My flights to California have been, for the most part, trouble-free. My last trip, however, ended up taking a lot longer than usual. I was trapped all evening in an architectural limbo that would tax the most dedicated photographer.
Midway between Dallas and San Francisco, a passenger had an issue with his heart. We made an unscheduled landing in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The paramedics rushed in as soon as we landed and escorted the older man to a nearby ambulance. Luckily, he was at least upright and walking with assistance. A planned quick landing and refueling took longer than expected. A lot longer.
Our landing damaged one of the tires. Something about being heavier than normal — since we had more fuel — which caused the problem. Apparently, 737 tires are not very common in Albuquerque and had to be flown in. I guess a trip to the local Discount Tire wouldn’t suffice. We need to wait at least 5 hours to get the replacement. If all went well, we’ll be ready to leave by 10pm.
My usual desire to explore airport architecture would do no good here. The 80’s or 90’s era airport had all the charm of a shopping mall on the wrong side of town. The kind that’s past its peak and clearly hasn’t been updated in a while. The place was clean and well maintained. It was just oppressively boring. The muted southwestern colors and long featureless utilitarian architecture was not worth the click of a digital photo. Dynamic modern architecture is nice but just give me interesting. If it was some old, run down 50s or 60s era structure, at least there would be some character.
This dynamic sculpture, at the mid-point of the airport, was the only worthwhile photo opportunity. Called “Dream of Flight” by Santa Fe artist, Lincoln Fox, notice it’s surrounded by the best in 80’s mall design. Perhaps its simple lines purposely intending to contrast the textured sculpture. Long ago, before cost benefit calculations, public places had grandeur. A sense that a shared space like a train station, library or courthouse should be something special. Somewhere we lost this. Things are looking up though. Newer airports that I’ve visited are investing in better architecture. I think people realize that the airport is the gateway to the city. A cheap airport reflects poorly on the host city.
We were all boarded at 10:30 and ready to go but then an engine wouldn’t start. Somehow, I made it to SFO at 1:30am and to the hotel by 2:30am (4:30am Texas time). I was originally scheduled to land at 5pm. Ultimately, a memorable but not too terrible experience. I had a nice dinner and talk with a guy from Scotland. I also created a souvenir photo of an important piece of art — one that has the difficult mission of adding character to a large generic box of an airport.
Finally, I think about the old man with the heart condition. Hopefully he is resting comfortably and the flight detour was in time for him to make a strong recovery.
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