Sunday, January 4, 2009

Airport Phenomenology

We came directly from a champagne and waffle party at a lovely home on Elizabeth with wonderful people who begin their New Years celebration a few hours after everyone else does. Our driver tonight was Daniel from Al Iskandariyah or Al Qahirah. He drove us to the waffle and champagne party at 3:00am, we asked for his number and then we called him back for a ride to the airport after 6:00. His name might well have been Daniel in the sense in which I say that my name is Zach, but Daniel might also well be the name he wanted me to call him when I called him back for the drive to the airport.

They call it egg and cheese panini. I wouldn’t have called it that. I opted for the shiny, new place and I regret that decision. From here I can see into the divide between the seats and seat backs of the row of chairs in front of me. D is sleeping against her bag and pack directly across. I just dropped a strip of egg from my panini and it tumbled down my sweater and bounced off of my lap, onto the computer; it left a trail and a mark. In the divide, on the undersides of the seats, is a network of four-digit claws and the dangling metal tendons of violent, hateful beasts that sleep a restless sleep, barely anaesthetized by the exhaust fumes of jet engines.

With Georges Perec in mind (see: “Species of Spaces,” or not), I ask after what is peculiar to the airport space. The “airportness” of airports, the SFOness of SFO, the “JFKness” of JFK? At its simplest, it appears to be the odd set of permissions granted in the airport space. The airport becomes the only appropriate time and place for me to prefer Starbucks coffee. I enjoy every last sip of it and enjoy every last bite of whatever hideous accompaniment I’ve chosen out of the plastic display module. I tend not to stray from the type of drink I would order anywhere else: a double short latte or Americano, if it’s the holidays I’ll order a double short latte made with eggnog, or perhaps a smallish drip coffee (in the case of drip coffee, at the airport I’ll add cream and sugar, whereas at home I’ll just add milk or creamer). The airport also becomes the only time and place to prefer large, American meals (alla Chile’s or Red Robin). For example, “Lime-infused Grilled Breast of Chicken with Brie,” waffle-cut fries, and slaw at the Sam Adam’s in JFK. The permissions don’t exhaust the peculiarity of the airport space, however, they just add to my contentment while I’m there.
The stop-and-go, the turning-about, the to-and-fro, the bitch-and-moan (I play along) are the affect of the airport space. Constant anxious motion, even in rest, is the affect of the airport space. Too much caffeine and too much sugar are neither cause nor effect, but they are players, participants. The restroom can be a momentary reprieve. I wash my hands and graze the top of the trash bag as I discard my paper towel, so I wash them again, this time being more careful as I move back into the space. Still though, it seems that what is enjoyable and what captivates about the airport space is not just about me or my experience, or any person or set of persons for that matter, though certainly my experience co-constitutes airport space just as airport space co-constitutes me.

So what is it then that is so peculiar to the airport space?

The airport space is a void. The airport space is the anti-intended (though there are intentions that are specific to the space). This anti-intendedness, I think, is what I find so intriguing. No one is actually at the airport. The airport space is occupied, but all occupants are intending and becoming somewhere else. Though necessary in every possible way, the airport is a purely negative space. Even if someone loves the airport, no one travels to an airport, only through an airport. The person who enjoys the airport affect just fares better than others in the void. Airport space is like the margins and the white space (black space) on a page. Coming to appreciate the

shapes and contours of the margins, and the breaks


words make the reading event
that much more

enjoyable. The airport is the same. Turning the void on itself, having or taking full use of the void by intending the

permissions and affects of the
airport space, makes occupying the space an event in

itself, like the reading event, an event, perhaps,
to be enjoyed
as its own event,

regardless of semiotics, (in any straight-forward sense),
an event by the fact of its very happening,
and that happens out of the here-ness and now-ness

of every possible occurrence, and which must be chosen with some measure of discrimination, if for no other reason than that we have limited time, and

limited patience.

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