2018 Primetime Emmy
& James Beard Award Winner

Nine Hours, a Republican Debate, and Plenty of Booze in the Salt Lake City Airport

Nine Hours, a Republican Debate, and Plenty of Booze in the Salt Lake City Airport

Wine in Salt Lake City

I’ve been sitting in the Delta Sky Lounge in Salt Lake City for hours. My first flight was delayed, I missed my subsequent flight, was rebooked on an alternate route through Utah, and am now waiting for a late-night connection to my final destination. By the time I leave, I’ll have been sitting here for almost nine hours.

The prospect didn’t seem so bad at first. I had plenty of work to do; I could do it here as easily as in a coffee shop in California. But as the hours wear on, my environment presses down on me. The wifi is shit. My traveling companion begins wandering around holding his laptop, hoping to stumble on the sweet spot where the New York Times homepage can load in less than 15 minutes. A woman seated in front of her own computer sees what he’s doing. “It’s not going to happen,” she tells him flatly. He returns, deflated. An elderly man seated a few chairs away is taking calls for a company called “Elite Tours,” talking loudly to what seem to be disgruntled customers. His loud, pop music ring tone and nasally whine begin to wear on me. He tells one caller he will be in Salt Lake City until Saturday. It’s Thursday. What the fuck is he doing at the airport?

The old man can’t stop sneezing and coughing. After awhile, the younger man seated across from him begins to sneeze as well. I am about to get SARS. “It’s like a live-action science demonstration of how you contract a disease,” my fellow traveler moans. I decide I need a glass of wine. I convince myself this is ok because it is after 5pm on the East Coast, the time zone I’m still sort of operating on, a little.

There’s a Republican debate on tonight, which I decide to watch in the lounge. There’s a couple sitting next to me drinking what appear to be cranberry and vodkas.

“I think he would make them pay for it,” the man says as Bill O’Reilly plays silently on the screen. He is referring, of course, to Donald Trump’s financing plan for his infamous wall. Later, he mentions that the U.S. let’s people “over the border, gives them jobs and welfare, and lets them vote. What’s in it for you?”

I decide not to weigh in. What’s in this for me is another glass of wine that is somehow both sweet and sour but has the benefit of being free.

As the debate begins in earnest, our section of the lounge is filling quickly. “I’m just waiting for a head-butt,” says the man behind me as the candidates take the stage. A man with dark curly hair and a thick Spanish accent sits next to me. When Trump makes note of how much fun everyone has at his rallies, we both snort with laughter.

He raises his beer to me. “It’s entertaining, no?” he says with a smile.

The room is packed now. The seats are filled so people stand in small clusters around the television. After Ted Cruz obliquely swipes at Trump as the son of a businessman, a man sitting across from me exclaims, “He’s shittin’ on Trump!” as many in the room titter.

The next Republican debate will take place on March 21 not far from where we sit now, the first time Utah has hosted a presidential primary debate. One municipal official has described the upcoming debate as the biggest thing to happen to the state since the Olympics. Our band of travelers will be long gone by then, dispersed to Austin and San Diego and Twin Falls and Pocatello. Tonight, however, we stare at the screen together, sipping our bad wine and light beers and whiskies. When it concludes, the man next to me turns to me again and raises his beer once more.

“As I said, entertaining, isn’t it?”

I raise my glass of wine back to him. He collects his suitcase, drains his glass, and walks away.

Up Next

Roadside Relics: Q&A with Ryann Ford

Featured City Guides