It was then that we heard a family in the next line speaking American English. It was a husband and wife and two women who appeared to be their grown daughters. The husband was asking the wife about a friend of theirs who was going through cancer treatment and then asked if she had remembered to pack the alarm clock and a certain shirt that he didn’t remember seeing laid out on the bed. It was typical married-couple-standing-in-line fare, but I immediately recognized the voice as the narrator to the seventies paranormal TV series In Search Of. Then I remembered that the narrator of that series and Leonard Nimoy were one in the same. I quickly alerted Mrs. Camino, and we went back and forth in a whispering debate for a few minutes until Leonard Nimoy turned around to check the departure time for their flight to Guatemala on the sign just behind us, thus ending all debate.The closest thing I have had to that sort of experience was at Washington National Airport some years back.
I was in the check-in queue at the main terminal, headed back to Houston after a trip to the Washington area, a trip the details of which are now completely lost to me. There I stood, briefcase in one hand, garment bag in the other, when I realized that the gentleman in line in front of me looked and sounded...familiar.
It was Carl Sagan.
Novelist and Popularizer of Science Carl Sagan, he who wrote (among others) the novel Contact. Carl Sagan, who was the target of countless japeries by people who would imitate his unique diction, invariably saying, “Billyuns and billyuns” in a lame attempt to lampoon his wonder at the immensity of the universe. He probably never used that exact phraseology; it is the Saganian equivalent of “Play it again, Sam,” a line that was never uttered in Casablanca. But never mind.
I looked at him and he looked at me, and I cocked an eyebrow in a subtle sign of recognition; he returned the favor by nodding, as if to say, “Yeah, I know you know who I am.”
And that, Esteemed Readers, is the one thing I remember about that trip, all those years ago.