“Southern Icons of the 20th Century” by Joni Mabe
“Travelers” By Larry Walker
Yesterday, I arose at 3 a.m. (after just 3 hours of sleep) to be driven by taxi to the Guadalajara airport to catch a plane to Dallas/Ft. Worth where I would catch a connecting flight on to St. Louis, MO. After visiting Mexican immigration at one end of the airport and pulling two heavy bags the length of the airport to wait in the American Airlines line for an hour, I discovered that bad weather in Dallas had caused them to cancel all flights, and would it be convenient for me to come back tomorrow? No, coming back tomorrow was not convenient! Not only was a friend waiting for me in St. Louis, but the additional two taxi fares would amount to my taxis costing more than my airline flight. American was able to schedule me onto a later Delta flight and so it is that at the hour when I should have arrived in St. Louis, I am instead in the Atlanta airport with three hours left before my flight leaves, sitting next to a man who snuffles like a pig every 30 seconds, held prisoner by the electric power strip providing juice to the loyal MacBook Air that is making it possible for me to tell you today’s story.
If you’ve ever gone through your customs and immigration check in Atlanta, you probably already know what I have discovered: that the Atlanta airport has the longest walk and most circuitous queue lines of any airport so far experienced, after which you arrive at an automatic passport check where you scan your own passport, pose for the most unflattering picture possible, then go through yet another maze that is nothing short of an endurance check/ordeal after which you wait in line forever along with 500 other travelers to again be sorted into lines by an immigration employee on the job for the first day (she told me so) who for some reason has a grudge against your line to the point that the other two lines are empty before she sees fit to select people from the pariah line to again get in line to see one of the 4 humans assigned to double check our worthiness to enter the U.S., walk for another 15 minutes to retrieve our luggage and then wait in yet another line for customs.
By the time I actually made it through customs and began my loooooooong trek to where I could catch a train to another concourse, I was as perspiration-soaked as if I had been through an hour-long workout at the gym. You will have guessed right if you are thinking that once I arrived on “B” concourse, I discovered that my gate was the last one on the concourse. Of course it was! There is, however, a fact that mitigates all of the frustration previously endured, for the corridors of the Atlanta airport leading from the plane to Immigration are lined with some of the best and most varied art I’ve ever seen in any airport exhibition and most art museums. Collage, wall sculpture and paintings made me wish the automatic walkways would stall to give me time enough to actually look at the art—with the result that I got off the moving walkway to walk back to do just that. With no hands free to record any of the names of artists, I’ll just have to leave it to Google or airport authorities to give you more specific information, but the art was whimsical, colorful, original, thought-provoking and sometimes naïf. (For certain of those outsider art pieces giving exhaustive social commentary, do not judge the artistic merit by the spelling.)
A $13 pulled-pork plate assuaged my appetite as at that time it had been 13 hours since I arose to drive to the airport and begin my long day’s journey. But it was a trip to the ladies room that assured me that I was in fact back in the good old U.S.A. Spotless cleanliness, two full toilet paper rolls, paper seat covers, a hook to hang my purse, enough room to store my carry-on rolling bag without having to squeeze myself into a corner to do so, a self-flushing toilet that actually flushed and the piéce de résistance—A SHELF TO PUT MY DRINK ON!!!! Upon my easy exit from the roomy stall, I enjoyed an automatic foam soap dispenser installed in the sink next to the warm water faucet, then found paper towels and trash can within easy reach. This of course made me remember (with no nostalgia) the new movie theater in Ajijic, Mexico—my home town for the past 13 years—where only one sink of the eight present actually works and is, of course, the one furthest away from the only towel dispenser. Ah, Atlanta airport. I forgive thee for all other sins.