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The Hidden World of Airports

By Wil Forbis

Airports are a quirky scene. I suppose thatís not an exceptionally unique or original statement, but I spent a sizable chunk of my last weekend in and out of airports (going from Seattle to Frisco and back) and it struck me just how weird they really are. Airports are indubitably the pinnacle of watered down, middle class culture. There is nothing purposefully offensive about them in mood or design. They strive to avoid any form of insult much the way youíd expect elevator music to avoid a discordant note or chord. But on the other hand, one cannot help but wonder if thereís a darker side to airports, if the Stepford Wives-esque smiles on the faces or airline employees and passengers have been augmented by several trips to one of the many cocktail lounges that dot the map of any American airline hub. When the stewardess says, "Have a good flight, sir," is she not thinking, "Burn in hell you social deviant."

Iíve spent a great deal of time in airports; I once calculated that Iíd spent more than a month of my life in the air. I can recall the crowded, paranoid Iranian airports I experienced as a wee lad in the seventies, or the eternally mid-western Salt Lake City hub that Iíve used to switch flights a thousand times, or the gauche decadence of the Las Vegas airport. (The last time I was there it had a talking David Cassidy hologram and several hundred slot machines.) My most recent weekend flight involved both the Sea-Tac and San Franciso airports. While Iíve become too used to Sea-Tac to find any character in it, the Frisco airport is the quintessential American airport. Loaded with Newsstand style bookstores, fast food joints hawking their wares at 40% above street value, those long flat escalators that allow you to float past travelers foolish enough to walk, and Smithsonian-like museum displays on subjects of varying interest (This month it was the history of radio.), SFO is a hip airport, if such a term can be applied to a place that has such a perennial seventies feel to it.

But Iím forced to wonder if beneath the blandness of airports lies something deeper, darker, more sexual. Yes, airports have always had a certain erotic thrill. This is based on the realization that if you did manage to have sex with some anonymous person you met at an airport (A feat Iíve never even attempted) it really could be a random experience, the ultimate one night stand. They go on to their city, you go on to yours, with no fear of ever meeting them at an office party or finding out theyíre actually a long lost relative. And the odds of meeting someone truly different in an airport increase dramatically; someone from another region, another country (is it not ideal male fantasy purported to be the Swedish stewardess who comes into town once a month, provides her services and then is gone before anything messy like a relationship has time to develop?) A friend of mine once told me of a women he knew who was an airport groupie: She would hang out in airport bars just to meet strange, foreign men who could impart on her their strange, foreign lovemaking techniques (and probably their strange, foreign sexual diseases, but thatís the cynic in me talking.)

There is another element of excitement that airports offer and that is the very real threat of physical danger. When you enter, the check-in personnel queries you whether any strangers have approached you about carrying mysterious packages onto the plane ("Gosh, I really canít recall") Sometimes they physically search your luggage and at the very least they X-ray it. You are forced to walk through a metal detector set to go off at your fillings ("Must be that metal plate I got after taking shrapnel in ĎNam.") And Lord forgive you if you say something like, "This Neutron bomb sure is heavy!" or "I think the package of heroin I sewed into my chest is starting to leak." Everyone is suspect at an airport, suspect of being an Albanian terrorist, a Jamaican drug dealer or a mass murderer fleeing the country ("Iím going to France, where they appreciate serial killers!") For at least a little while you can transport yourself into a Pink Panther film and imagine you have outwitted the bumbling fools at InterPol.

That is perhaps the beauty of the airport experience. No-one really knows who you are. If you wish, you can create a whole new persona for yourself, a whole new past. Cleanse yourself of your faults and your sins and become the person youíve always wanted to be. Want to say youíre the CEO of a company that makes ornate sexual pleasuring devices? Go right ahead. Want to state that you run your own modeling agency of paper thin, heroin chic waifs? No oneís stopping you. And no one will catch you in the lie.

When my plane set down at the Sea-Tac airport, successfully ending my weekend adventure, I felt a tinge of sadness. I wanted to stay in this mythical land where I was free from the drudgery of my day to day existence. Could I not eternally indulge myself in the airport lifestyle, downing morning espressos followed by overpriced cocktails while reading Menís magazines offering the secret to rock hard abs in thirty days, and eventually passing out in those little chairs with the built in TVs? But no, I had a life to return to. So I boarded the metro bus that takes an hourís worth of meandering to arrive in downtown Seattle. Within minutes an angry black man boarded the bus and began spewing forth obscenities and recounting his experiences in Viet Nam. When a young black woman approached him about being quiet he effectively chased her off the bus, heatedly explaining to her that if not for him, she wouldnít have her freedom. (I didnít have the heart to tell him that we weíre never in any danger of being invaded by North Viet Nam.) The bus driver did nothing. The black vet continued his tirade against the now departed women, explaining that sheíd probably spent her life "sucking white boyís cock." I leaned back in my seat and thought to myself, "Itís good to be home."



Wil Forbis is a well known international playboy who lives a fast paced life attending chic parties, performing feats of derring-do and making love to the world's most beautiful women. Together with his partner, Scrotum-Boy, he is making the world safe for democracy. Email -

Visit Wil's web log, The Wil Forbis Blog, and receive complete enlightenment.