Perpetually delayed flights, bad food and even worse movies, the depressing spectacle of young and old shuffling around shoeless and beltless after enduring security checks ranging from the mildly inconvenient (though possibly infertility-inducing) to the humiliatingly invasive. Long gone are the travel glory days when dapper pilots strode through the airport – three sexy stewardesses on each arm. For many, plane travel has lost its glamour – if it ever actually had any to begin with.
Even though I deeply resent checked baggage fees and rapidly shrinking legroom, there is still a part of the flying experience I do love – or rather a place: the airport. Here’s why you should, too.
You Can Feel it All
At the airport you encounter the happiness of reunions and sadness of goodbyes, the anxiety of nervous travelers and excitement of those off on great and small adventures. Every imaginable emotion is soaring around like aircraft on an overpopulated flight route and it’s all happening in this very special place where feelings are trapped with no way out – just like you are. Instead of texting every person you’ve ever met in order to pass the time, board this emotional rollercoaster and let it take you for a heartwarming (or heartbreaking) spin. Or just watch the movie “Love, Actually.” Don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone you cried.It’s People Watching Heaven
I like to make up stories about the people I see at the airport. Business casual guy told his wife he’s headed to a conference in Des Moines but really is off to visit his mistress. The bedraggled looking couple with three ankle-biters in tow is moving to Florida because Manhattan is no place to raise a family. Being a writer at an airport means having an entire cast of characters spontaneously appear before you, many of whom are having intimate cellphone conversations that are easy to eavesdrop on. Even if you’re not inclined towards making up plot lines for complete strangers there is a whole world of interesting people watching to be done. I sometimes wonder, for instance, what observing aliens would think of those folks who strap their neck pillows on for their entire airport stay like some sort of cult identifiable only by plush neck goiters.
You Can’t Do Anything but Wait
Rules dictate that you must get to the airport with plenty of time to spare. And then you have nothing to do but wait around and, well, do nothing. This is a beautiful thing. The Internet has somewhat ruined this little slice of leisure time for us (way to go, Internet, you’ve done it again) but I still subscribe to the “all I can do at the airport is be at the airport” mentality. I browse intellectual magazine then buy trashy ones I’ll throw out like contraband before leaving. I wander the stores checking out overpriced knick-knacks, silently judging the people who buy them, and then inevitably convincing myself it’s totally acceptable to purchase yet another $5 Hawaii magnet because I’m obviously buying it ironically. It’s a tiny wonderland of guilty pleasures, this magical airport place.
You’re On a Trip
Maybe this is obvious, but being in an airport means you are going somewhere. Do you know how lucky you are? Some people never go anywhere and others only get to go to Wichita, Kansas, to visit relatives and they have to go by bus and it’s one of those buses where the drunken guy in the back won’t stop singing the chorus to “Sweet Home Alabama.” (No offense to Wichita or drunkards or Lynyrd Skynyrd.) But, if you’re lucky, you’re headed somewhere awesome to have an adventure. The airport is your first stop on this journey. Get excited! Invoke a little kid you who just got his first pair of wings and try not to think about the fact that they probably charge for those little pins now because airlines are broke and miserly.
It’s 5 O’clock Somewhere
The airport is a kind of a Shakespearean green world where the everyday rules of life no longer apply. You are therefore free to drink a Heineken at 9 a.m. because you’ve been up since 4 a.m. in another time zone and thus by some convoluted mathematical formula it’s actually early evening in your body. Lest you dismiss this as the ravings of an alcoholic airportophile, the same premise applies to food as well. You can eat honey mustard and onion pretzels for breakfast and not worry about bad breath because there are so many unpleasant smells on a plane no one will know it’s you anyways. You can drink coffee at midnight because who cares when you’re so jet-lagged your circadian rhythm got left somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. It’s a gastronomical free-for-all and you’ve got a VIP ticket.