the friendly skies
If I’m honest, and what good is a lie without a sprinkling of honesty, airports have always played a significant role in my life. My parents weren’t pilots or any nonsense like that but for a variety of reasons which don’t need explaining here, I’ve had some of the most poignant moments of my life either at airports or because of them.
I can’t imagine I’m unique in this. With all the hellos and goodbyes that take place there, along with the occasional crash, it follows that there would be some wonderful stuff mixed in with some horrible stuff happening on almost a daily basis. That’s my opinion and my story anyway.
Seeing all those emotions being played out at the doors and ramps and curbs would naturally attract someone like me. When I was younger I wanted to be one of those baggage handlers that meet you as you pull up in front with all your bags and enthusiasm and dread, hand cart in hand, to help travelers get where they are going. Someone like me would enjoy that line of work but it would probably leave me wanting more so I decided to start my own airport.
Not as easy as you’d think.
The first problem was the land required. I always thought those little wannabe landing strips with their short runways and tiny hangars seemed a little lame so if I was going to do it I wanted to do it right. The problem I alluded to just a sentence back is that to be able to afford enough land to do it right meant I had to build my airport out in the middle of nowhere. In retrospect it seems like an obvious and serious problem but when you’re under the spell of building airports sometimes the little things slip through the cracks.
Once I had the land, the building of the actual airport wasn’t much different than building anything else. A lot of headaches with construction and budgets and such but nothing I wasn’t expecting. As it neared completion there was even a little interest from the local press. Well, local meaning the closest town about 60 miles away.
So eventually the cranes and cement mixers roared off to their next project and I was left alone with my brand new airport. I walked to the end of my largest runway, capable of handling the largest commercial aircraft, and screamed. It wasn’t a scream of triumph or frustration but instead I’d found that screaming was the only way to figure out the exact dimensions of my brain. If you do it loud enough you can see where your grey matter ends and your skull begins all around your head. It only works when you are all alone in a very quiet place. And I was.
That night I flipped the switch and illuminated the landing lights on the runways as if to welcome all the planes above me to stop in for a visit.
None of them did. I watched them, little white streaks high in the sky busy going from one place to another, and suddenly realized that most of the people sitting in their cramped and uncomfortable seats had little interest in making an unscheduled stop. I bet even the new state-of-the-art baggage handling system wouldn’t entice them considering that their baggage wouldn’t actually be leaving the plane.
Finally I walked back into the concourse. Through the food court, through the video arcade, past the duty-free shops, and out to the parking garage. Don’t misunderstand, I was aware when I began that airplanes have destinations and they typically call ahead to reserve a landing time and all but in my enthusiasm to own an airport of my very own I guess I didn’t think it through entirely. Probably explained why the gift shop in my airport didn’t really feature anything from the small town 60 miles away.
Some of you are probably thinking how nice it would be to land somewhere with no lines and just fly right through customs without waiting. There’s where I went wrong, you’re not finishing the thought. Once you get outside of the airport there’s nowhere to go.
I know. I didn’t see that coming either.
Now, of course, I do.
Without the embraces hello and the tearful partings an airport, like anywhere else, can be a lonely place.
I walked back out to my largest runway and laid down. Looking up at the little blinking lights I thought about all the forces conspiring to keep me alone.