Left Behind, pg. 68
It was nearly Buck Williams’s turn at the head of the line at the Pan-Con Club counter …
Buck has clawed his way back to the terminal at O’Hare and worked his way into a line at the counter.
This doesn’t really make sense — the airport is clearly closed, it’s runways cluttered with burning wrecks and a still-unknown quantity of its staff vanished or dead. All the airports are obviously closed. Faced with an unprecedented local disaster as well as a mysterious and unprecedented global disaster it hardly seems likely that a Pan-Continental Airlines customer service agent will be able to offer much assistance, so why wait in line to get to the counter?
Yet this irrational behavior on the part of Buck and the others in line is one of the first things in the book to ring somewhat true. This might actually happen. Faced with an overwhelming, incomprehensible situation and carnage on a massive scale he sees a line of people and a person in uniform with an official-looking badge of some sort at the head of the line. What are they in line for? Who knows? But surely all these people wouldn’t be in line if it weren’t for something important. And if he doesn’t hurry up and grab a spot in line then others will just get there ahead of him.
Buck thinks of himself as a man of action, and confronted with the situation before him he acts. He gets in line. Others, frantic, may still be wandering in a panicky daze — We have to do something! Buck is doing something. He’s waiting in line.
It never occurs to the authors, or to Buck, that he might be in any way obliged, as an able-bodied young man, to participate in the desperate rescue efforts going on all around him. On the other hand, back on pages 10-14, Buck Williams personally witnessed an all-out nuclear assault in which the entire Russian arsenal was spent but no one was killed or even injured. After seeing something like that, he may no longer be able to appreciate the significance of a mere few dozen jumbo jetliner crashes.
During that nuclear assault, Buck had kept his wits about him enough to remember that he was a reporter. He observed and reported. But now his only journalistic instinct is to hurry back to the office, ignoring everything that’s happening around him.
Our hero journalist does not behave like either a hero or a journalist. Instead, a bit absurdly, he sets out to charter a private plane by getting into the very long line at the counter of an airline that does not provide such a service.
The further I get in this book, the more Buck reminds me of Arthur Dent from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker series. The main difference being that Arthur, at least, realized that he was a confused and selfish man overwhelmed by the absurd events unfolding around him. And Buck, unlike Arthur, really is a jerk, a total kneebiter.