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ON THE ROAD: A Short History of Airports:

Ah, the airport – where pilots mingle freely with mere commoners and Starbucks hawks its wares every other foot.

Visiting colleges with my mom these past few days, it’s become clear that each airport has its own charming characteristics. This only becomes apparent, however, if one is a cheery traveler. You mustn’t think of travel as a nuisance – embrace it for what it is, and you’ll find that it can actually be quite a pleasurable experience, as you explore different airports and meet many people from all over the country and even the world.

The first airport I shall discuss is Boston Logan. As we approached the security X-ray machines, my mom told me to take my shoes off. I insisted that since they were small flats without any metal in them, I didn’t need to, and she said “Fine. Suit yourself,” and I left them on.

When it was my turn to walk through the X-ray gate, I asked a security woman if I needed to take my shoes off. She looked at them, smiled jollily, and said, “Oh no, those are definitely fine.” Ha! Ava: 1, Mom: 0 – people in Boston are so nice.

Despite my triumph with shoes, immediately after I walked through the X-ray gate, a security officer asked me to step aside for additional screening. I was so excited! (You probably don’t understand why I’d think it would be fun to get poked and prodded by airport security people. I don’t exactly understand either, but I think it has something to do with being a cheery traveler.) I waved at my mom and smiled enthusiastically. She frowned. A moment later, she was pulled off her maternal pedestal as another security officer asked her to step aside for additional screening, too.

I concluded that suspicious demeanors must run in the family until I figured out that they had randomly selected us for screening because our tickets had printed out with an “S” on them.

My screener was a lovely lady, as was my mother’s. She made it very clear that she wasn’t going to violate me in any way whatsoever. She was going to run her beeper over me, and in the places where it beeped, she would pat me down. Any “sensitive” places would be patted with the back of her hand.

My mother’s screener had apparently gotten my full life story during her brief two-minute acquaintance with my mom, including my hometown, age, relationship status, college options, and SAT scores. As I left the screening area, my mom’s screener put in her two cents about where she thought I should go to college, and my mom and I waved goodbye, sad to leave our new friends.

Our sadness quite disappeared when we arrived at the airport food court, full of many bright colors and lots of options for dining. As we stood in line, waiting to order our lunch, my mom struck up a conversation with a very young looking pilot who was in line in front of us. “Are you really a pilot? You’re so young!” she said.

“That’s the way the industry’s going these days,” he said. “I’ve been working for ten years.” My mom and I were shocked: by our calculations, if he’d been working for ten years, he would have been flying as a sixth grader. Rapidly increasing our new friend count, the prodigy pilot gave me a recommendation for which type of pasta to order, and we went our separate ways.

Our next airport was Syracuse, much smaller than Logan. As we walked towards the rent-a-car place, we came across some sort of museum in the airport lobby, which displayed a deconstructed airplane, showing how each part of the plane worked. Deconstructed airplanes in an airport? Rather disturbing, if you ask me.

I think the people are what made Syracuse special (along with the Oldies music that played over the loudspeaker system). The people who checked our boarding passes at the security station were nice old women in cozy sweaters discussing recipes.

The women who worked at the Au Bon Pain restaurant there were very friendly, too. We made fast friends with them when my mom, upon discovering that one of them had a headache, grabbed her wrist and pushed on her pressure points, instantly curing the girl’s headache.

There were lots of nice babies in the Syracuse airport, too. They smiled and were cute, and thus I highly recommend flying through there whenever you can.

From Syracuse we flew to Detroit (a stopover on the way back to LAX). I hadn’t heard too many good things about Detroit, and was greatly surprised upon arriving at the Northwest Airlines terminal there. It was very space-age and yet classically beautiful. Inside the terminal, a bright red tram ran back and forth on a track near the ceiling. For weary travelers or those too lazy to walk, there were moving walkways running practically the entire length of the terminal. Every few gates, there was a huge potted tree. I even overheard some travelers speaking French in front of me, and got to slickly follow them for a few steps (as a student of French, I rarely get the opportunity to listen to it in the real world). There were tons of nicer-than-normal airport restaurants, and many shops selling everything from “Property of Michigan XXL” tee-shirts to chic snakeskin luggage.

From Michigan we flew home to LAX, and arrived somewhat exhausted but pleased with our plethora of new friends around the country.

You might ask why I have said nothing about LAX so far. Well, let’s just put it this way: I would have said something about LAX if anything had stood out about it during my travels there. However, nothing comes to mind, except that I almost got whacked in the knee three times when people were pulling their luggage off of the baggage carousels.

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