Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Airport Angst

by Richard Hartwell

God, here I am again in an airport lounge.  I’m waiting for my second wife to depart for Wichita.  I’m expecting this one will come back.  At least this time I’m not praying for a hangover to go away.  On the drive in Sally made some comment about how I hate airports.  To a great extent this is true, but like a casual affair gone on too long, it is often a love-hate relationship.  I’m thinking about all the good-byes at airports - wondering what was so good about some of them - and I’m thinking about all the arrivals at airports - wondering what was so good about some of them, too.

Sally just interjected that I was probably too drunk to remember most of my airport encounters.  She’s possibly right, but some of those encounters needed the dulling of an anesthetic.  Come to think of it, the tension between the sepsis and the antisepsis in airports creates much of their mood.  One can encounter the gleaming sterility of ticket counters and corridors and washrooms along with the depravity of hucksters and religious freaks and the truly lost and forlorn.

I conjure in my memory all the airports I have known, or at least those whose brain cell filing system is still alive, and they form a liturgy of sorts:  Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, New York, Chicago, Boston, Indianapolis, Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth, El Paso, Tampa, Portland - Oregon, not Maine, Seattle, Coos Bay, San Jose, Fresno, Burbank, Ontario, Nashville, Honolulu, Lihue, Merced, Modesto, Monterey - California, not Mexico, Augusta - Georgia, not Maine, never Maine, Terre Haute, Kansas City - yes, Kansas, and not to forget Travis and Midway and Subic Bay, Pleiku and An Khe, Cam Ranh Bay and Qui Nhon, Happy Valley and LZ English, and dozens of landing zones too obscure for names where you were lucky not to get your ass blown away instead of just accosted for a buck and a paper flower pinned to your lapel.

I look over this list and realize that in over half these airports I was drunk or stoned or emotionally short-changed.  Perhaps Sally’s right.  Perhaps I do hate airports, but it’s been a long relationship, very long.  And perhaps, like a wart you constantly molest, my memories have become a part of my deformity.

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