The Miami Airport Toothpick Man


Every time I see or use a toothpick, I think of my grandfather. Toothpicks were a common part of his generation (he was born in 1915) and most of the men he palled around with also used them after a meal.

When we were kids, whether the meal was at home or at a restaurant, my visual memory of him as we were leaving the restaurant or after he finished his dessert was of him nailing the food between his teeth with an old fashioned wooden toothpick.

Toothpicks were always at the hostess stand at every restaurant we ever went to and we had plenty at home, and not just for ‘toothpicking.’ The 1930s and 1940s era indoctrinated groups of trendy couples who threw manhatten and martini parties – with olives…..olives with toothpicks of course.

On my way through Miami recently, I was quickly reminded how ‘fast’, how ‘chemical infused’ and how ‘cheap’ our food culture was in the states. Saddened by the reminder after spending a few weeks in South America, I ordered my chicken (minus all the greasy fried crap that were included on the side by default), and took my seat in the overly bright, ambience-dead room with tacky neon Budweiser and Michelob lights.

I decided not to take a table in the middle so I wouldn’t have a broad view of hundreds of people eating junk. Instead, I took a counter seat so I could watch travelers buzzing to and from their gates, some of them looking lost gazing up in search for a monitor, while others were in a hurry to catch a connecting flight.

Miami is a hub for connecting flights between countless islands, and Central and South America. I also encounter a lot of Europeans every time I pass through and when I spend any time day or night.

As I was finishing my meal and in a hurry to trash the remaining fast food on my cheap plastic brown tray, a man in his early sixties in a blue shirt passed me and put two plastic covered wooden toothpicks on the counter to my right. He didn’t say a word – he just put them there and walked off.

It brought an immediate smile – something from the past, something from tradition, something from another era no longer common, and lastly, something that added a personal touch to an otherwise human-less trip. I would soon face yet another airline leg, a far cry from a great customer experience and airline experiences are only getting worse, not better.

By next year, I wouldn’t be surprised if they charged for toilet paper and if some marketing rep actually did get toothpicks added to the cheap food boxes of potato chips, processed cheese and crackers and cookies, they’d probably charge you an additional buck for the pleasure.

Thanks Toothpick man for bringing a smile to my face in Miami and for bringing back a humorous and touching memory of my grandfather in the process.

Renee Blodgett
Renee Blodgett is the founder of We Blog the World. The site combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network and has contributors from every continent in the world. Having lived in 10 countries and explored nearly 80, she is an avid traveler, and a lover, observer and participant in cultural diversity.

She is also the CEO and founder of Magic Sauce Media, a new media services consultancy focused on viral marketing, social media, branding, events and PR. For over 20 years, she has helped companies from 12 countries get traction in the market. Known for her global and organic approach to product and corporate launches, Renee practices what she pitches and as an active user of social media, she helps clients navigate digital waters from around the world. Renee has been blogging for over 16 years and regularly writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, Huffington Post, BlogHer, We Blog the World and other sites. She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes Magazine and is listed as a new media influencer and game changer on various sites and books on the new media revolution. In 2013, she was listed as the 6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes Magazine on a Top 20 List.

Her passion for art, storytelling and photography led to the launch of Magic Sauce Photography, which is a visual extension of her writing, the result of which has led to producing six photo books: Galapagos Islands, London, South Africa, Rome, Urbanization and Ecuador.

Renee is also the co-founder of Traveling Geeks, an initiative that brings entrepreneurs, thought leaders, bloggers, creators, curators and influencers to other countries to share and learn from peers, governments, corporations, and the general public in order to educate, share, evaluate, and promote innovative technologies.
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