10 October 2002
I’m on Northwest flight 390 right now, on my way from Detroit back "home" to Boston. Detroit’s new airport — just opened in February — is absolutely gorgeous, probably the nicest airport I’ve ever been in. It’s big and spacious and bright and airy and clean, with moving walkways and flatpanels everywhere and a quiet, fast indoor electric tramline between the north and south ends of the terminal. It’s so neat and orderly — so tasteful — that it almost reminds you of one of the better European train stations, like the one at Schiphol in Holland. But then there’s the aggressive use of space: so distinctly American, there’s no mistaking it.
And of course the ceiling is arched like all airport ceilings are, in imitation of the shape of a wing. I think Dulles, near DC, was probably one of the first airports to do that (though at Dulles it’s inverted so the ceiling is actually cupping the underside of an enormous invisible airplane wing), but it’s everywhere now. The new terminals at Charles de Gaulle in Paris are breathtaking, shaped like huge angular wings with thousands of white crossbars tesellating the ceiling high above you. I wish my camera were working.
It’s a pretty effective modernization, or at least, it’s a big improvement over the 70s psychedelic-futuristic design in the older Charles de Gaulle terminals, which have these transparent pneumatic tubes worming around everywhere, shuttling people from one level to the next. And they play this strange jingly music in them; I think it’s supposed to sound like a computer or something.
Actually now that I think of it, it sounds almost exactly like the music they play in the Tunnel of Lights at O’Hare, the underground walkway that joins the midfield terminal and the main terminal. I don’t know what it is about O’Hare but everytime I connect through that airport, I always have to change terminals, and this usually means hauling ass down the tunnel of lights to make my flight, foregoing the crowded walkway and hitting the gate just in time.
Which reminds me, I very nearly ended up spending Monday night in Phoenix. For an undisclosed reason the captain kept the plane at the gate in Boston for nearly an hour before backing out and taking off, which put my 45 minute connection in grave danger. And I was flying America West, one of the shittiest airlines in the sky, all my experiences with them have been so universally bad.
I usually take my shoes off on the airplane, and I remember a couple years ago on an America West flight into Vegas, a flight attendant stopped by my seat and tickled the bottom of my foot. “Nice socks,” he said, and smiled. And then when we landed, JFK junior had just died and they came on the PA and said “We at America West are saddened to have learned about the unfortunate death of John F. Kennedy Junior earlier today. We hope that you are all as…sad as we are. ThankyouandwelcometoLasVegas.” What the fuck, right?
On Monday’s late-leaving Boston flight, when I sat down the back of my seat broke off and whacked the guy behind me. “Can you please put your seat back up?” he asked. “Dude, I can remove it altogether and put it in the lavatory if you want.”
Anyway, when we got to Phoenix the plane landed at 9:35pm, and I was catching the last flight out to SFO at 9:36. So after we touched down and people started to reach up for their baggage, I got up and shouted, “Some of us are trying to avoid spending the night in Phoenix, so if you don’t have a connection, please sit down so that we can have a chance of making it.” And I tore out of there and ran through the terminal, hurdling rows of chairs, and barely made it onto my plane, seconds before they closed the door; if I’d been a minute later I definitely would have missed the flight. America West is no good.
Okay, time to turn off all electronic devices and return my tray table and seatback to the full upright position for landing.