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We are nowhere

25 May 2010

I am spending the better part of the next two days in airports. I have an interview tomorrow that I have to fly to. And though my layovers are not all that long, I get to spend some time in airports.

Call me a masochist, but I actually love airports. First of all, they are great places for people watching, which is one of my greatest joys; it’s stitched into the fabric of my being as a Southerner and as a Carolina alum.

Second, I think they are fascinating spaces. Once you pass security, you enter nowhere. You are technically in the city wherever the airport is, but not really. Nothing really distinguishes any airport from any other. They are all long corridors with waiting rooms lining the sides, interrupted by the occasional restaurant, bar, or newsstand. As a friend of mine pointed out, everyone is there, waiting for something, getting ready to go somewhere. It sets up a kind of parallel reality.

But moreover, once you pass airport security, you leave any notion of  time and space as solid concepts; their true illusory nature comes through. Pass through one of the gates, catch a flight, and three hours later you’re halfway across the country in a different timezone; or six hours later and you’re on a different continent with everyone around you speaking a different language. Airports and the planes that connect them bend time and space. And that is really cool.

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