I may be a white knuckle flyer but I love airports, especially good airports. Reagan National, since being made over, is an airport gem. I wish they had apartments in the terminal. I would live there. Dulles was a gem, but its owners ruined it with overdevelopment. Back in the "Come Fly With Me" era, Dulles was actually a dinner destination for Washingtonians. At the rear of the main concourse, between the docking bays for the shuttle buses, they had a sleek and sophisticated restaurant that overlooked the airport. At night the runways were up close (there was no mid-field terminal) and they were marked with lights that included white but also dazzling cornflower blue and fire engine red. It was possible to sit at a window table, white tablecloth, flowers, crystal wine glasses, silver flatware, excellent food and service, and the entertainment was to watch 747's land and take-off. It was romantic, especially if seeing someone off or meeting someone. Or, even just for the fun of it.
Quietly, but effectively, flight announcements could be heard in the dining room. "Air France to Paris, boarding now;" "British Airways to London, boarding now;" "Pan Am to Rome, boarding now;" "TWA to Los Angeles, boarding now." And so on. Whenever I had a dinner date at Dulles I always brought along my passport -- just in case.
They also had very swanky private clubs and lounges, especially the Concorde lounge, where Dom Perignon was the house drink. Sigh. I was fortunate to fly the British Concorde a half dozen times, and the French a couple of times. Memorable, exceptional experiences. Those were the days. But even subsonic flying was a treat. I remember TWA having actual menus in the back of the plane, not just up front, and the menus had choices among steak, chicken or fish. I remember wine lists, cocktails in actual glasses (again, in economy), and nice blankets and pillows. Flying was hot, not just transportation, not the ordeal it is today.
But back to Reagan. Even though I didn't sell piles and piles of books at the Borders there yesterday (we sold some) it was still a treat to spend a few hours in the concourse, observing. I watched the human comings and goings, the rituals, the pace of those passing through mixed with the ambling of those with jobs in the building, going about their business. So much about an airport is well-oiled, smooth, calm, as it should be. The psychology is very clear: soothe the passenger, prepare the passenger to step aboard a metal tube and zoom through the air at hundreds of miles an hour. The calm creates a sense of security.
There are distractions, of course. The shops and restaurants, which are welcomed. The scent of Cinnabon, which overwhelms and should be called Sinabon. The Transportation Security Administration checkpoints, irritating but unavoidable, a fact of modern life. Reagan offers soaring architecture, too. The floors shine like fresh ice. I want to skate on them in socks. Or do cartwheels from one end to the other. Or be the person who runs the buffer. How rewarding.
I've always thought Reagan would be a great place to produce a TV talk show. Back when I was one of the show's producers I thought Larry King Live should have moved its studio there. I'd still like to see a daily syndicated "live" talk show originate from there and, yes, I wouldn't mind at all being the producer and host. The guests would be all those marvelous people passing through, each with stories to tell, each coming from something, going to something, and mixed in with them would be the usual suspects, the notables, the newsmakers.
Jon Moss and I once looked into opening The Q&A Cafe at the airports. It would serve both as an airport bar, modeled a little on Nathans, but also a media-centric restaurant packed with TV's broadcasting the news from every global network, ipad like devices built into the tables (much like the juke boxes of old), where patrons could call up whatever media they wanted to read or watch. Youtube terminals, and racks of old school newspapers and magazines. We'd also use it for taping my show and re-running past interviews. It was a good idea. Why didn't it happen? Money, of course. I had none.
Yesterday at my signing table, with my "Please Buy My Book" plea before me on the table (after I had to take down from the glass), I spent time talking to passengers, pilots, airport staff, but in between I let my mind wander to all the possibilities of interesting ways the concourse could be used to communicate. Ooooh, that would be a fun job, and it would be almost living there.