Posted by: Brad Nixon | November 17, 2009

A Word, Please, Mr. Saarinen

To: Mr. Eeero Saarinen, 1962

Mr. Saarinen,

Got a call tonight from my brother, aboard one of your mobile lounges at Dulles Airport. Funny thing is, I always call The Counselor from the lounge, too, whenever I pass through there, which has been about 50 times in the past 14 years. I describe to her the leisurely, glamorous travel life we’re leading, as cocktails are served, and the ladies in the pillbox hats … well, here’s the scene:

This is travel the way it’s meant to be!

Except, as my brother’s rather ironic tone — echoing the one I use with The Counselor on my own calls — denotes, it’s not this way at all. I mean, really, Eero, look at this picture. The vast space, the well-dressed travelers LOUNGING at their ease. Do these people have no planes to catch? Where are their cell phones? Where is their LUGGAGE?

No, sir, I’m sorry to tell you that this is NOT the reality, as the administrators of the airport have discovered, decades too late. We arrive at the airport hours early. We jostle with hundreds of other travelers as frayed and late and frantic as ourselves. We queue for security, we take off our shoes, empty our pockets, try not to say anything that might be regarded as dismissive of the critical role of the TSA in keeping shampoo bottles off planes, and then we board a crowded, lurching bus. And the luggage. Everyone is exercising one of the Rights of Travelers granted by the constitution to have a steamer trunk qualify as carry-on baggage.

Other than the luggage and the clothes, it’s the ambience of genteel leisure — that’s the big disconnect between reality and that vision of yours. All of these people should be dragging suitcases. And jabbering on cell phones.

In what imaginary world could this scene have occurred? Where are these peoples’ skull t-shirts? Their tattoos? Why are they so slender? And why aren’t they frazzled to within a few brain cells of unconsciousness? Did their chauffeurs drop them off at the airport? Are their servants following on another plane with the luggage? THAT’S WHY THIS IS A DRAWING AND NOT A PHOTOGRAPH.

Here is a photograph of the reality, shot on my most recent trip.

IMG_1642 Brad Nixon

The huge, ungainly, idiotic buses are the perfect product from a world of cheap gasoline, unionized labor and, yes, Eero, a stratified society in which YOU fly and I ride in the car with a tent and sleeping bags tied on the roof.

Really, man, you should’ve just built a gosh-darned tunnel and let us walk out to the planes.

Your Dulles terminal building is a spectacular triumph — so excellent that the expansion of a few years ago could only be successful by expanding on your original design. But the only thing about the mobile lounge that we’ll miss is picturing the fiction that the name represents: a mobile LOUNGE. Perhaps you should not be faulted for failing to envision this future of ubiquitous air travel, but, heck, your TWA terminal in New York didn’t have these leviathans as part of the deal!

After decades of this, Dulles is very nearly ready to implement the new AeroTrain. Outbound, the new security areas are already operating. I may, in fact, already have taken my last ride on a mobile lounge. No more calls to The Counselor, “Hi. I’m on the mobile lounge and they’re bringing around the cocktails.”

And, I was just wondering… Any chance of picking up one of those lounges on eBay when they’re decommissioned? Great pool house!

Image thanks to Paleo-Future.

Here’s a Time Magazine article from the time of the airport’s debut:

Time Magazine Article, 1962

Note: I did travel through Dulles a year later and rode the Aerotrain. I wrote about it HERE.

© Brad Nixon 2009, 2017



  1. Thanks, Brad. Now I know who to blame for the mistake in Chantilly, VA. The office I visit for one week each month is about 15-20 minutes from Dulles. I insist on flying to Baltimore or Reagan National as I refuse to step foot in Dulles ever again. I have even stayed at hotels within 2 miles of the airport and then driven off to BWI to fly home.


    • Once all the changes are in place, you may want to reconsider. I used to fly BWI a lot, too. First look at the new TSA section shows hope for IAD.


  2. as perplexing as the mobile lounge is the 21st century airport food at Dulles and Reagan, FIVE GUYS BURGERS. I can only imagine that the fine people at Inn-n-Out are drafting contracts even now, so stock LAX with their equally fine fare, so that in the near future the modern traveler will have access to the finest American burgers and fries on both coasts. And, if we’re lucky, at some corner at the airport in Kansas City or St. Louis, a chance first encounter with the perfect combo meal will occur, as somehow East bound travelers will merge with West bounders, and give us the first Five-In-N-Out-Guys buger and shake that combines the best of both worlds.


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