Denver International Airport

Ultra-modern, up-to-date, and artistic, claim public relations personnel and materials. "It's an airport," shrugged a harried business traveler when asked. "Where's gate B20 from here? And where's a bathroom?" One of United Airlines's main hub airports, a good many of the people who pass through Denver International Airport aren't staying.

From the outside, the airport actually does look fairly interesting: brilliant white swoops and curves in a manner probably meant to evoke Conestoga wagons or sailing ships rather than a circus tent for those who find color too exciting. They might've taken a little effort with the building underneath the soaring superstructure, which is distinctly uninspired boxy mirrored glass and aluminum struts. The highway leads straight up to Arrivals and Departures with minor arteries splitting off for short and long-term parking, freight, rentals, et cetera. None, however, lead to hotels, restaurants, or other accommodation. The airport is all alone out on the shortgrass prairie, way too far outside of town to walk. A few signs say the Regional Transportation District's buses stop there, but no one actually believes that. For those who haven't arranged other transportation, a fleet of mouldering taxis wait to take the unwary traveler to the city. Recorded announcements warn drivers not to leave their vehicles unattended. The quiet menace provided by police officers with automatic rifles or large, aggressive-looking dogs drives the point home.

Though there was an attempt at making the outside interesting, the prevailing interest inside was to make it easy to clean. Lots of chrome tubing and plate glass, kept mostly free of fingerprints. The red and tan tile floors originally had a high gloss, but every passing shoe and luggage wheel has left a few molecules behind until the only shine left on the floor is underneath the banks of pay phones no one uses any more since cell phones became ubiquitous. Though the security areas were originally designed for high throughput, the Transportation Security Administration has at most three lanes open at any one time, making for some positively epic lines. You can practically taste the frustration, stifled rage, and despair.

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