March 24, 2008

Mexico City Airport

Me, Nate Tack, Brendan Hodge, Mexico City Airport Jan. 2003

The compression of time and space that air travel provides is quite a bizarre feeling when one really considers what is happening. Board the plane drunk in Denver, fall asleep, wake up hung over in Mexico City. Start your morning in Chicago and eat breakfast in London eight hours later. Board the airplane through a tunnel that runs like a feeding tube snaking from the terminal. Exit through a tunnel that looks remarkably familiar. It’s as though you never left.

Not all airports are created equal. First impressions are what we remember. Leave the tunnel and what do you see, what do you feel? Kenyatta International, Nairobi: the sweet smell of sweat. Amsterdam Schiphol: design, and surprise that weed is legal here. LaGuardia: get me out of Queens.

Step out of the airport and step into another world. In developing countries exit into the bustle of street vendors, illegal taxis and pedestrian traffic. Transfer your wallet to your front pocket. In developed countries do the same. Wander around and find your lost baggage. Where was I going again? Lost in the crowd of unfamiliar faces, an unknown place and an unrecognized language. The culture shocks. Bribe the immigration official. Find the bus, train, camel or rented car that will get you out of here. Do not eat the suspicious looking taco.

Time doesn’t stop.

Get there three hours, five hours, twenty-two hours before your flight home. Stand in a line. Check the smell of your armpits. When was the last shower you had? Rearrange your bags because the bitch at the counter says they’re too heavy. Glare at her. Board the plane through the tunnel. Have a drink. Have ten drinks. Pass out. Land in the rain. Exit the tunnel and remember that you forgot to call anyone. Take a cab home. The Asian man speeds down the highway shoulder and asks, “everybody else do it, why can’t I?”

Marcus has special needs

Marcus Donaldson on the train at SEA heading towards ANC, May 2007