My journey across America began at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. If you have never seen this building, its appearance screams out low-budget sci-fi movie. It looks futuristic, but only in the sense of the future as imagined from the 1960s. It would not have looked out of place at the 1964 World's Fair or, somewhat sadly, on the 2011 Oral Roberts University campus.
I was delighted to discover that the sci-fi motif extended to the men's room, where I had the thrill of using the Columbia Vortex Hand Dryer. It is a minimalist black tube that I could imagine Scotty installing on the USS Enterprise. When I placed my hand under it, massive turbines roared into life instead of the anemic fan hum to which one is accustomed in hand dryers of a more common pedigree. Honestly, I have owned cars with less oomph in the horsepower department. A bright blue beam of light shined on my hand-which I can only assume was taking a tricorder reading. In a stroke of engineering genius, its creators completely omitted the unnecessary instructions that always get defaced anyhow ("Press butt-"). As if a vandal would dare scratch something this magnificent.
The airport also features those wonderful moving sidewalks as seen on the Jetsons. I rode the first one standing still like George Jetson heading to his office at Spacely Space Sprockets. I rode the next one taking giant steps as if I were walking in zero gravity. Once settled in at the Southwest gate, I invented the cover of using the toilet so I could double back down the concourse and ride the moving sidewalks a few more times.
A chirping bird somehow made its way into the concourse as if to remind me, "You're impressed with all this technology? My ancestors were soaring through the heavens before yours dreamed up the wheel." The bird made a rapid descent over a row of weary travelers, almost grazing a young boys head. Engrossed in a hand-held video game, wired for sound by a mp3 player, the boy didn't even notice. When his mother tapped him on the shoulder and pointed out the bird, the bionic boy pulled his cell phone out of his pocket, quickly snapped a picture of it and went right back to his video game.
The Buffalo Niagara International Airport: space-aged, metallic and streamlined. It all makes the airplanes look rather ordinary.
Ian Eastman, M.A., is a community educator with Family Services of Warren County-a charitable agency that helps people solve problems and be happier through counseling, substance abuse services, and support groups. Learn more about this important work at www.fswc.org.