Foursquare informs me that I’ve been in the Philly airport every week for the last six weeks. By all standards, I fly a lot. I don’t dislike travel. If I did I wouldn’t do it as often as I do. Foursquare tells me too that I’ve been in the Tampa airport 40 times in the last six months. I think that qualifies me as something like an expert when it comes to air travel.
Airports everywhere are essentially the same place, just in a different city. True, the taxiways and hassles change from place to place, but once you’re in a terminal there’s really no indication of where you are. It could be Dallas, or Charlotte, or Phoenix or Chicago; eventually all those airports bleed into one another.
Airports don’t try to proclaim where they are. They don’t make themselves stand out as a viable place. Instead, they function under the cover of the least common denominator and as the result is an unjoyous walk through the worst of what humanity has to offer.
When I was flying out of Amsterdam last week I went through the usual barrage of body scanners and carry on emptying. After we were through with the theater of security, one of the guards pulled each of us aside and conducted a private interview. He was sizing me up and gauging the odds of my being a terrorist. Having me take off my shoes is reactive at best and it keeps no one safe. What keeps lunatics out of the air is a brief one-on-one with a border guard.
When I get on a plane it’s a pretty amazing thing. Over the course of a couple of hours, I travel distances my ancestors couldn’t imagine. When my fore bearers left Scotland it took them eight weeks to get to Philadelphia. I did it the other day in nine hours. That’s an amazing, incredible thing. All of that wonder is lost when you get to an airport though.
Everyone’s on high alert from the passengers to the gate attendants. Rooms full of people exhale waves of tension you can feel. Air travel hasn’t lost its glamour, it’s lost its humanity.
Listen, I don’t want the cheapest service as a default. I’d gladly pay a bit more for the chance to have an airline treat me like a human being.
I fly enough that upgrades are pretty common occurrences. That when I’m flying first class I have a separate, dedicated security line is ridiculous. Similarly, it’s absurd that I have to send my laptop through an x-ray but not my tablet. Can mobile phones not be used to trigger bombs? Why do they get to go through security in the pocket of my jacket? My tablet has more computing power than my laptop could ever dream of yet it still gets a free pass.
My shoes didn’t bring down the World Trade Center and neither did anyone else’s. What brought down those buildings was a bunch of lunatics who wanted to fight back against a US foreign policy that deemed their countries as an an extension of US Manifest Destiny. We had a president at the time who assured us that “they hate us for our freedom.”
They don’t hate us for our freedom. They hate us for our foreign policy.
Now let’s get on with having an enjoyable flight, shall we?