The comforting nature of airports

I love airports. I absolutely adore them. I don’t think there are any other large complex systems of travel that are so universally understood and navigable no matter where you are, what language you speak, or where you are going. There are simple things you need to do and places you need to go and all are labeled with images if not your native language.

About 10-12 years ago I used to spend a really significant amount of time in airports. I spent almost every weekend in a different city organizing canvassing for HRC at pride events for a couple of summers. I missed flights and rode standby, I got bumped voluntarily for vouchers, and I slept and worked in airports all the time. I once called into a conference call from the runway and stayed on the call until we were in the air and I lost service–I just checked in, muted the line and put the phone in a pillow and pretended I was asleep occasionally muttering something so the folks knew I was there.

My favorite place inside an airport is of course–the airport bar. I prefer the kind without food because of who self selects into one or the other but either way I enjoy them all for many reasons. I’ll just give you a few: people watching, brutally honest and ridiculous conversations about why/where traveling and of course the community that instantly forms when a plane is delayed (not cancelled–then its everyone out for the next best standby option that they don’t want you to know about).

People watching in airports is a spectacular passtime because you observe people in so many various emotional states & can see how that effects their interpersonal relationships with their own travel group as well as fellow travelers. Families fighting, couples on their honeymoon, business people, student groups etc. It’s all amazing and fun to watch and unlike ‘reality’ tv completely unscripted.

The other thing I love about airport bars are the ridiculously honest conversations I’ve had with complete strangers in them. When I was 23-24 I was having ridiculously deep (and often drunken, so take ‘deep’ as a relative term) conversations with people far older than myself about shit I still can’t fathom. One guy told me all about his divorce, one woman told me all about her painful relationship with her family, I’ve heard confessions of infidelity and minor illegalities and lots and lots of stories where the person telling the story is absolutely the bad guy/gal in the narrative (but not with the relish or enthusiasm of one who enjoys that role). It’s amazing what people will tell a complete stranger half their age in a bar far from home. To some extent it makes sense. Lots of people need to acknowledge their ‘sins’ before making amends/some sort of change/or letting it go and telling them to a complete stranger you’ll never see again seems like a good idea after a few beers.

It was kinda like blogging before blogging became journalism as opposed to a public journal where anyone can read & comment.

That being said I think most of flying is about waiting, in line, for a plane, for takeoff, for the bathroom with the toilet as opposed to the hole, for getting to your destination. Our flight changed from our original ticket and so had a random layover in bangkok where we couldn’t get off the plane. So in all total we had 3 flights Chicago to HK (16 hrs), HK to Bangkok (3 hours), Bangkok to Delhi (4 hours). As much as I love airports I’m ready for sleeping horizontally for more than 3 hours.

Kris is too.


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