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The Airport, Chanel, and Fifteen Year Old Me
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by Josh Lee
2018 Spectator Ron - The Spectator All Rights Reserved
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joshlee008@gmail.com
Growing up on an island in the middle of the Pacific meant that as a child, traveling somewhere was a real event. A neighbor island, California, Seattle -- it didn't matter where. The experience of arriving at the airport to go on a trip was to me like arriving at Le Grand Palais in Paris to attend a Chanel runway show for a fashionista. The intricate choreography of aircraft movement, the synthesized PA announcements, and the uncomfortable standard-issue airport seats all came together to create a sensory experience that captured my imagination. As a teenager, I dreamed of being a jet setting traveler when I grew up, privileged enough to embark on this exhilarating experience on the regular like all the people I saw, so nonchalant about being at the airport about to catch a plane to somewhere new.

I dreamed of being a part of the early days of the Jet Age, where one would dress in their finest suits, slacks, and gloves. I dreamed of women in Chanel tweed and men in Brooks Brothers wool. I imagined waltzing through the PanAm World Port with the most glamorous eschaton of society. Women wearing pastel suits with matching hat and gloves, carrying the Hermes Sac à dépêches (what we know today as the Kelly bag) and men who could all have the last name Kennedy.

Yeah I was a half century late to that party and that Boeing 707 had long since departed. But to me, travel still had a faint hint of that vintage glamor. And I cherished every last bit of it.

Fast forward ten years and I'm in the air at least once a month for work, often more, not accounting for leisure.

Every time I pass through security and have to sort my life into the government-issued containers, I can't help but wonder when this modern age of tech is going to meet the TSA. Which is not to say that they don't have "tech," but in a world where my car can drive itself and monitor my vital stats and I can summon almost anything from my smartphone anywhere in the world in under five minutes. why can't I just breeze on through security with the same level of ease? I mean, how dare the government order me to remove my $450 boots and put my designer carry on in some disgusting bin? You mean to tell me that we haven't figured out a way to scan people without them taking off all their clothes and shoes? And that's not even really effective. As a designer, there have been many times I've accidentally left my X-Acto knife set in my work bag. And you know how many times I've been stopped and asked about it? ZERO.

Now my brain power is preoccupied by maximizing efficiency en route. I must get through security as quickly as possible and connect to the airport wifi so I may get back online and get some work done in that precious hour between clearing security and boarding. And let me tell you -- that euphoric amazement of getting to the airport and going through security and hearing the PA voice and last glimmer of the sixties has completely lost its luster.

Actually that's not entirely true. I make a point of dressing nicely when I travel. Not Canali suit nicely, but I always make sure that there's a collar on my shirt, my shoes match my belt, I have a flattering, tailored jacket folded away in my carry-on, which is always a classic design from a European label. That I'm traveling for business doesn't even factor into the equation. I just can't imagine how little one must care to wear sweatpants and your finest sleeping t-shirt to travel to your destination.

I insist on flying first or business whenever I travel for work. And it's not for the perks in the air. Let's get real: airline seats are a joke, no matter what cabin or class you're in. There is no Dom offered to you upon boarding and you're lucky to get a glass made of glass anymore. The real perk of first class is the expedited security line and the priority boarding. No I will not stand in the oppressive 1 hour long security line. And no I will not take part in the mad dash to be the first in your zone line and then have to stand there for another forty minutes until your zone is actually called. Finally, no I will not stand around at baggage claim waiting forever for my bag. Anyone who says that modern day people in the first world have lost all patience and are obsessed with instant gratification has clearly never gone through the motions in an international airport recently.

It's that kind of absolute nonsense that just shocks me. Why hasn't some start up with some dumbass name (something like Flyr or ARport) and a terrible logo been spawned to fix these issues? Where's the Uber equivalent for TSA screening or the Lyft for boarding? I could care less about laundry on demand and renting my own car out (like hell I'd ever let anyone drive my car anyway) or whatever. Why is all the ripe innovative brain power not being focused on the areas where it could actually make a considerable difference? Surely there are great minds who could solve the airport problem in an afternoon and have hedge fund backing by 10AM the next morning.

So yeah. Dear fifteen-year-old self, sometimes the grass isn't greener on the other side. I achieved my dream of being a frequent flier and lemme just tell you, it ain't all it's cracked up to be. I treasure with great nostalgia those feelings of near-explosive excitement that I remember having as a child. Sometimes they're the only thing that gets me through the dreaded airport experience.

I can't help but wonder: does the airport have a future?