The sentence is as follows:

Over the safety-engineered nubs molded into the jetway floor, their rolling suitcases drone like fighter planes. They graze the backs of his knees as they bank around his husky columnar body.

What situation is the author trying to describe here? jetway floor? safety-engineered nubs? bank around?

  • 2
    I'm sure this question will be off-topic and it's about analysis of literature but ... jetway floor will be like a jet bridge (the thing that you walk on to get from the lounge to the aircraft without going outside); their floors are often knobbly to increase grip (safety engineering). These nubs cause suitcase wheels to make a droning sound. When you pull two suitcases behind you they have a tendency to swing (and go up on one wheel for a moment); the author is using the flight term bank (to tilt to one side causing a turn) to depict this motion. I don't know about husky though. ;)
    – Frank
    Jan 4, 2015 at 17:32
  • 2
    @Frank: I don't think the "banking" here has to do with people pulling two suitcases. It's just that people are trying to pass him, which involves navigating their suitcases around him. (And people rarely have two suitcases on the jetway.)
    – ruakh
    Jan 4, 2015 at 17:47
  • @ruakh A possibility I hadn't considered; other people swerving round him and hitting the backs of his knees/legs with their suitcase. Yup, quite plausible. (by suitcases I really meant smaller carry-on flight bags and when you pull two they have a habit of going quite wayward)
    – Frank
    Jan 4, 2015 at 18:06
  • @Frank thanks a lot, I wasn't expecting to be answered this fast, your answers makes a lot of sense!
    – AyuPapa
    Jan 4, 2015 at 18:21
  • the same to @ruakh
    – AyuPapa
    Jan 4, 2015 at 18:21

1 Answer 1


A jetway is what is also called an air-jetty, air-bridge, jet-bridge and a few other words; a tunnel leading from an airport terminal gate to the door of a plane to assist boarding and disembarking.

The floors of these jetways often have bumps (nubs) on the floor which were engineered for safety ("safety-engineered") by making one less likely to slip if the floor gets wet.

Rolling suitcases, the type that one trundles along on wheels often make a droning sound, especially loud in a jetway due to the acoustics of such a tunnel. To say that they drone like jet planes is perhaps a piece of hyperbole, but still this just means that they make a very loud droning noise. So:

Over the safety-engineered nubs molded into the jetway floor, their rolling suitcases drone like fighter planes.

As you turn you may lean slightly to the side you are turning. Rolling suitcases are even more inclined to do so, lifting on one side.

This sort of motion is called banking and while we don't often use it of people or suitcases, we do regularly use it of planes, so the choice of word evokes the jet-fighter imagery of the previous sentence.

Considering that earlier sentence, "Randy is in Tokyo’s airport, ambling down a concourse with a slowness that is infuriating to his fellow travelers." the "they" of both these sentences are these fellow travellers.

Hence the same thing could be rewritten as:

Going over bumps moulded into the floor of the connecting tunnel between the terminal and the airplane, their rolling suitcases made a very loud droning sound. As these suitcases lean to one side as their owners turned around his large body, the suitcases grazed the backs of Randy's knees.

The original though does a better job of conveying a sense of place, both in its terseness and in the jet-fighter simile.

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