A Great Plains Airport

On the morning of August 31, 2013, Molly and I took an early morning flight from Fargo to Buffalo, New York, with a connecting flight in Chicago. That morning in Fargo’s Hector airport, while we waited to board our flight, I typed out a description of my surroundings. The trinity takeaway from Buffalo: it is the birthplace of Richard Hofstadter and the Buffalo chicken wing, and it is also the city where Teddy Roosevelt was inaugurated after McKinley died from an assassin’s bullet.

Okay, enough of that. Here is the late-August 2013 Fargo airport description in unadulterated form:

It’s 5:12AM at the Fargo Airport, Gate 5, and Molly and I are waiting for the United Chicago flight to board around 5:30. I thought I’d give some descriptions of my surroundings, as this airport has a different social atmosphere than the Chicago hub we’re flying into.

The view: there are about 15 of us so far, waiting to board. A slow trickle of passengers continues advancing toward their respective gates in the terminal. A lot of us are wearing sandals or easily removable shoes. This is for utility, as they are easier to slide off and on when entering and exiting the security checkpoints.

The terminal itself has strip-mall aesthetics (in fact, it is unusual today to be in new construction that is non-strip mall-like). The color scheme is grey, blue, peach, and terracotta. Molly thinks elementary schools used to have this color scheme in the late-80s, at least around these parts, and at least if they were new back then. “New” is an elusive word, like “modern.” The floor and ceiling are carpet, and the walls smooth either with paint or wallpaper. Lighting here is recessed halogen fluorescent, or whatever they are called.

It is dark in the early morning outside too. It is pitch black out there, the “United Express” logo on the plane illuminated by exterior lighting. Within the windows, we can only see the reflection of our Gate. There are three plants at Gate 5 too. They look real. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has static signage near this gate, too, an information booth on local species.

The sounds: a steady gentle hum persists from the black rectangular vending machine. It rattles occasionally, as the refrigeration compressor keeps the beverages cool. A couple of the families have young children, and they are a bit chatty. Other conversation, at least amongst the adults, is muffled. There is a silent kind of still, folks a bit groggy from getting up at 3:30 or 4:00AM, and others wanting to respect the quiet associated with this morning hour. A hum outside, toward the plane, is also audible. The conversations increase as we draw nearer to the boarding time, and as more and more folks arrive.

The sensation: some folks feel like they want to sleep, but can’t. But they so would like to. Everyone knows that in 10 or 17 or 23 minutes or so, we will be asked to board the plane. For myself, there is slight warmth in my forehead, a kind that a person sometimes feels when without enough sleep.

The smells: it smells similar to a hospital waiting room with occasional whiffs of coffee.


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