(First written in 2010, a reflection on the traveling season.)
Are riff-raff runways in America’s future? I’ll bet you didn’t know that Europe has had them for years, at least since the fall of the Berlin Wall nearly 30 years ago,
I’ve flown through most every major European hub, Heathrow and Gatwick in London, Amsterdam, Zurich, Frankfurt, Munich, DeGaulle in Paris, Vienna…always headed for points east. Each has its own peculiar charm (or lack thereof) and its own ambiance, but clearly their design is intended to keep the more olive-skinned, dressed-down Valdemars and over-painted Ellie Mae’s from rubbing elbows with the blondies from Dusseldorf waiting for a flight to Madrid. After all, no one in Dusseldorf would go to Skopje unless he absolutely had to.
Instead, there is a single terminal for all those points east (read “dark points”) while der sonnenkinder traffic arrive and depart in other terminals amidst their own.
The funny thing is that I don’t think the Europeans even notice it, or would admit it is planned. “Eezz normal” (stress on the second syllable) as they say in Moscow…to separate people by class in this way. Of the bunch, DeGaulle, Gatwick and Vienna stand out most in my memory, but for varying reasons. While every “plane station” has a riff-raff terminal, it’s said deGaulle even has riff-raff runways, although I actually doubt it. But after three hours in a well lit beautiful concourse, inhabited exclusively with dingy-clad east Europeans, feisty Asians and non-francophone Africans (I checked their departures) we are taken down to a bus, which drives around for twenty-thirty minutes and empties us on a parking strip that is visible to the terminal only with binoculars, where our aircraft is parked, and we board like an old DC-3 at National in 1960, only no Pall Mall to crush out before climbing the stairs. Then we taxi across several perfectly functioning runways to one headed in an entirely different angle than the others, amidst tall trees. I felt like the Mississippi State basketball team trying to sneak out of the state in order to play Loyola in 1963. While almost everyone is traveling to Philadelphia or New York, there are always a few headed to Pottstown[…]