Caitlin Ferrarini experiences culture shock at a small-city airport.

Image from x-ray delta one

I LOVE AIRPORTS. Not in the Love Actually, it’s heartwarming to see people who miss people and who have been missed, kind of way. And I’m not talking about the anticipation that new hiking boots in my backpack and a ticket in my hand can bring.

I love airports in the same way I love airplanes. An airport is a place I can sit with a coffee and a book, and where I usually do not have the ability to wikipedia every fifth word in the book.

I love airports, but I have observed that all people working in airports — in any capacity — hate their lives. This was my accepted truth, anyways, until I flew out of Spokane International in eastern Washington.

Here’s how that went, juxtaposed with a typical experience at my home airport of Boston Logan.

Spokane International, 7:00AM

ID checker / Boarding pass scribbler: “How you folks doing?” “Oh Crampes, I’ve never heard that, is it French?” “Well, you’re certainly not going to need that arctic jacket in Sedona, lucky duck.” “Joan and Michael, how is Tim doing now? He’s selling cars, AND just had his second little one. Wonderful, wonderful!”

“Caitlin, that’s usually with a K, right?”

Me: (Keep in mind, it’s 7:00AM and I’m about to enter the airport security line. Even if I had stayed at the airport hotel, which is unlikely, think about what time I must have woken up. Further, please note that my hotel did not serve complimentary coffee.)

“Sometimes.”

ID checker / Boarding pass scribbler: “Ah, sometimes,” in a tone that tells me he thinks I’m a cold-hearted New Englander.

Boston Logan, 7:00AM

Me: Hi, how are ya?

ID checker / Boarding pass scribbler: Possible grunt. Eye contact lasts 0.2 seconds while he looks at my license and then me, which I’m pretty sure is a part of his job required by law.

Spokane International, 7:30AM

As the TSA official in the security line takes the third bag in a row back through the scanner: “Folks, liquids need to be separated from your carry on.” He shakes his head with a smile that says, “Ah, you knuckleheads.”

Boston Logan, 7:45AM

As the TSA official in the security line takes a bag back through the scanner, she shouts with the condescending cadence used by wrinkly Catholic nuns to teach multiplication tables:

“People, liquids must be separated from your carry on. You are holding everyone up. There is clear signage. Read it. There are pictures on the signage if you cannot read. Separate your liquids. That includes water bottles. That includes breakfast yogurt. That includes lotions. And perfumes. Take off your belts. Take off your shoes. Socks may remain on your feet. This is not difficult, people.”

She shakes her head with a look of disgust that says, “You are all idiots.”

Spokane International 8:45AM

I am last to board the aircraft and am required to check my carry-on. I am annoyed that the time spent the previous night sitting on the toilet seat arranging a perfect Tetris-like baggie of 3oz bottles of shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, etc. has proved futile.

But once on board with a book in my hands, a drink cart full of Starbucks on the way, and no smart phone accessibility, I am at peace. I can’t text my roommate to tell her about the crazy ID checker / Boarding pass scribbler. I have some time, about five hours, to think about my experience in this small-town Pacific Northwest airport.

And I write a few phrases in my journal, which I want to look up later: Spokane happiness rates, Boston happiness rates, Crampes, common spellings of Caitlin, number of flights missed at Spokane airport, number of flights missed at Logan airport, breakfast yogurt vs. non-breakfast yogurt.