Our secret shame: We actually love airports
The worst place in the entire universe is any of the smoking rooms at the otherwise spotless new Hong Kong airport. In these tiny glass cells, dozens of travellers squeeze in for a desperate last puff before they fly out. If you’re foolish enough to step inside, you emerge instantly reeking of ashtray. Bleah.
As these loathsome smoky dens are to Hong Kong airport, so is the airport to the wider world. Airports themselves are captive hell holes, where we can no more escape the check-in queues, the over-inflated prices and the smug frequent flyers heading off to their poncy “lounges” than a smoker in the Hong Kong cubicle can escape the smoke cloud.
And Australian airports are among the worst, as a “leaked” survey yesterday confirmed. Leaked schmeaked. Like that was some kind of secret. Anyone could have told you our airports are shocking. All airports are shocking, even the supposedly good ones. Quite rightly, we hate airports… but not as much as we secretly love them.
You only have to look at the parking charges at Sydney airport – supposedly Australia’s best according to yesterday’s survey results – to see why our own mostly privatised airports are so damn on the nose. How does $82 bucks for 24 hours at the international terminal grab ya? It’s cheaper to get a parking ticket. And don’t get us started on taxi queues.
As the late Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams wrote, “It is no coincidence that in no known language does the phrase ‘As pretty as an Airport’ appear”. That’s “late” as in dead by the way, not late as in his plane was delayed.
Yet somehow, despite all of this, and in some cases because of it, there is something alluring about airports. Like the genre of Reality Television, airports are something we bag publicly, but secretly can’t get enough of.
Only at airports can we pig out on Hungry Jack’s without feeling like a low rent glutton. “Just squeezing in a burger before the flight” is as good an excuse for a gratuitous fast food fest as there ever was. You also get to drink those wacky caramel mochafrappaccino thingies from Gloria Jean’s without having to hide behind a tree in the park near work.
Airports have travelators, those wonderful silky, smooth flat escalator things, which have no known purpose except to make you feel like you can walk faster than Superman. Such noble machines are the pinnacle of a century and a half of mechanised industrialisation. And you only find them in airports.
In airports, and especially at international terminals, you cannot avoid walking through acres of duty free if you want to get anywhere. Which means you betcha, yes, you can take three bottles of Scotch home tonight, and there ain’t anyone in the world can make you feel like a dero for so doing.
Plane spotting is a nerd hobby, practiced on the sly by many in Sydney’s inner suburbs and elsewhere. At airports, we are all plane nerds. “Ooh, there goes the 9:40 Emirates A380 to Dubai! Yeah! Awesome!”. Such enthusiasm need not be curbed at airports.
Airports have toilets, beautiful clean toilets scattered with the kind of liberal abundance with which the Easter Bunny distributes chocolate eggs. Airports have food courts, which like food courts in the real world have 200 things you don’t want to eat, but they’re food courts nonetheless! Lend us fourteen bucks, will ya? I need to buy a small freshly-squeezed juice.
Shopping malls have bogans forbiddingly prowling the exterior. At airports, they’re called parking attendants. Still, you’d take the fluoro shirts over the flannies any day.
And above all, airports hold memories. Who among us cannot name an occasion when we wept at an airport, be it a joyous reunion or heartbreaking parting? We’re just as likely to weep over that $82 parking fee but somehow, there are enough payoffs to make it worth the money, don’t you think?
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