Airports need not be just transfer hubs to and from adventures, they can also BE the adventure… This is my airport story. – view all days
*INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT | UNDISCLOSED, EUROPE
2:08 AM Still lit from our final puffs and edibles before getting on this flight from Amsterdam, I’m sleeping like an intoxicated baby passed out on a cloud.
2:16 AM That cloud suddenly solidifies into concrete as the jet’s wheels touches down back to Earth, jerking me awake to reality. We have arrived at Airport X of Country Z. Damn, I got the munchies, I need to be fed.
2:32 AM Kate grabs my arm and with so much sorrow, moans how bad her munchies are. I nod and tell her everything is going to be okay, as if the end of the world is nigh… The crew finally lets the passengers out.
2:46 AM It’s around this time that airports start to slow down into almost vast emptinesses. There’s something serene and fascinating about walking through such massive and modern structures with all the lights on and technologies active but with little to no other people.
2:58 AM We get to baggage claim and it’s just us and some of the fellow passengers, no one else, not even the staff in sight. Kate picks up her duffle.
3:01 AM Alright, now that’s settled, just 23 and a half more hours to go before our flight to Morocco.
3:06 AM Normal people would have stayed at a hotel overnight or have opted for a less crazy layover. But this was the plan, to stay here at Airport X for an entire day. You see, I have pull at this airport from previous work and now I have come back to play.
3:22 AM Now to take care of what’s important, satisfying our munchies. We find an empty McDonald’s and suddenly it doesn’t seem like the end of the world anymore. While feasting I have an epiphany, I love McyDees, but ONLY at airports – it’s the strangest thing.
3:31 AM On our way to the security office to meet my associate, we come across a huge Eureka tent pitched right under a staircase. I’ve seen sleeping bags and even luggage fortresses at airports but this was new. We peek inside and it’s an eclectic group of 5 or 6 backpackers sitting in a circle having some beer – only thing missing was a campfire. One of them sees us and invites us in… After a quick chat, we tell them we’ll come by later.
3:40 AM My associate sees us coming and warms us with a greeting like we’re royalty. He profusely thanks me for “everything” from back in the day then hands me a temporary security badge and Kate some access credentials. Now the fun begins.
3:48 AM Okay, maybe after some sleep… We get to the British Airways Executive Lounge and are let in with my badge. We put our bags in a locker, claim a lounge booth and we take turns taking a shower. Let me tell you, there are very few things better than a much needed shower when at an airport.
4:12 AM I grab a couple of Evian bottles then ask the attendant to wake us up at 5:59 AM. I join Kate and pass out on a luxurious sofa…
5:59 AM Yawn. The attendant wakes us up as promised with a couple of wonderfully aromatic mugs of coffee. I tell her I don’t drink coffee, so Kate quickly snatches my mug and the attendant comes back with hot chocolate. Such good service but all this first class treatment is just going to make our peasant class flight to Morocco kinda shitty… Time for breakfast.
6:21 AM We may fly like normals at high prices later but we’ll eat like elites now for free; lobster with beer for me and tilapia pasta with cappuccino for the lady.
6:30 AM And we’re running… We had to stop mid-breakfast and ghost. We forgot why we woke up so early, so we can watch the sunrise from the air traffic control tower on the other side of the airport… We have 16 minutes until the sun shows itself… Running…
6:43 AM Nice. My associate is waiting for us by the door as my badge won’t get me in there… Seconds left but this elevator is taking forever.
6:46 AM Here I am, in awe of a sunrise I thought would be cool just because we’re viewing it from a highly secure and rarely accessed ATC, but it’s actually quite stunning. Perhaps it’s the fumes and pollution from the all the airplanes and other vehicles against an otherwise empty vicinity. It’s almost as colorful and exotic as watching a sunrise from the peak of Batur Volcano.
6:57 AM My associate tells us to meet him at Gate X at 11:30 PM tonight for a very special surprise. But before leaving to go home for the day, he hands me a key with a unicorn toy attached to it and points his finger across the hall… It was a goddam BUGGY. Yesss!
7:00 AM He said we have exactly a half an hour of joyriding before we have to return it to the department. Zoom… We drive by the giant tent and honk, our new friends hop on the buggy leaving 1 poor sucker to tend to their gear. Zoom.
7:09 AM We don’t do much but drive around the endless corridors with one of the backpackers blasting his knockoff Beats by Dre bluetooth speaker with some old school Snoop Dogg. Yeah, we cool AF.
7:23 AM After dropping off the backpackers, Kate and I go all “Fast and Furious” to return the buggy in time. By “fast” and “furious” I mean maxing out at 25mph and gently taking turns.
7:30 AM Buggy returned.
7:42 AM Now back at the Executive Lounge, I put on my Jabra earbuds and put on some electronica to fall asleep to. Kate being the fitness freak she is, goes for a friggen run around the airport like it’s a track field… Zzz…
3:28 PM I don’t know how, but she managed to tuck herself in between my arms without waking me up after getting back from her run. Trying not to wake Sleeping Beauty, I tactically remove myself from her like a game of Operation. Maybe I shouldn’t have called her a fitness freak since the first thing I do after escaping is 4 sets of 50 pushups and 200 sit ups.
4:17 PM While watching President Trump do an outstanding job getting the rest of the world to hate us Americans even more on CNN, Kate emerges from sleep and like a zombie murmuring “braiiiins”, she instead says “coffeeeeee”…
4:19 PM By the time I get back with a mug, she’s already up, takes my hand instead of the coffee and leads me to the shower in a dash…
4:54 PM Well that was refreshing… We grab some late lunch from the gourmet buffet and eat while watching the planes land and takeoff through the glass.
5:31 PM We take a slow and romantic walk through the airport, eventually making it to the backpacking tent people. We hardly recognized them without the tent up as it was already packed for them to catch their flight. We said our goodbyes, exchanged Facebook and they left us with a full 6-pack of Asahi beer.
5:40 PM As if waiting on a street corner to hail a taxi during rush hour, we stand idly waiting for a buggy to come by as the hordes of passengers walk past us.
5:46 PM Finally, here comes one. I flash my badge and ask for the hangar, driver nods and we hop on.
6:02 PM We arrive but it’s not the hangar we wanted, it’s what’s behind it. A derelict storage facility that no one goes to. I can’t recall what show or movie I saw this in but I always wanted to do this as a kid; sword fight with long fluorescent light bulbs.
6:08 PM Hundreds of them just laying around! I find a couple of gas masks for us then we battle. We play like 12 year olds that are home alone with our parents on vacation for the first time.
6:20 PM Okay, that was fun for about 10 minutes. Moving on…
6:26 PM On our way back to the terminal, we see a 757 jet with the door wide open and the step ramp setup, begging us to come on in. We look around as if we’re about to do something bad, see no one and we step on up.
6:27 PM Have you seen ‘The Langoliers’ based on one of Stephen Kings’ stories? Well it terrified me when I first saw it late night decades ago as a child. That film was lost in my mind for years until the moment we stepped inside the aircraft. I wasn’t scared but I felt uncomfortable with those memories as a child creeping back. But that passed quickly and it become a very interesting experience.
6:28 PM We tried to access the cockpit to have a beer in the pilot seats but it was locked, damn. So we did the next best thing, cracked a couple open in first class.
6:59 PM Walking…
7:45 PM Tired, burnt and hungry, we relax on a comfy couch back at the Executive Lounge and watch the original Point Break movie on my laptop.
8:51 PM Still watching… McDonald’s delivery(!!!) arrives… Nom nom nom.
10:48 PM Zzz…
10:57 PM I get a text message from my airport security associate reminding me about our 11:30 PM rendezvous at Gate X… We bounce.
11:31 PM I hate being late, even by a minute, but we’re here. My associate has a baggage trolley with 2 cases of Hoegaarden beer… I like where this is going, and so we follow.
11:34 PM Let me tell you, walking on the tarmac through restricted areas during prime flight traffic hours at night of a major international airport is quite an experience, even for a jaded traveler like myself.
11:41 PM Now we’re right on an active runway. This is dope. “Whooooooooossssh!” Ah shit, that was a jet right on top of us landing!
11:45 PM We get to the end of this part of the runway, blocked by a diesel fence. At first it looks like retired jet tires were randomly dropped off here to block the fence. But a closer look and it’s obvious that they were carefully placed there to serve as “furniture”, confirmed by a half dozen airport staff using them as such.
11:46 PM Yeah, this is a party. Sick… We make introductions but it seems they all know me from the stories about me by my associate – their boss.
12:21 AM Every few minutes a jet lands and every time is like an earthquake and airquake(whatever that is) simultaneously going off. It’s hella exciting and gets everyone wild… What a fu*king venue.
1:52 AM Shit, boarding for our flight is in less than 20 minutes! My associate gets on the radio.
1:58 AM Buggy arrives… We say farewell to our new friends, grab a beer for the road and we bounce.