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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