We love airports because they’re impermanent. And inside of them, we are impermanent people. We are not students or waiters or accountants in the airport. We’re not husbands or daughters or wives. We are whoever we want to be while we’re suspended between one place and another – we’re travellers. We’re nomads. We’re businessmen. We’re going far, far away. We’re coming home.
We love airports because they remind us how easy it all is – to leave, to return, to roam far, to stay close. We spend years agonizing over what to do next – should we stay, should we go, should we linger, should we leave. And in the airport, it all seems so simple – there are limitless planes, headed to limitless corners of the planet. Within 48 hours, we could be just about anywhere we wanted. And suddenly none of it seems so complicated. It’s a gate and a nap and a meal and a window seat. The life we’ve spent our whole lives yearning is tangible. It’s here, in the airport. It is flashing in front of us on noticeboards.
We love airports because they strip us of our egos. We’re all scared when the plane starts to shake. We’re all leaving somebody we love. We’re all caught in the transient nature of coming and going and for a little while, inside the airport walls, we are no different than anyone else. We all groan when that flight gets delayed. We all don’t want to pay $14 dollars for that sandwich. We’re all a bit tired or on edge or ticked off. We’re all here together, for a while.
We love airports because they remind us of the people we could be. Of the infinite choices we have, not just about where to go or where to stay but who we could embody and become. In the airport we are nobody and everyone at once. We’re the compilation of the people we’ve been and the places we’re going and whatever else falls between the cracks. We’re the businessman headed to Hong Kong. We’re the first class passenger jetsetting to Paris. We’re the bare-bones traveller who is wandering far away to find himself. We are simply ourselves, defined only by the clothes on our back and the contents of our luggage. We can slip through the cracks of our mistakes and all the people we wish we were not.
We love airports because they make us remember – that the problems and choices and troubles that plague us can be left behind in a physical way. That there is no person who stopped loving us in Bangkok. That nobody scorns our name in Philadelphia. That there are endless cities, endless destinations, endless corners of the world and endless people we could become within them. That even if starting all over isn’t easy, it is possible. It’s an option. It exists.
We love airports because they take us away, momentarily, from the people we’ve become and the lives that we have chosen. They make us think about not just where we’re going but where we could be going instead – as if we’ve flipped a coin up in the air and get to choose, in the moment before it lands, which side we really hope it’s on. We see our errors so clearly in the airport – the planes we should have boarded, the destinations we wish we were speeding on towards.
We love airports because they let us be effectively nowhere. And only when we are briefly, temporarily nowhere, do we realize exactly where we ought to be headed after all.