Monday, June 4, 2007

Character Check-In

Heathrow, circa 1980

Morris Zapp's flight from Midlands has landed outside London in David Lodge's comic novel Small World: An Academic Romance, which now prepares the scene for Morris's departure for Milan:
The job of check-in clerk at Heathrow, or any other airport, is not a glamorous or particularly satisfying one...Cheryl Summerbee, a checker for British Airways in Terminal One at Heathrow, did not, however, complain of boredom. Though the passengers who passed through her hands took little notice of her, she took a lot of notice of them. She injected interest into her job by making quick assessments of their characters and treating them accordingly. Those who were rude or arrogant or otherwise unpleasant she put in uncomfortable or inconvenient seats, next to the toilets, or beside mothers with crying babies. Those who made a favourable impression she rewarded with the best seats, and whenever possible placed them next to some attractive member of the opposite sex. In Cheryl Summerbee's hands, seat allocation was a fine art, as delicate and complex an operation as arranging blind dates between clients of a lonelyhearts agency. It gave her a glow of satisfaction, a pleasant sense of doing good by stealth, to reflect on how many love affairs, and even marriages, she must have instigated between people who imagined they had met by pure chance. [p. 114]


  1. Ha, funny you should ask. Ms. Summerbee seats him next to an attractive Italian woman (another academician) who likes to have group sex and use handcuffs and other sado-masochistic paraphernalia. The check-in clerk doesn't know what she's getting poor Morris into! I might have chosen this scene as one of the funniest I've so far read in Lodge, but I decided not to excerpt passages with an "R-rated" classification <smile>.

  2. The question is, will Morris join the mile high club...or not?

  3. What, have you been reading the book yourself? For there is another character who was trying desperately (earlier in the story) to qualify for membership (but he was unsuccessful). No, Morris will not join the club. The Italian libertine doesn't reveal her intentions until after she has gotten him into her house and told him that her husband is away for the night. Then, after she has snapped handcuffs on him, he hears the front door open....

  4. I haven't read it, but think I need to check and see if the library has it.