Thursday, May 2, 2013

Airports are People Too!!!

So I'm writing this from the departure lobby of an airport. Its stark and the light feels dirty, though its not as cold as I would expect. Rather, its that muggy almost body temperature feel that makes you feel not sweaty, not cold, just uncomfortable- like wading through lukewarm soup. The airport in Taiwan was colder, but its funny how similar the Portland International Airport looks to it. I think most airports look the same.

In the Taipei Airport I had to run down a long, dingy hallway with other passengers. All the signs were in Chinese and I didn't know where we were going. There was no one to ask. And the weird thing was that I wasn't afraid or nervous about missing my flight and just embraced the mad dash chase, the excitement of the hunt as we all barrelled towards wherever the front runner was taking us.

The Taipei Airport felt like a series of low lit, dim and dirty rooms connected together by stretched of stark linolium and white, dentist like lighting. Until you reached your gate. The gates were auditorium size rooms with a few stretched of uncomfortable chairs and a wall made of windows that looked out over the Strait of Taiwan one side and the sun rising over the rim of the pacific on the other side.

The PDX (that's Portland International Airport for those who don't speak Air Tower Controller) is much bigger. In an odd way. There are airports like San Fancisco (where I am writing from now) that cover a lot of distance, but there's only about 500 feet between security and your gate. They are like massive hotdogs, or like Stephanie Meyer novels. They stretch on and on but they aren't very deep. PDX is almost the opposite in that it goes up and down and its not very long (unless you have to make the two mile run to get from security to the A gates - that's a story for a different post). PDX would be a Terry Prachett novel. It's not too long but it has some depth hidden away in odd corners. It also is PLASTERED with art. The Taipei airport has a better spa though.

And then at the opposite ends of the Airports specturm you get the Singapore International Airport and the John Wayne Airport (god, I hope it's not an international one that would be terrible!). The Singapore Airport is massive. And by massive I mean that where Taipei has a series of interconnected linolium rooms like a massive snake, and while PDX has long walkways and artsy corridors, Singapore is like a series of interconnected cathedrals. The ceiling is hundreds of feet above you, where natural lighting mixes with carefully manicured flowering vines and pieces of giant suspended art inetract with the natural airflow that is created in the huge space. The floors are dark marble veined with silver. There is a MASSIVE food market (think like a flee market with vendors and stalls and real restaurants all rubbing shoulders in a space as big as the PDX airport) in what we could term the "basement". In short, when Singapore comes to the airport contest everyone else just goes home.

But then, that's the point of this post. It's not a contest. Because one of the best airports I've been in has been the John Wayne in Orange County. It's small. Tiny. The you are here dot might as well just cover the whole thing, if it even needed maps to guide you around. You walk from security into your gate and out of your gate into traffic. Its got a few palm trees and a lot of busses lining up to take people to Disneyland or Hollywood. But what makes it great is that true to its name, in its only lobby space hangs a decent sized American flag behind a twice life sized statue of the man himself, John Wayne. It is an airport that isn't trying to be anything other than itself. It knows what its about.

I'm sure there's some clever connection between airports and people I could make. About how they're all different and they all function differently and blah blah blah. But I think any connections between the two would be extremely apparent without needing to be spelled out. And I would just sound preachy if I did. But more importantly, like all metaphors if you poke it too hard it tends to fall apart. I mean, sure there are people who have had John Wayne inside of them like his airport, but that would be something you could live without ever having to hear.

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