Jack Albert Nusenow

The Art of Travel: A Sorting Machine


Airports, the beautifully industrial purgatory that we spend so little time in yet seem to understand so well. When you spend any time in an airport, and possibly this is only true in a post 9/11 world, you exist under an unwritten social contract. The rules aren’t written anywhere… but you know them. You couldn’t conceive of yourself saying “bomb” out loud. You know how early to arrive, what to have with you, which of your grooming products and drinks will inevitably be stolen from you by security.

You know not to bother anybody. Arrive, security, gate. Maybe food, maybe $25 headphones. Flight, land, maybe bathroom. Walk to baggage claim like your bags will be there when you get there, but they never are. Then leave. If you’re not home that’s good, but where Botton is wrong in my opinion is that returning home is drab and depressing.

I was inspired to describe airport experiences in this way after Botton’s scene about flying. It feels importantly to evaluate the processes that we navigate that sandwich such a powerful experience like flying.

My favorite part of airports is how we enter almost into a hivemind there. Everyone is in an airport for the same reason. There’s a collective understanding that breeds humility. Everyone wants to get where they’re going, and fortunately, that stops everyone from impeding eachother.


3 replies on “The Art of Travel: A Sorting Machine”

I really liked your sense of humor in this one, I think you did a pretty good job of reflecting de Botton’s style in that way. I like your commentary on how everyone has a plan at airports, and oftentimes its the same as everyone else’s even if we don’t think or talk about it. This is kind of similar to the commentary that de Botton did on everyone sticking too closely to the guidebook: we tend to travel too formulaically.
The first image I thought of to add to this post would be the security line at JFK which sometimes is unbelievably long, winding back and forth in the big, naturally-lit glass and steel entry room. I think a picture like that could really enhance what you do in the beginning of this post.

I really enjoyed your description of airports, you do a great job of capturing the strange vibe they give off. Reading this definitely made me miss traveling even more! I like your somewhat sarcastic and witty tone throughout this, it made it really fun to read. I think adding a picture of a dingy airport filled with people or something similar would’ve gone along great with your post.

I think this was very well written! I particularly enjoyed reading about it because it captures the feeling of walking through an airport. I think that the playful sense in which this was written helps make the writing more relatable and definitely more entertaining to read. The first thing that popped into my mind after reading your blog is the crowd of people we see lined up to get through security, one of the many things I remember from being in an airport.

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