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Joy and Wonder at the Detroit Airport

Written by Zoe Weil | 3 Comments | Published on December 10, 2012 | Filed under Humane Connection
The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Humane Education website at http://humaneeducation.org/blog/2012/12/10/joy-and-wonder-at-the-detroit-airport/
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Image courtesy random letters via Creative Commons.

I travel on average about a week each month for work, which means I spend a lot of time in airports. Travel has become more and more challenging and unpleasant (crowded planes and tighter seats, delays, hours spent on runways, meager food service even on long trips, etc.), but the airports themselves have become more and more pleasant and accommodating. LaGuardia has a huge salad bar with lots of options for vegans like me; chair massage spas are popping up all over; and free wifi and charging stations are expanding, making it possible to work during layovers and not have my computer run out of battery power.

It’s because of these changes that I don’t mind long layovers. They’re less stressful than short layovers, during which I’m too often running a mile through a terminal with my backpack on and my wheeled suitcase behind me saying, “Excuse me! Excuse me!” as I race to make a tight connection.

Recently, I had a long layover at the Detroit Airport, which is my favorite airport in the U.S. Why? Because of two artistic additions. In the atrium in the very middle of the airport there is a fountain that I could stare at for hours. The plumes of water are like dancers, beautifully and surprisingly choreographed. But it is the tunnel connecting Terminal A to Terminals B and C that often fills me with joy and wonder. Joy and wonder? In an airport?!

As one descends the long escalator to the tunnel, one is greeted by a music and light show. The translucent walls of the tunnel are designed to look like a cross between a seascape, a mountainscape, and a cloudscape, and behind the walls are ever-changing lights in a rainbow of colors. Choreographed to the music, the lights illuminate the walls and ceiling, undulating, moving, dancing. It is a gorgeous work of art.

So when I am not in a rush, I stand still on the moving walkway and just watch. And no matter how far I have traveled, how long or arduous the journey, or whether I have spent a night in an airport hotel because I’ve missed a connection somewhere, I always smile.

I’m aware that the tunnel may be using more electricity than if it were simply lit with fluorescent lights. I’m aware that such extra use of energy takes its toll; but I appreciate that the planners of this airport thought to bring art into our experience, and that this art makes a world of difference.

Yes, I experience joy and wonder in the Detroit airport. Imagine that.

~ Zoe

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDxConejo talk: “Solutionaries”
My TEDxDirigo talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach
My TEDxYouth@BFS “Educating for Freedom”

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About Zoe Weil

Zoe is the co-founder and president of the Institute for Humane Education She's the author of several books, including Most Good, Least Harm; Above All, Be Kind; and The Power and Promise of Humane Education. See her TEDx talk, "The World Becomes What You Teach": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5HEV96dIuY

Contact Zoe View all articles by Zoe Weil


KP says:

I have the joy of being at the Detroit Airport often since I live in Detroit! :) I absolutely love going through the tunnel and as you said, no matter how long my travel day has been, it always reminds me that I am home and makes me forget for a moment that I am in an airport. I am so happy you chose to write about this!

Scott @ DTW says:

We’re delighted to hear how much you enjoy spending time at DTW! It’s a pleasure having you with us. Just so you (and your readers) are aware, the light show behind the glass is generated entirely by LEDs. In fact, it was the largest LED lighting installation when it debuted in 2002. So, the tunnel art is nearly as engery efficient as it is energizing!Happy Travels!Scott @ DTW Public AffairsWayne County Airport Authority

Zoe Weil says:

Scott, I’m DELIGHTED to hear about the LEDs! Thanks so much for posting this on my blog. I’ll be back in Detroit in January and, as always, will look forward to my trip through the tunnel :)