I once read an article by someone professing to love nothing more than a good airport. For the author, it was an oasis of calm where he could finally ‘clear out his inbox’; dealing with those emails long avoided, and reading that book that was thus far untouched. For one, I’m not sure the feeling is mutual. Airports seem to me to have a similar atmosphere to a US embassy in Moscow circa 1962 – an oasis in the sense that it acts as a bubble to the outside world. Calming? No. And representative? Certainly not.
They are multiculturalism under a microscope – a snow globe turned upside down. Frantic energy and anticipation for the eagles of steel about to travel hundreds of miles per hour, sits uncomfortably next to delays and queues with no discernible point. With nowhere to go, sedentary masses slump over iPhones – their imaginations idle as books increasingly take on pariah status – only occasionally glancing blearily at the angry mobs jostling impatiently in line, just to be first on a plane that will not leave until everyone has boarded.
Children run riot as parents question the wisdom of their eight-hour flight to Florida, people pace a well-trodden circuit of their shops, wondering if next time they come to the airport they might be able to venture into the Breightling shop perched expectantly between Gucci and Louis Vuitton. They sigh and instead turn to the nearest Starbucks, indulging in the artificial energy to enable them to do very little, purchased at a premium as the corporations mock their imprisonment behind the scanners and locked doors.
Burqa-clad women rub shoulders with scantily clad European holidaymakers; duty free alcohol pervades the same spaces as national carriers where consumption is a punishable offence. Bangalore airport gleams amidst the shimmering heat emanating from the scorched tarmac. Whilst from the shuttle bus, slums encroach up the wire-topped fence – shuddering as the multi million pound behemoths roar overhead to disgorge their well-heeled contents.
The artificial nature of these hubs means that our differences are thrown under the spotlight, without providing any of the context that comes from being on the outside of these cloistered walls.
If this is an oasis, then get me to the desert.