(Writing this from a hotel lobby in Mexico City’s airport. Muzak playing in the background. LED TV sets behind me, the noises of each set fighting over the next one.)
I could not book a hotel for the night, I am desperate.
Airports have always made me anxious. I don’t know what it is, I think it’s something in their design as threshold spaces, as spaces of transit. Everyone is welcome in airports, as long as they have the right credentials to move across. Remaining static means not keeping up with the function of the place. Staying for a night in an airport is poaching, it is occupying foreign grounds.
I left New York City for a flight to Cancun, via Mexico City. I came out of Manhattan at 9am and barely made it to my flight. Picture me running with the stewardess across JFK to get through security, fast.
My wallet must have slipped out of my pockets during this olympic run. I found out about it during my layover in Mexico City, the moment I ordered a check for a not-so-cheap meal at an airport restaurant.
I freaked out, there was no way that I could pay for the meal. No cash, no plastic, nothing. Ze-ro.
The time was ticking, I had to board my plain to Cancun, but I had no wallet, and there was no way that I could get out of the restaurant without paying. Everything was out of focus, I didn’t know if I should tell the waiter about my conundrum, board my flight, or go back to my old airplane to look for my wallet. The world was spinning round and round. I must have looked like a crazy guy, packing and unpacking my suitcases in the middle of the restaurant, searching for my wallet.
I talked to the manager of the restaurant, telling him my situation. He was helpful, telling me that I could pay on the way back on the way back. I was forever grateful (this would have never happened in NYC) , but it didn’t mean my wallet was going to be restored. Or that I would get to my flight.
The fear and anxiety of loosing my wallet made me loose my airplane ticket. I was going insane, walking back and forth from terminal to terminal trying to sort what was the important task that I needed to take next. I missed my flight. I had no money. I had no place to stay for the night. I was fucked.
Transactions needed to be made but I had no means to do them with. I went around the terminal like crazy, getting on the internal airtrain 4 times in a row. I walked the whole length of the airport, I was desperate. I didn’t know where to turn, or how.
It is ironic: in an era where economic transactions have become so virtual, material things like money and credit cards are more important than ever. These objects are props that allow you to participate in certain circuits of exchange. They are portable identities, a way to ‘show your credentials’ in an anonymous places, like airports.
There’s a second irony: in an era where media has allegedly made physical boundaries obsolete, spaces of transportation still need filters to let people around. I was cut off from circulation because I didn’t have the right credentials. The physicality of the airport become important, it became more apparent now that I was stuck in it.
I used the roaming capabilities of my US phone to call my family in Cancun. Family: that social cushion that is always there when I need them the most. My family, in Cancun, called and uncle that lives in this city. I am writing this while waiting for him to come and pick me up.
6 hours stuck in an airport without money or plane tickets made me feel like a stranger in my own city. But now, as I poach from this hotel lobby’s wifi connection, I know everything will be alright. Saved by the network.