“Almost all U.S. airports are utterly barren of things to do. The dirty little lunch counters are always choked with permanent sitters staring at their indigestible food. . . The traveler consigned to hours of tedious waiting can only clear a spot on the floor and sit on his baggage and, while oversmoking, drearily contemplate his sins.”
Airport conditions haven’t changed much since this article was published in Fortune in 1946. Except for the smoking. Now smokers are confined to those glass rooms, a human terrarium. I always feel a bit sorry for them, especially when kids stare and point, like they’re caged zoo animals.
Airports are a necessary evil, definitely a case of can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em. I used to spend as little time there as possible, driving up to departures with about a minute to spare before the gate closed. My husband and I are different that way. So, after one, too close call, I abandoned my wicked ways for the sake of matrimonial harmony. I prefer not to tether myself to a socket and start watching videos before I’ve even gotten on the plane, so I’ve managed to find ways to entertain myself while waiting to board. Here are a few of my favorites.
1. The Bar – Drunkards have slurred it for years, “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere.” You know where it’s always 5? Airports. I’ve yet to be in one – morning, noon, or night – where you can’t get a drink. Need to put a little bon in your voyage? A perfectly mixed Bloody Mary will do the trick, especially before a 6:30 a.m. flight to St. Maarten.
2. Art – Most airports feature dedicated exhibit space displaying the work of prominent or local artists making it quite easy to get a culture fix. Some invite controversy like traditional museums, such as this recent brouhaha at Edinburgh Airport involving a Picasso nude. Others, like the public arts program at Miami Airport, are renowned internationally and have multiple galleries showcasing fine art and photography.
3. Bookstores – As bookstores fade from our retail landscape, I’m confident they’ll always remain in airports. Yes. Kindles, iPads and Nooks are terrific travel companions. I am thrilled to no longer require a separate bag to carry the books for my annual beach vacation. But the easiest way to pass a flight for me is to physically flip every one of the 1,000 pages in Vanity Fair. My husband prefers to fall asleep reading Clive Cussler’s 53rd Dirk Pitt novel. And we always make our purchases at the airport to avoid schlepping them through security.
4. Skycaps – The jobs of these terrific airport employees are definitely on the endangered list. Airlines, sensing an opportunity to squeeze even more money out of travelers, are taking over this service and charging a flat fee for it. Proud descendants of train porters, the skycaps work for tips and they’ve saved my bacon more than once, especially when traveling with three small children. Why anyone chooses to stand on the interminable lines inside is beyond me.
5. Local Restaurants – Airport food courts often features outposts of famous local restaurants. Step into the terminal in Memphis and the scent of Corky’s BBQ greets you. Even if you only have a layover at O’Hare, you still have an opportunity to savor a hot dog, Chicago-style, at Portillo’s.
6. Human drama – I’m not talking about couples screaming at one another, which happens routinely in airports and always makes me wildly uncomfortable. I’m talking about the young man standing with a bouquet waiting for his girlfriend to arrive. Or the joyous return of a soldier. These movie-worthy scenes make me feel great each and every time I witness one and I immediately forget how mad I’ve just gotten about tripping over someone’s carelessly rolled wheelie bag.
Lovely look at airports and so very true.
Perfect. I spend way too much time at airports as well and I couldn’t have said it better….as a matter of fact, I’m heading to one in an hour!
Loved this post and I totally agree with everything you said – especially the last bit. The airport scene in “Love Actually” is one of my favorite scenes ever.
Also, never thought of trying the bar – never been old enough though. Will have to check that out next time….
Transatlantic flights are a snap thanks to the bar – one glass of wine and one Excedrin PM. A tip my sister shared years ago. That movie scene is terrific.
I just love the photo by Cecilia Arboleda (tho much credit must go to the decorator and wallpaperer [now dead?]). And I’ve never seen a couple brawling at an airport in all these years–I want that, bad. The bouquet guy? Give me that, too!
Thank you for the stories and wonderful video. Kids need their father’s.
I love airports!!! The energy, the drama, the over-priced drinks, the crappy foo, the whole she-bang 🙂 You should read “A week at the airport,” by essayist Alain de Botton… great take on the world and community of an airport.
Thanks for visiting and for the reading recommendation – will look for it. My only airport complaint is the same one I make about the theater – I wish folks would dress up like they used to in the olden days.
The Airport day is the least pleasant part of the trip, but I’ll look at it with new eyes after reading your post. I do think people watching is kind of fun too.
Agreed. People watching often yields unexpected results. I sometimes spot celebrities – C-List ones, but celebrities none the less.
I love airports too, FoundTravel. Have ever since my first solo trip cross country at the ripe age of 15. Something about the sense of possibility. And the absolute inability to do anything else other than find ways to make the time pleasant for yourself, such as some of the pasttimes listed here. Have we met before dear author?
Hmmmmm. The name sounds vaguely familiar….
airport food court/restaurants always disappoint me 🙁
I’m talking about Heathrow terminal 4
but I do enjoy window shopping there before catching my flight haha
We hadn’t been on a plane in 7 years before heading to Italy. Had no expectations as to what we’d run into. We’re both people watchers. All 3 flights were great and we had a blast. How weird is that? Hoping for the same on the return. Thank you for stopping by our blog. Greatly appreciated.
I have to say I enjoy going to the airport – the opportunity where you have nothing but time to do nothing (read) and wait!
The UK airports lack the art that the US spots do but the bookshops are still in full swing. Even though I find it painful to pay £10 for a decent book there is no harm in perusing the shelves and leaving with the latest vanity fair like you said!
From the film Love Actually there is one scene that ends the film and goes out into a photo montage of people saying their hellos and goodbyes in the airport and is just a lovely scene – check it out if you get a chance 😀
You’re the second person to recommend Love Actually to me – I will certainly watch the video.
Oh really! Well it was a good scene! Here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iEQPXDGRaEk&feature=colike 😀
Oh dear…I agree with you so much as i m travelling as of now…thanks for liking my post
Best airport scenes ever….Love Actually. Great post!
You’re right! Thanks for visiting.
And I just love airports ’cause it is the place where I have the most inspiration to write new posts for my blog. I just made a reasoning list too at http://www.elenastravelgram.com/2014/05/why-i-think-airports-are-best-workplaces.html. Maybe you’d like to check out and related yourself to some points 🙂