November 23, 2009

Reverse Migration

I am sitting in the Richmond Airport terminal waiting for my flight (years of influence by my father have resulted in my tendency to arrive absurdly early for any flight or movie). I'm downloading episodes of "This American Life" to listen to on my cross country flight while I knit myself a scarf. If I close my eyes maybe I'll be able to pretend I am sitting in my big comfy chair drinking cider and being delightful, rather than trapped in a hellish recycled air filled flying tube of 70s fabric and used-to-be-pretty-now-just-eerie flight attendants. It won't be that bad. I actually sort of love the whole hassle of cross country travel, as a person who secretly loves unpleasant/fascinating situations (family reunions, chats with people you haven't seen in five years and never cared about to begin with, standardized tests).

Air travel also gives me the chance to experience one of my top ten favorite locations: airports. Airports have the incredible ability to transform the people within them into manifestations of their best or worst characteristics. Everyone has seen that immense midwestern mother screaming at the check-in staff. Airports also force people from all walks of life into one place and unite them by giving them a common enemy: air travel and the people responsible for enabling or hindering your success at it (namely, the poor unsuspecting souls behind check-in desks, gates, and security checkpoints). It is as if everyone who works at the airport is suddenly the principal from The Breakfast Club, and we, intrepid travelers, are petulant teenagers who would normally have nothing to do with each other. Instead of Molly Ringwald, you have first-class passengers (businessmen/women and trophy wives in Juicy Couture jumpsuits). Instead of Judd Nelson's John Bender, you have the strong-men throwing back Budweiser at the Ruby Tuesday bar, silently filling with rage until the inevitably lead their fellow travelers into a mob-like-frenzy with the utterance of a single complaint: "Excuse me, ma'am, but do you even know when the plane is getting here?" Anthony Michael Hall: herds of Japanese tourists. Allie Sheedy: actual crazy people who seem to have appeared from nowhere (how did this person get through security?). Emilio Estevez: members of the armed forces. And last but by no means least, Principal Richard Vernon: that sassy southern beauty queen behind the desk, shattering dreams, alarming everyone, and inevitably uniting the people with her crackling, indecipherable announcements over the airport intercom.

Airports are havens for people watching. Nay, the mecca of people watching. It's as if people from everywhere have been plucked from their normal lives and deposited there with inane and seemingly impossible tasks to complete on various time scales. Stressed parents give up on their children, leaving them screaming in the middle of the disgusting carpet (I think I have played the child in this scene). Awkward tween girls shoot daggers at each other from across the terminal while simultaneously experiencing parent-embarrassment-induced panic attacks. People attempt to read each others magazines, eavesdrop shamelessly on phone conversations, and try desperately to pretend that they are not where they are.

I mean, really, what's not to love?

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