I like airports.
It's not that I like flying. I don't. I'd much rather travel by train or automobile than by passenger jet. For one thing, I'm a large man, and passenger jet seats are too small for me in several dimensions. Mostly, though, I just don't feel comfortable flying. Intellectually I'm aware that it's as safe a means of travel as anything else - although the old saw about flying being safer than driving is only true if you measure by certain standards, and not by, say, number of hours spent traveling - but at a gut level I just don't like it. I don't like so blatantly placing my fate entirely in someone else's hands. Turbulance has me white-knuckling the armrests. I'm not John Madden, but I understand where he's coming from.
But airports, airports I like. Spending six hours with nothing particular to do in a large airport is no hardship for me. Yes, everything in them is overpriced. Yes, the current smoke-and-mirrors "security" brouhaha has made them a much bigger pain in the tuckus and sapped some of the fun out of them. But I like them anyway.
I like them because they're clean (although the restrooms... not so much at the end of the day - ick). I like them because everyone there is going somewhere, is engaged and alive and has an ongoing story associated with them. I like them because they're all alike and yet all different; the airport in Seoul is both the same and very different from the airport in Baltimore.
I like them because they are still, somehow, sort of space age.
They're a totally artificial environment. After the global ecosystem collapses entirely and we're living on Soylent green and cockroach fritters, airports will still be the same. Cool, calm, with displays of some local culture or art or nature that used to be prevalent but is now mostly in museums, and in airports. And, although I'm a tree-hugging sort, I still get an early-Heinlein The Future Is On The March sort of feel from airports. For just that reason; they're totally artificial. Interior space on the moon will probably feel the same.
And as I say, there's a commonality to airports. Dictated, obviously, by function, yet also by opportunity. The large open halls. The banks of seating, the food courts, the hanging overhead mobiles and the large art pieces on the walls. The little vendor carts, straight from a shopping mall. Airports are comfortable, because they are all the same. Airports are not going to surprise you. And yet, they are interesting, because they are all different. Their implementation of the motifs is unique. The art, the people, the overpriced gew-gaws on sale at those little carts.
I dunno. I just like airports.
And if by this point you are sadly shaking your head, wondering just how I could be so benighted and dreading your next foray into one of those transportation hellholes, I have only one last word for you. One last, cool, only-in-an-airport futuristic thing that even the most hardened anti-traveler must acknowledge is kind of spiffy.
- Sun Ra
Columns by Sun Ra