Douglas Adams said it best.
"It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on Earth has ever produced the expression 'as pretty as an airport.'"
BWI isn't the most dismal place I've ever had to spend the night, for sure - not even the least welcoming airport* where I've stretched out on or under the chairs, hugged my bag close (teetering on the border between vigilance and paranoia, thanks to the regular intercom reminders to Watch Your Belongings), and flirted with sleep. Its corridors are wide enough to lean against the wall and stretch out one's legs without too much fear of tripping the few passers-by - other travellers on layovers of their own, or the night crew. There's the heavy reliance on steel-framed glass walls and the vaguely aeronautical or zephyric art installations and the particular shade of "greige" ceiling tiles - all so recognizable to frequent travellers that the place seems half-familiar, like the suddenly clear memory of a recurring childhood dream, even though it's my first time passing through.
But even with that small warm flicker of recognition to take off the edge, this is not a pretty or comfortable place. Airports are like hospitals in that no one wants to be in or around them for very long, and the architect's affectations at creating pleasant, lounge-like spaces always seem to fall just short. One too many awkward angles poke into one's ribs as one stretches out on those strange rows of seating, halfway between benches and individual but fused chairs; one too few inches of padding swaddle the seats that seem curved to fit an amalgam of all butts, and therefore no single butt.
Everyone makes the best of it, of course, and with the right mindset that's not difficult. I'm warm enough in the folds of my scarf-cum-blanket, and have thus far avoided the worst of the stiffness with regular stretching. Richard Shindell hasn't yet tired of singing me to a bittersweet state of distraction and daydreams, if not quite sleep. When I don't want to see either the screen or the inside of my eyelids, I study my fellow travellers, trying to guess where they're headed or idly weaving them into stories where they fight and love and rediscover the earth with me after some massive cataclysmic event leaves only we happy few alive.
After all, Limbo isn't hell, and layovers don't last forever. A little time spent in the in-between spaces of the world and a forced adherence to an externally set schedule doesn't have to be a terrible event. If nothing else, this is a terrific place to watch the sun rise.
One more hour.
*** CAK in the wee hours, darkened but with disembodied voices bouncing up the corridors, is extremely depressing.