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.