Out of the corner of my eye I see a dinosaur as I rush past the food court in search of the Airtran ticket counter. The question – why is there a dinosaur in the airport? – crowds up against and threatens to unseat the urgency of the main question on my mind – will I make it to my plane on time? Where is Airtran, anyway? Reaching the end of Delta, I stop to ask. The north side of the terminal! There’s another whole side to this enormous terminal? A dinosaur?
A dinosaur ought to attract some attention; especially a thirty foot long carnivore. Even if it’s not quite a T-rex. But this dinosaur seems most remarkable for being so easy to overlook.
I have to go straight through the circular food court, right past the dinosaur, to reach the north ticket counters. I join a steady stream of people. Unconcerned about the primordial dead, no one seems to notice the menacingly posed skeleton on its shoulder high pedestal. A domed skylight rises serenely, high over the hubbub below. People sit at tables all around, snacking. The dinosaur, hunched over in a frozen lunge, suddenly looks shriveled and small – anxious, as if, instead of munching on the nearest bipedal mammal, it too were about to endure long ticket lines, then long security lines; to have its unclothed bones subjected to a FULL BODY SCAN!
As I pass by I glance down at the plaque on its pedestal. Yangchuanosaurus. Phew! Somehow a dormant memory from grade school dredges up the image of an Allosaur, which this resembles. Its vestigial arms gesture, seem to plead – for what? The attention of distracted travelers? Or some grass underfoot? Trees?
Maybe it longs to be large again; to mean something to someone; to be able to give voice to the fearful roar that was once its birthright; to roam a leafy Jurassic jungle. Why is there a dinosaur in the airport? As I near the exit, I glance back. It leaves a haunting impression, not so much fossilized as forlorn. Is it because everything in this enclosed space is artificial - the Yangchuanosaurus itself isn't even dead but a replica - or because this sterile environment is the new real?
To read another post about the Atlanta experience, go to Finding Fragments of Nature.