Toronto – As I sat waiting for my connecting flight in Reykjavik just three weeks ago – rushing from my makeshift home in Amsterdam to my hometown in Canada – I looked around at the collective rhyme of Canadians. I thought about how life ‘before’ had rolled to a near-standstill: in line for flight check-in, a man told me he had been pursuing his dream of biking around Europe on his motorcycle. At customs, an architect shared he had gone to visit his daughter who, having fallen love with a Dane, now lives abroad with her boyfriend in Copenhagen. As luck would have it, in the plane I sat down next to two philosophers, one a PhD candidate and the other an expatriate university professor. ‘Ah, what field is your specialty?’ asked the younger of the two. ‘Principally, the phenomenology of vision.’ The professor turned to looks at me, as if to explain, ‘Somehow, we don’t all see in the same way.’
What are the roles of airports in culture? They are of course, transit hubs – incredible tools of commerce; part of the reason my Amazon Prime order arrives before six on a Friday, ensuring I have a gift for an eight o’clock birthday dinner that same night. They are the reason the husband of a former colleague – a banker by profession – can fly out of Pearson into JFK airport on a Monday morning, work a 40-hour week in New York, and be back in Toronto for dinner that same Friday. Every week. An airport’s size and its roster of destinations is the weight of its global economic worth.