By Robert Bicknell

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March 26, 2005

Killing time in another airport…

Sittin’ on the dock of the bay, watching the time roll away, I’m just sittin’ on the dock of the bay…wasting time…

If you’re an amateur sociologist, i.e., a "people watcher", than international airports are definitely the second-best place to relax for a few hours and watch the world go by. The first place is obviously golf courses as people’s true character is constantly on display.

As you might’ve guessed, I’m traveling again, but this trip to the US is not something I’ve looking forward to as it involves my mother’s health. Fifteen-hour layovers can be manageable, but I hate being away from my wife and daughter for any length of time. They came with me on the last trip, so being solo this time feels uncomfortable. Also, flying into Boston during "early spring" means forget about golf and, instead, imagine "unexpected blizzard possibilities." This is not a good thing, especially for a golf professional with arthritis.

Inchon International Airport in Seoul, Korea, where I’ve been sitting around waiting for my next flight is perfect for people watching. Asiana Airlines, which explains the 15-hour layover, is once again taking good care of me. The service levels on-board the aircraft and in the business class lounge makes the delay bearable.

One of the things that I’ve noticed during the last 14 years is that very few Vietnamese ladies smoke. Ok, I’m sure that a few "hostesses" smoke, but apart from the occasional Viet Kieu ladies, smoking is not something you see very often. This is a very good thing.

So, imagine my surprise to see the smoking rooms at the airport filled with ladies from all nationalities smoking up a storm. Maybe I’m getting old, but for some reason it seemed very wrong to me. I know you’re thinking "you old hypocrite! You smoke, so why shouldn’t ladies?"

Look, smoking is a horrible habit with absolutely no redeeming benefits to it. It ruins your health, gives you bad breath and costs a fortune. Worst of all, too many smokers throw their cigarette butts all over the golf course. In 48 years on this planet, I have never tossed a cigarette butt on the golf course and cannot understand how anyone else can do it.

Once I get the primary business completed in Boston, I plan to see a hypnotist to help me quit smoking. Believe it or not, I did the hypnosis-thing a long time ago and actually stopped smoking for 10 years. The possible side-effects of clucking like a chicken at parties is a small price to pay for being smoke-free.

Koreans, as everyone in Vietnam knows, are "golf crazy."

Thus, many of the shops in the airport sell some nice golf accessories, but what really interested me is the amount of golf magazines available in many languages. They even have a golf magazine dedicated to ladies only. This makes perfect sense to me as the ladies play more then the men do and often play better as well.

Stop screaming, it’s true. Just look at the US LPGA. Korean ladies are always on the leader board, so give the ladies credit for their achievement.

Vietnam currently has two golf magazines and a few non-golf magazines have begun to include golf instruction articles and "fairway fashion" ideas. Again, this is a good thing and reflects how fast the game is growing in Vietnam. Within a few years, we could see 5-10 new courses opening up.

Another good thing about being in Korea is the amount of really cool gadgets available in the shops. MP3 players of all sizes – including one built into a watch, digital cameras, cell phones. You name it they had it. Not being a total fool, I checked out the prices then went on line to www.bestbuy.com to see what the price would be in the US and found the difference too small to matter. So, when I finish this week’s column, I’m gonna do some shopping…

So, now that I’ve wasted enough time in this airport, its time to get back to daydreaming about eating "KFC". It’s funny what you take for granted until its not there – even something as simple as chicken.

Or a daughter’s smile.

Man, it’s gonna be a long two weeks until I get back home to Vietnam.

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