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I Love Airports

by Roy Blokker


Roy was born in the Netherlands. His parents immigrated when he was two.  He and his wife have raised four children to adulthood. He is author of a definitive book on Dmitri Shostakovich and numerous articles, poems and stories. His novel, AMBER WAVES, is available on Amazon Kindle. Roy and Diane live in Lakeside, Montana.

I love airports. I know, most people love airports the way they love physicians’ waiting rooms or the line at the bank. With check-in and boarding area clearance and its accompanying metal detectors, body scans, shoe and belt removal, not to mention the luxury seating, for most people airport become nothing more than hurry up and wait. A great deal of hurry up and wait.

But I love them. There is something inherently wonderful about a place filled with such expectation, of people going somewhere for whatever reason, and people coming home.

But not all airports are created equal. My exposure has been sadly limited, but my experiences already tell me that airports, like hotels or restaurant meals or movies, can be good, bad, ugly or in-between. Some, like Schiphol in Amsterdam or Dublin in, well, Dublin, are micro-cities around the clock. Some, like my local Glacier International, actually take a snooze through the wee hours. Some, like San Jose, California, are cold and austere, while others, like San Francisco just up the road, are warm and inviting, while still others, like Salt Lake City, are a disorganized mess.

Schiphol and Dublin Airports provide the traveler with great diversions almost everywhere they turn, especially when they are departing. After all, arriving passengers are presumed to want to hurry out into the country at large. For departing passengers, the concept of idle time is filled with another concept: shopping. Schiphol in particular is huge. The gates extend on long slender arms for what seems like kilometers. On the way to any particular gate there are shops, coffee shops and designated smoking areas. The farther from the main terminal, the smaller the shops, but “Last Chance” shopping is never too far away. Dublin’s inner city is equally impressive but more centrally located in a smaller space. Both offer a two word phrase to delight even the most casual shopper: duty free.

San Francisco offers its own brand of charm. Schiphol Airport has a Rijksmuseum booth but it is more of a glorified gift shop. Only one airport, SFO, has an accredited museum that runs through its walls. After checking their baggage and securing their boarding passes, and before the final security clearance into the boarding area, passengers can view magnificent displays of varying kinds right there in the main body of the airport. And it’s free. Working with the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco beginning in 1980, the San Francisco Airport Museum was fully accredited in 1999.

Just an hour down the highway, San Jose International represents what most people think an airport is: a cold, austere and endlessly long place to wait. The airport has undergone major renovations and now is much more user friendly, but cozy is not a word one would use to describe it. As for Salt Lake City, this is an airport that got very big very quickly and it looks as though no one planned for the growth. It is a place to hurry up and wait.  Although one can find hidden in its recesses a fine bottle of Bigamy Beer, a creamy tasting, full bodied dark ale.

Smaller airports like Glacier International outside Kalispell, Montana, or Monterey International in California, try to copy the larger airport feel even though their services are limited to connections to other larger airports. Even the descriptive title “International” seems a bit grand for an airport with three commercial docks.

Then there is Minneapolis-St. Paul, which has warmth to combat freezing winters outside the tempered glass, size to accommodate international traffic, expertise to handle almost any weather condition, and enough bustle to qualify if not as a micro-city, at least as a satisfyingly supplied town. The airport feels small but offers everything for the expectant traveler, including duty free shopping.

Every airport has its own culture and personality. Whether or not these reflect the nature and essence of the city it services, I cannot say, because in most cases I never leave the airport until the connecting flight is called. I’m just passing through.

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