If this all sounds familiar, it’s hopefully because you remember this post from last year, and not because all my posts about flying sound the same (although I suppose that would be its own commentary on the nature of the gig these days…). I’m reposting this Rhapsody in Blue and Green about my favoritest of all airports for the benefit of those among you who may wonder why (or, for that matter, how) I set my upcoming erotic romance almost entirely on Vancouver International Airport property. You Again? is a short, sexy love story about When Henry Met Zack that gets kinda hot kinda right away. Sure, to the casual reader, it’s about sex, it’s about expectations, and it’s about beauty and the eye of the beholder. But if it’s True Romance you’re looking for, remember: Greater love hath no man than a flight attendant for his favorite airport.
When last I featured a City Code Snapshot, it was of our isolated airport layover in Houston. I am a frequent and vocal critic of — OK, whiner about — lengthy airport layovers and their high boredom factor, as you will by now have noticed. Thus I feel like there is a certain amount of poetic justice in the fact that my very favorite of all airport layovers — the one for which I single-mindedly bid to the exclusion of any other factor, and for which I shamelessly whore myself on the trade board — is in one of the most glittering and glamorous cities in North America.
I don’t care if I never see downtown Vancouver on a layover again, as long as we continue to luxuriate in these posh airport digs, and from me that’s pretty big talk. The five-star hotel is not just attached to the airport, but is perched feet from the USA Departures terminal, and the view from the relaxation chamber that other hotels might try to pass off as a mere “room” is very often of the airplane that has delivered you there. But not to worry: if this reminder of your fast-approaching a.m. departure threatens to foul your mood, the blinds are easily closed, noiselessly and automatically, at the push of a button beside your comfy bed. I am generally only too happy to complain about these airport-adjacent hotels — I see plenty of airplanes, thank you, without having to look at them out my hotel window or lay awake listening to them scream in and out of town. But the main feature of the Vancouver airport layover is the long, deep — and sparkling clean — soaking tub, and frankly there are nights when the 5-minute stroll from the suspicious and swarthily handsome customs agent to the smiling and solicitous front desk staff of what amounts to your own personal spa cuts into tub time; the distance from arrival gate to lobby can reasonably be measured in feet, and most nights I’m in such a rush to slip beneath the bubbles that I wish it was closer. And I come prepared for Vancouver Tub Time. Candles, wine, yummy bubbles — I have speakers for my iPod purchased and packed specifically for the acoustics of this very bathroom, and a selection of chill-out playlists to help wash away even the stubbornest care or woe. And the night I ended up there on an unforeseen reassignment without my bubble bath — potentially a very stubborn woe — the toothsome and accommodating youth at the front desk did not hesitate to fetch some from the spa and deliver it to my room himself.
My biggest complaint about airport layovers, of course, is that There’s nothing to do. As a rule, airport terminals offer very little in the way of entertainment, and when your layover is across the street from or physically adjacent to the airport, even the shortest layover offers up at least a few hours to kill. Starbucks takes ten minutes, and then what? YVR might be the only airport I wander around where I need to keep one eye on the clock, lest I stray too far and be late for my trip. One short, easy “domestic” leg (in terms of service) from home, it’s every inch a “real” International Airport (in a way that, say, the Tulsa International Airport is not), with its snaking late-night lines of people going through rolls of packing tape readying boxes for the long haul home to India and the Philippines, barefoot bearded backpackers snoozing in piles in front of the all-night Euro-Charter check-in counters. Slickly outfitted cabin crews from overseas airlines, regulation hair-dos lacquered into place, criss-cross the terminal, and the few announcements are made at a demure volume in several languages. The bookstores are interesting, many of the souvenir shops feature local artists and indigenous Canadian art, and the retro philosophy behind the Public Observation Deck makes the whole place an automatic throw-back to the more exotic days of air travel, whisking me back to my own early days snoozing, bearded if not barefoot, on top of my backpack in little airports in places like Luxembourg. (While meant to allow the Public to Observe the comings and goings of a busy airport, the “Public Observation Deck” is also a grand place for Observing the Public, many of whom at this particular airport are all broad shoulders and big feet, handsome faces representing more backgrounds than all but the most inclusive of beauty pageants.)
I labor under few delusions about my job. Anymore, unless the airplane skids off the runway or a passenger drops dead, we’re expected to hand out Cokes (or, on flights to YVR and other Canadian airports, tomato juice of all non-refreshing refreshments) and keep the pages of Us magazine from sticking together by flipping them past the same hundred photos of every blessed thing that can be considered even tangentially Kardashian. When the crews from my airline, this author included, criss-cross the terminal, our outfits are not slick, and our hair is almost never regulation; we’re usually eating popcorn, and we are frequently trailed by a cloud of Duty Free cologne “samples.” My passion for bubble baths is real and should not be underestimated, but other hotels (albeit ones that I no longer visit from the Denver base) have glamorous bathtubs. I think the real reason I’m so in love with the Vancouver airport is the way, with its observation deck and its polyglot people-watching, it makes flying seem fancy and fun again. If only for the duration of a layover.