesser Spotted Red-breasted Mr Price Mannikin, his unmistakable Mr P. logo blazing across his R59,99 T-shirt. On his legs are his R69,99 Mr P. shorts with slight cargo detail to indicate individuality and his feet are encased in R49,99 slip-on shoes. Like other Mr P. Mannikin’s, these creatures aim to blend in, determined not to attract attention by idiosyncratic behaviour. Their general demeanour is one of benign friendliness, especially if a fellow Mr P. Mannikin is nearby. A sign of status in the male is a forward projecting hump, known more commonly as the “boep”. These boeps take years to cultivate and show that the Mannikin has access to favourable grazing conditions. The boep serves as a means of recognition between males and creates an instant bonding process in which long discussions about other male bonding rituals, such as rugby, ensue. These are the least aggressive males in the queue. Unless someone threatens their female.

Also spotted is the highly adapted Upwardly Mobile Yupster. The female of the species is usually more flamboyant, with nine-inch stilettos being their most recognisable characteristic. The gait of the female Yupsters is slightly compromised as they are forced to totter rather than walk, and their hips have developed an ungainly swagger as a result. Swirly skirts which accent the swagger are highly favoured, as are exceptionally processed hair-dos. Males of the species will not be seen dead without designer suits. The male’s hair is also highly processed and covered in what has been identified as “product”. The males and females have two things in common: designer labels and their state-of-the-art cellphones permanently attached to their ear lobes. These phones are the most visible sign of rank, and status is determined by the size (where smaller is better, surprisingly) and cost of these accessories. Unfortunately, these accessories result in an overt squawking into the attachment at all times. Another common characteristic is that the Yupsters automatically assume higher status than anyone else around them. A favourite cry is their “Do You Know Who I Am?”.

More prolific of late are the Tightly Packaged Hipsters. These creatures are also known for great attention to detail regarding their appearance. In contrast to the Yupsters, however, these details are not designed to show off wealth but rather their idea of being anti-establishment and “cool”. Males of the species are more highly decorated, with large tattoos on exposed arms and necks. Hair is also important and males have either tightly coiffed short hair or very well prepared longer hair where fringes over one eye are preferred. Black hair is de rigueur as is black eyeliner for both the male and female of the species. A new development is that some Tightly Packaged Hipsters are favouring the well-muscled look. This is an adaptation from the less successful Emo Hipsters who tended to fade and decline due to lack of interest. Most of the muscled variety, however, flourish, and plumage is chosen to show off tightly sculpted pecs and abs. Females are still less muscled than the males but exhibit more signs of body adornment in the form of face piercings. These animals are not dangerous to others but are possibly dangerous to themselves. Their addiction to piercing and tattooing can be hazardous to their health. We are called to board our flight at last. Such a pity as I’d only just started identifying the Manic Mom variety of the species. Never mind. I’ll give David Attenborough a call when I’m home. The airport would definitely be uncharted territory for him.

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