In the fourth grade, my teacher asked my best friend in front of the class what her favorite kind of pizza is.
Without hesitation, she proudly replied, “Airport pizza.”
The room laughed and the teacher smiled. My teacher – as well as most of the kids in the class – knew why my friend gave this answer.
I’m from a small farm town in Idaho where I only had 100 kids in my high school graduating class. Out of those one hundred, 60 of us went to kindergarten together.
So in this small town, we knew everybody else’s business (pronounced: biz-nass).
We knew all of the parents and siblings and jobs and dramas of our fellow classmates, and we all knew that my friend’s family owned the restaurant at the airport.
I say ‘the’ restaurant, because our local airport was a tiny establishment that only prop planes from Salt Lake City flew into. We had one check-in counter and one gate, so the fact that there was a restaurant at all was pretty impressive in this small community.
And my friend’s uncle was the proud owner.
I only remember eating at the airport restaurant once when I went along with my best friend and her family.
The pizza was delicious.
That was when I fell in love with airport pizza. If THIS was airport pizza, then I was all in.
Soon after, however, the airport did a remodel and my friend’s family closed the airport restaurant and opened an all-you-can-eat pizza place in the middle of town to rave reviews.
The airport, meanwhile, expanded into TWO check-in counters and TWO gates. But there were still the same four or five flights everyday – all of them on prop planes that flew the 45 minutes over the mountains of Southern Idaho into SLC International.
It was from our local airport that I flew to Germany with my family. It was to this airport that I came home from college for very first time. I left from here to study abroad in Spain, and landed back here after three months of being in a foreign land.
And ever since the one time I ate at the original pizza restaurant, whenever we fly today, I crave a slice of greasy over-the-counter pizza – pepperoni please. I don’t eat this kind of pizza when I’m not traveling, only when we’re at airports.
Maybe traveling puts me in a different state of mind since I like to think that I’m technically in no man’s land when I’m past security and all bets are off.
Or maybe it just brings me back to my roots. When one check-in counter, one gate, and one restaurant were all that was needed to see the rest of the world.