Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Observations about Airports

I'm at SFO right now, waiting for a delayed flight getting back to LA. I like airports, even though there are various dramatics that come with it, e.g. struggling through the security line, fumbling around with your belts and shoes and slowly getting more and more undressed until you practically become naked as TSA looks at all your bodily nooks and crannies through a monitor...

Why do I like airports? I like the dramatics. The crying from saying 'hello' and 'goodbye.' I also like the diversity and international presence - a true salad bowl of Asians, Blacks, Indians, Latinos and Latinas, Euros, and so on. I like the idea of an international community. When I hear the word "mankind," this image comes to mind. That and Russians in a space station.

And speaking of space stations, airports have this futuristic element to it. The repetition of an automated female voice updating you on flight delays and male voices reminding you that the white zone is for loading and unloading only, the Bauhaus-style rows of chairs in the waiting area, even the word "terminal" sounds futuristic (not to mention a bit cold and imminent).

SFO is particularly nice, aesthetically. It's welcoming and fresh. It's one of the nicer airports I've been to. LAX and JFK have this grand, imperial quality to it (in the sense of scale and busyness), but they're somewhat of a letdown in terms of being these "welcome gates" for foreigners and visitors. If someone from another country sets foot in the U.S. for the first time, they usually go through the airport - it's their first impression. I consider the ones who go through SFO as their first entry point the lucky ones. It wouldn't surprise me if those are the ones that have a slightly better impression of America.

I've traveled outside of the states a few times and started comparing airports. I went through airports in Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, England, to name a few. Japan's was particularly impressive, having HD screens with baseball games on, before HD TV was even commonplace (this was in the 90s). I imagined myself as a Japanese guy going the opposite direction from Osaka to Los Angeles or New York and I wonder what impression he gets. Maybe, "they sure like everything big in America."

It's 3:06 pm.

My flight was scheduled to leave at 1:50, but it was delayed because of imperfect Bay Area weather - it's now scheduled to leave at 4. And I came early because they tell you to. But it's OK. Overkilling being early and hanging out in the terminal breezily is much better than the alternative - rushing through the traffic of cars and people, being irritable and stressed the whole time with everyone and everything because of the fear of missing your flight. I just picture Kevin's family running through the terminal with frenetic soundtrack music in Home Alone.

This guy next to me is talking super loud to his kid or something, using this weird, higher-pitched "adult-to-kid" talk, and it's distracting me from this blog entry...so I think this is a good place to wrap it up.