Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Camping out at the airport
Last night/ this morning I challenged the boundaries of my sanity by spending 8 mind numbing hours inside a virtually closed Fort Lauderdale airport. A shuttle is $100 and parking for 2 weeks at the airport wasn't going to happen. So on some serious Tom Hanks type mission to keep myself occupied, from 10pm to 6am, I read every pamphlet brochure informing me about visiting South Florida, I inspected every sliding glass automatic door, pondered over every 1990s piece of airport art, I tested every couch, read every word of bathroom graffiti, observed a free spanish newspaper and wandered miles in place on the people conveyor; all before 3am. I started to question my reality when I weighed the pros vs cons of riding the floor scrubbing zamboni around the airport and dropping some serious wax compound. How do you punish a man who wants to do a charitable act? I mean why would they stop me? Who would stop me? The only other employees i saw all night were the pressure cleaning sidewalk guy sleeping in his truck and the janitor pretending to mop a carpet, while talking on the phone in the video blind spots. I saw a few people on their tablets, but upstairs I couldn't tell if the few other airport inhabitants were doing the same thing i was doing or if they were nesting vagrants. I exhausted nearly everything you can think of doing in an empty airport, and then some. They have a tourism phone that connects you directly to local attractions; in which i left long ranting messages on complete stranger’s voicemails. Killing time is about routine; any little ritual or task you can do. Eventually I washed my hands so many times, they were raw.
The highlight of my night/morning was losing my gallon jug of water, then spending an hour retracing my steps through the entire airport until i finally FOUND it on top of the virgin mobile info desk kiosk. I stared into this rolling advertisement for so long until all i could notice is the imperfections, in which the pixels would glitch and reverse themselves in one of the frames. I took up a profound appreciation for the little overlooked details of the brass ocean creature designs in the linoleum flooring scattered around the second floor. At 4am sharp i watched the airport begin to buzz with obese TSA agents, spilling out of their uniforms and their lower lip flapping in the wind as they blobbed their way late to the security gate. Once open they took an additional full 45 minutes to allow an equally qualified, angry group of fast food employees entrance inside the terminal.
Through this experience, the mystique of the airport has been ruined for me forever. I always saw this area as an impervious, secure, constitution-free fortress that would intimidate any drug smugglers and would-be unshaven extremists from ever coming near a terminal. Now that the veil has been lifted and the honeymoon has ended, i realized this place at night is no different than a bus terminal with air conditioning (sleeping bums included). The same security that forces me to take off my belt and shoes while offering me full body massages is just theater; because late at night/early morning anyone can literally build a campfire in the middle of the airport.