Much of modern American society is increasingly standardized — and soulless. Chain restaurants abound and have pretty much eliminated the unique local establishments. You see the same stores in every mall, and the malls themselves have similar designs. Suburban developments offer a choice of only one or two models with negligible distinctions, and the result is acres of tidy, mind-numbing sameness.
The beating heart of the American generic zone, however, must be the airport hotels — the lodging options found on, or just outside, the grounds of every major metropolitan airport. By definition and design, these hotels exist to serve the transients — the weary travelers who’ve either missed their connection or are spending the night because they’ve got an early morning flight and don’t want to risk missing it due to traffic jams.
And so I found myself in an airport hotel next to LAX. The name doesn’t matter, because as I walked past them I saw that they all looked the same. They all feature a coffee shop and a restaurant of sorts, and the lobby design is as basic, inoffensive, and functional as can possibly be achieved — because nobody chooses an airport hotel for its distinctive architectural flourishes or its beautifully manicured grounds. The windows look out onto uninspired scenes of constant traffic and squat airport outbuildings, so there’s really no reason to open the curtains — which just accentuates the dreary sameness. The rooms themselves are spartan, neutrally decorated, and offer unbrand furnishings and coffees. (The coffee option offered in my room is creatively named “Guest Choice” — honest!)
But I’ve survived my dip into the epicenter of the generic world, and now I’ll head off to LAX and its concourses, mentally prepared to endure the inevitable sightings of Starbucks outlets and the other common outposts of commerce found in every airport in the Land of the Free, and sit in a gate area that looks like any other. Today, I’m just another generic traveler in a generic land.