Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Terminal Blues

Whenever my mother would return from a trip I'd ask her how it was. Wherever in the world she'd traveled, whether Argentina or Tallin, she'd proceed to describe in detail every meal consumed on said trip. For her, travel was meals she didn't have to cook. For me, travel is airports and my hatred of them. I don't mind flying at all, but hate the airports, especially since 9/11, and especially since airlines have decided to put as few planes in the air as possible in order to stave off bankruptcy.

There was a time when I loved airports. I also loved train and bus stations, so some of this was probably just my constant desire to be wherever I'm currently not, but some of it was also a reaction to what I thought was the happiness and excitement of the travelers rushing about. I now understand that some of those people in airports aren't excited but are simply petrified of flying. Still, there was a time when hanging out in a terminal for several hours made me incredibly happy.

I do think airport bars had something to do with this. Back in the day, I would be traveling for pleasure, and welcomed a layover when I could hang out drinking and smoking in a terminal bar. I'm old enough to even remember smoking on planes, but that's another story. Airport bars are now just little corners of restaurants where desperate travelers can down a quick beer, but I remember actual bars with views of the tarmac and of the runways, and sitting there smelling the jet fumes and watching the take-offs and landings. I fondly recall the time when terminals were more than one McDonald's and Hudson News and Brookstone after another.

I also fondly recall a time when one could book a flight, check to see if it was on schedule, and arrive at the airport with the reasonable expectation that one would have a seat on that plane and would take off on time. Maybe it's just bad karma, but I haven't taken a trip in the past two years that hasn't involved rerouting, delays, and in one instance a pathetic night spent in a hotel attached to a mall in Lynchburg, Virginia. Airports are now the site of failures of reason and expectation, to be approached with trepidation and the knowledge that, somewhere between security and the gate, black holes can appear out of nowhere.

It's not the journey but the destination, right? I mean, that's the attitude that can get you though time spent in the 21st-century airport, and one that I adopt each time I fly. I wish that instead of turning the clocks ahead Saturday we could have turned them back to 1965 so that I could have flown home yesterday on Braniff Airlines, enjoying cocktails served by a stewardess wearing Pucci. Meantime, I had a great trip. The food was delicious!

1 comment:

tunsie said...

my friend marty and i would leave his home in union,new jersey and go to newark airport just to eat at AU BON PAIN,a french deli,I would have smoked turkey and brie on a baguette with honey mustard dressing,you couldn't beat it,well worth the trip 2 the airport.tunsie.tunsie.tunsie