Thursday night found us in the cell phone lot of the Columbus airport, waiting for the arrival of a delayed plane at about 11:30 p.m.
When you think about it, the cell phone lot is a pretty weird place. There you are, cheek by jowl with total strangers, with everyone’s cars packed tightly together. And yet, while you are in close absolute physical proximity, in the sense that the cars and their drivers are literally right next to each other, there is a strong feeling of near complete emotional separation. Everyone remains ensconced in their own little tightly controlled, specially heated or cooled vehicular cocoon, typically with their car in park and their engine humming, paying close attention to their cell phones.
In the cell phone lot, no one acknowledges the people in other cars. No, even eye contact and a simple nod would somehow violate the perverse etiquette of the place. In the cell phone lot, we’re all just there on our own, waiting for that call or a text, like lost souls in purgatory hoping to be summoned to our final destination.
At the Columbus airport lot, there are two curiosities. One is a sign that says you can’t stay in the cell phone lot for more than an hour. An hour? In the psychically sterile cell phone lot, which gives off the ultimate in transient, leave me alone and get me out of here vibes? Even 10 minutes in the lot is soul-crushing.
The other is a picnic table located right next to the lot. I’ve never seen anyone sitting at that table, and I expect I never will. Leave aside for a moment that a spot right next to a parking lot full of cars in idle, leaking exhaust, wouldn’t exactly be the kind of pastoral setting you look for in picnics — not only does no one in the cell phone lot want to leave their cars, they don’t want to see anyone else leave their cars, either. If someone exited their car to sit at the picnic table, I’d predict that the other cars would immediately reposition themselves to form an empty buffer zone between themselves and the person who is breaching all perceived rules of modern behavior and is probably an axe murderer, besides. In fact, the rest of us would probably leave the cell phone lot and take another lap around the baggage claim pick-up zone, just to clear our heads and get away from the unseemly misconduct.