I don’t like airports. There was a time when I did, when travel was an adventure and an airplane flight still seemed a miracle. It lasted a long time.

When I was young, flying would take us to strange familiar places – to visit aunts and uncles and grandparents in Germany and Switzerland. When I got a little older, it would bring me home for the holidays.

Later I worked near the airport. I would sometimes go at lunch to watch jumbo jets take off, and slowly, improbably, ponderously land, almost motionless over the trees from the right angle.

Always when I flew I would ask for a window seat, to watch the geography – the geology roll by below us. To see clouds from inside and above. To watch the sun and moon a little longer before they set.

In airports I would watch the ebb and flow of people and planes like the tide. Families and friends left behind or come to meet – little dramas played out – at every gate.

Then for a couple of years I worked for a consulting company, and I took flying for granted. Airports and airplanes became part of the background of my job, an inconvenience, a waste of time, something to be minimized. I flew too often, so that no one came to see me off, and no one came to meet me. I was part of the background, too. I sat in aisle seats and read. I was tired.

When I started working for myself I traveled less, so flying became less tedious. But I also became more attached to home, so flying became more unnecessary, an irritant, taking me away from where I wanted to be.

Now I try to look past the homogeneity of airports, of airlines, of business travelers to see what individuality I can. I relish an oddball passenger nearby, or children who still behave like themselves no matter where they are, who can’t quite conceal their excitement, their happiness, or even their pain.  

21:31:58 PM

In the airport

Sealed but not protected
Sterile grime – high-pitched whine – jet fuel.

Washed but not clean
Stale air – fluorescent glare – gray skin.

Slept but not rested