Friday, October 29, 2010


Everyone who had experienced air travel would tell you this: they hate airports. Or they love airports. You simply can't be indifferent to airports. You can't have an emotional truce with airports. You can't stand on the fence: the fence here will give you an electric shock. So you either love them, or you hate them.

I hate airports.

I understand their importance, though. This indispensable cog in the wheel of modern life. The terminals of 20th century transport that came as an answer to the Wrights' brothers invention. Mass air travel, where people converge to share a confined space of artificial comfort. And the necessary byproducts of this proximity, the safeguards and procedures put in place by man to ensure safe journeying: The queues and passport control and security measures and draconian scrutiny of luggage. I'm fine with that. I'm cool with that. I'm even at a good terms with the invisible tower control officer and the pilot in his reinforced cockpit. I love them all.

That's not why I hate airports.

There seems to be an awful lot of sobbing at airports, at both departure and arrival halls. I used to think it's an ethnic issue, a cultural peculiarity: some folks are less tear proof than others.... But I was wrong, ethnic groups vary only in the amount of sobbing they partake in, not in the existence of it. Here's a wager: go to any airport in the world with a considerable volume of passengers, at any given time of any given day, and there will always be someone sobbing. Here's a worthy scientific experiment: to find out whether the chemical composition of tears coming forth at arrival halls is any different from that at the departure hall.

I've never sobbed at airports, and this is probably why I hate them. Every time I trudge down the infinite walkways, hallways, travel-belts, duty-free zones, the rows of burly uniformed men with Heckler & Koch slung over their shoulders (I haven't seen them yet, but come on, they sure are there stowed away at standby in some bunker, sobbing their eyeballs off while oiling and servicing their gear), every time I undertake this ritual I feel I'm being cornered, being nudged by an imperceptible force, like the suggestive questions of an interviewer; here's BBC Hardtalk with Stephen Sackur, here's Charlie Rose with a devilish inquisitor sitting in for him, ready with the hard ones: Where are you going? Where have you been? Business or pleasure? What are you gonna tell your mother? Do you think your father would have been happier if his passing of age hadn't registered in your face? How are you gonna deal with the PR fallout of your not recalling the name of the infant son of the brother in law of your second removed cousin, who made the effort to come and greet you at the airport, sobbing his eyes off?

Why are you not sobbing?

Here's a scenario of a happy journey: coming home after winning the world cup, or traveling air force one after securing an explosive interview with the POTUS, or being wedged between the cheerleaders of the team who is bringing the world cup home, pressed unto them by the thrust of the plane's engine, watching as they strip off to sun-tan (and hey, it's *always* sunny up there).

But what you get instead is the constipated businessman. The crying infant. The dude with the gigantic femurs caressing your back. The middle aged woman in the aisle seat across the aisle who's sobbing silently before the landing, and ululating through yellow teeth afterwards. The pushing and shuffling, the impatient glares, the exposure to seasonal disease. Here's truth, ladies and gentlemen: there's no room for pretentiousness up there in the stratosphere. Even the guy with the binoculars pointed downward in the direction of the porthole had come to terms with it. Even the trained stewardess had come to terms with it. The truth is here, you can either don your eye mask and tune it out, or whisper furiously to your prayer beads, or try to follow the hollow plot (as hollow as this fuselage) of this trashy novel (belonging to the genre of, you got that right!: airport novels). Aircrafts are airports, an extremity of them anyway: you've been picked up at an airport by an aircraft, you're gonna be dejected at an airport by an aircraft. After the metabolism of time zones and international treaties have secreted their juices unto you. After the pointed questioning and cavity search and soul searching.

The 20th century have divided people into tow groups: those who experienced air travel and those who didn't. The 21st century is probably gonna divide people into two different groups: those who sob at airports and those who don't.

Congrats on a safe and auspicious voyage, everyone. I hope you enjoy your terrestrial time. And I sure hope you remembered to fasten your seat belts.


Mich said...

What triggered that post??? Unfortunately, I fall into the sobbing ones. Yes, I cry my eyes out, usually because I'm leaving a loved one behind. And you never know when you will see them again. Great read! :-)

Dubai Jazz said...

Nothing specific dear Mich. I've written before about why I hate flying. So this is kind of an expanding on that.

I too feel immensely sad when I part with loved ones.

Thanks for reading!

Khaled Akbik said...

Good post, well written :)

Faisal Haji said...

I greatly enjoy traveling, that being said, I learned to accept airport life rather than like it. I mean you have to have some compensation if you want to enjoy your journey. I was fortunate to travel very often while I am still young. So I gotta say that North Western Europe airports are my least favorite, then comes the states and Australia. As for my feelings, true I feel a little sad to leave my loved ones, but I don't allow this feeling to be immersed in my thoughts because I know that I will be back soon.

Leila said...

I hate airports just because there always is someone/something you are leaving behind. Generally they make me nervous. On that note, I love train stations.

Anonymous said...

Here is another VOTE for the airport HATER

Honestly, there is NO fun in flying anymore. Especially if you are stranded at an airport and the connecting flight is not departing until 7 hours. What do you do?? Eeeeeeeeh.

KJ said...

I hate airports because of everything that could go wrong and for the fact that I have to vomit every time I need to fly.