Dinner With Strangers

I've always had a fascination with airports. Countless people coming and going, everyone arriving from or departing to their own destination. Each with their own story, and all of our lives intersecting for those briefest of moments between flights. Part of the alure, you could say, is simply the fondness I have for people-watching. There's another aspect to it too, and that is the strange sense of familiarity one gets passing through the same airports so frequently. Airports are these cold, industrial, high-security environments that strangely take on the feeling of a neighborhood after so many years. While I don't travel a lot by some road-warrior standards, I do bounce around by airplane more often than the average Joe, making certain airports feel like a second home. This series of photographs was created one evening while passing through the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, where a chance delay between flights provided me the opportunity for dinner with strangers.

If you've ever spent any time in DTW you probably immediately think of the Light Tunnel that connects the A concourse to the B and C concourses. The first time I traveled through Detroit I thought I was stuck in some kind of hallucinatory episode. The tunnel features an elaborate multi-colored light show behind sculpted glass panels that extend the entire length of the walkway. The patterns and colors of light are synchronized with an original musical score composed by Victor Alexeeff, according to Wikipedia. While it can be a little much when you're rushing to catch your connection at 6:00am, during most other hours, it's a pretty remarkable artistic display. Along the edges of the corridor are the moving walkways, which I never take - I much prefer to walk.

On this particular visit, I initially didn't have much time between flights. I had arrived from Cincinnati in the early evening and was looking forward to connecting quickly on my way back to New York. Then, while walking from one end of the tunnel to the other, my mobile phone alerted me to the fact that my flight was going to be delayed. At the same time, a gentle snow began to fall outside on the tarmac just as the sun was going down. A delayed flight, dropping temperatures, and the start of snowfall is never a good combination when you're hoping to get home on time, but at least this opened up the opportunity for a sit-down dinner. A minor win. I then noticed, while considering my dining options, that DTW seemed fairly quiet for the hour. At the same time, Hillary Clinton was on every one of the giant television screens convincing Americans she was the only name that mattered ahead of the 2016 Iowa caucus. Perhaps because of the quieter concourses, her voice seemed extremely loud.

Dinner was the typical airport affair. The restaurants were surprisingly crowded, explaining quietness out in the concourses. Restaurant spaces in airports are optimized for fitting as many people as possible, and the one I chose was no different. Consequently, I got to know my neighbors very well despite dining at a table for one. To my left, four businessmen were talking strategy about the next day's presentation. They seemed to think that the last revision of the PowerPoint wasn't quite as good as the one that preceded it. Had they asked me, I would have suggested they go with their instincts on this one. To my right, a manager and his understudy held a more tactical conversation. I surmised they worked for a food distribution business, as the younger of the two was making a pitch for taking on more responsibility in the "food and beverage" division. His dinner partner agreed enthusiastically. As I finished my meal and checked my phone for my updated departure time, their conversation turned to the election. Hillary was still audible over the noise from the bar. The older of the two gentlemen asked the other his opinion of Donald Trump. I thought to myself, as I was signing the credit card receipt and getting ready to bolt for my flight, he'd done well with his promotion plea; he'd better answer this one carefully...

Endnotes: All images, Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 R