Kai Staats - Layover at Heathrow This airport, perhaps more than any in the world, offers a snapshot of the diversity and complexity of human kind.

Olympians in wheelchairs glide across polished marble floors. A Spanish woman with painted-on-jeans and stylish high heels walks side-by-side, in stride with a woman wearing a black jilbab and full head dress. I am overheating with my pants, T-shirt, and sport coat and wonder how the latter fairs beneath so many more layers, carrying her luggage and that of her child who walks behind the two of them.

In the Giraffe Cafe, employees make eye contact with their patrons and do not hesitate to touch, tickle, and tease the children who wait in line, giving them cause to laugh while their parents review the eight pages menu.

Perhaps it is my transient point of view which enables me to feel there is less fear here, less concern for the strange and stranger, less inhibition or concern for lawsuit, and a tolerance or the unordinary. But then I am reminded of the global concern of terrorism, “For security reasons, unattended baggage will be removed and destroyed” broadcast again and again over the PA system in a few languages.

British Airways announcements cut through the background voices in German, French, Arabic, English and Spanish. Everything echoes in this large space. I pull on my coat and backpack, grab my camera bag in my right hand and tripod in left, walking in any direction which will take me from the shops to an exterior view.

The choice seats are taken by an elderly couple who face large four storey windows. I am to their back, looking out over the tarmac and runways, a Virgin Atlantic jet having just taken off. Low, heavy clouds roll by slowly, unable to cast shadows for the sunlight is masked by layer upon layer above them. England retains its weather no matter what else may change.

A Coca-Cola vending machine dispenses flavoured “vitamin water,” a reminder of the global tragedy that bottled water has become, the intention of cola manufacturers to sell water as their consumers grew concerned for the ill effects of sugar ladened soft drinks. And now, fragments of those bottles float in plastic islands the size of the State of Texas in the North Pacific.

I cannot help but wonder how many cubic meters, how many tons of garbage are generated each day by a facility such as this. While there are recycling containers at every gate, outside each restaurant and restroom, the fact remains that the vast majority of the consumer waste has no long term function, only the immediate transport of food items from a clerk’s hands to the consumers face. A waxy tissue would suffice, but that would require the food to be fresh, made in the cafe instead of transported their each morning, pre-assembled. Just one byproduct of mass production on the human food scale.

The main terminal is an impressive feat of engineering, the largest tensile structure I have ever been within. It’s massive lateral anchors held in place by bolts that likely weigh as much as my entire body. Sheathed cables run across the entire floor, some thirty feet overhead, their tension from one exterior wall to the other what keeps the roof from collapsing under its own weight.

And now, it is time to go …