There are no good stories of air travel. Passengers, often paying high prices for heavily delayed, crowded flights, can expect to face indifferent ticketing agents, long security lines, and sometimes hostile airline policy, which might demand you give up your seat, even if you paid for it. The discomfort has been routinized into regular bits by mediocre comics. We accept it as the condition of getting somewhere we must or want to be. Airports themselves are cold, lonely spaces, where you are directed to either shop or get out, seemingly designed, in part, to heighten your anxiety, insisting that you must wait, but not for too long.
In these strange places, there is seldom access to an outside and most comforts are reserved for frequent fliers and the wealthy. Secluded within the airport, the luxury lounge is a kind of private garden of reclining chairs and martini glasses; its sliding glass doors open to reveal a glimpse of a warmly-inviting room administered by a friendly concierge, but, unless she flies often and pays the heavy fees of admission, the typical traveler is not permitted to enter.
In some airports, there are smoking rooms–glass cubes where employees of the airport and its restaurants as well as travelers can take a break and light up. In their way, they represent an architectural antithesis to the pay-per-use, priority lounges where the upper class decamp among couches and little beds, before or in between flights. They are typically transparent, as if the smokers were swimming in the cloudy waters of an aquarium, their habit placed on display for non-smokers, those without a cigarette, or anyone else for that matter who passes by. Should I bum one since I left my pack at home? Will it ease my nerves? How will I smell? Will it look strange for me to sit there, posed on a reeking pleather chair, facing a long runway of taxiing jets glinting in the sunlight?