Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Airport Ramblings

American public places have a preference for the color beige.
They also tend to be dingy.
I’m talking JFK airport right now, and I’m comparing it to Frankfurt or Hamburg airport.
JFK is a BIG airport, isn’t it? It’s big seen from an international standpoint, I believe. And yet it is dingy, beige and uninviting. I wonder why that is.
The music is too loud, too. There’s nothing here that makes me want to linger, and maybe that’s the intention. But the place also looks as if it had been built in the 70s and then let to sit here, no renovations, no rebuilding, nothing.
I mean, really? A huge big airport, and just ONE - ONE! - line for security checks? They really like to herd people here, make them stand in line, no matter if you get on a plane or come off it. 

Aha, Bette Midler is singing “Wind Beneath My Wings” while I hang here, waiting to board.
 I have a lot of time to kill. The cab needed thirty-five minutes to get me from Jersey City to JFK. I know, it’s the ninth world wonder, but the streets were actually totally clear on this Tuesday morning. Driving toward Holland Tunnel we saw an amazing sunrise, the Empire State Building hazy in the distance.
Yes, I was humming “Leaving New York” when we drove through Manhattan on Canal, it was that kind of feeling.
And sitting here now, I want to close my eyes and go back to sleep, be somewhere else,  be where it is  quiet and cool and dark.
Air travel in the USA is no fun.
There’s also no elegance to it, nothing of the worldliness and exuberance it still has in Germany.
I’m a bit homesick right now. Homesick for the comfort and style of my home country, for the solidity of stone buildings that were meant to outlast centuries, wars and storms, and that look weathered but never beaten down.
I’m longing for porcelain plates and metal forks even in takeout places, and I would like to not see old people swiping the floor of this eating area at JFK to make a living.
I’m tired. It’s nobody’s fault. I’m just tired from getting up very early, not having had enough coffee and standing in line for too long. In fact, the in-line-standing will make me think very hard and long before I come back to the States. They do that really well here, and with enthusiasm.

At JFK, all by myself.
A lone traveler, lost somewhere in the USA. 
Somehow it feels different, going forward on a journey, than returning home. Going home, all pretences can be dropped, and nevermind the suitcase full of dirty laundry. Going onward, you still need to keep yourself together, dress properly, be on good manners, be your best self.
I’m going to a place I’ve never yet been: Salt Lake City
I have to let go of the fetters of New York City now and give myself to the West, to dry heat and a high altitude, to different food and strange, new faces.
It’s the reason why I love these trips: I want to meet new people who have been friends on Twitter or Facebook for a long while, but who I’ve never met in real life yet.
Traveling like this makes me feel alive and real like nothing else ever has done. I’m myself, and yet someone totally different.
I can do this!
I can navigate an airport, a strange city, a strange country, all on my own. 
I’m not afraid of accosting strangers if I have to, and I can buy food and coffee for myself. I even figured out how to use an American ATM machine!
I can sit patiently at an airport for three hours until boarding time if my cab was way faster than expected.
I can sit here at JFK airport and wait to get on my flight to Salt Lake while the silver bodies of the American Airlines planes glint in the sun as they roll toward take-off. 
And now I wish this bloody airport had free wifi so I could post this blog.
But like for everything else, they make you pay for that, just like you have to pay an outrageous $25 if you have to check in luggage.
Really? How come European airlines don’t have to do that, and you even get your meals free, and the airports are prettier?
Planes are standing in line, too, waiting to take off. I can see them from where I’m sitting in the lounge. 
I’ll finish my coffee now and slowly make my way to my gate. Maybe I’ll find a manicure parlor on the way.
PS: American airport coffee is awful.

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