It’s not quite humid here, but there’s definitely a thickness to the air that the A/C is trying to cut through. It’s like the air wants me to taste it. So I do, and it tastes weird, and I definitely shouldn’t have done that. When my server comes to my table she gives me a look like You tasted the air didn’t you?
I’m inside the Topgolf inside the Buffalo Wild Wings inside Terminal D of DFW Airport. It’s the type of place where someone can become a “weary traveler” before the first leg of his trip. When the airport’s board voted on the approval of the lease back in August of 2019 the results were unanimous, and things moved fast. By March of 2020 it was constructed over the ashes of the old Reata Grill, and within a year it felt like it had always been here. The ground appears to be AstroTurf. Every employee is wearing a generic sports jersey. There are dozens of televisions playing replays of dozens of different sports games and finding which one matches the audio that is blaring on the speakers is nearly impossible. Men are carrying buckets of golf balls and wearing Titleist visors, possibly unaware they’re indoors. They take them to the wall, where golf courses are virtually projected onto rows of what essentially amounts to draped curtains. They hit the golf balls into the curtains and watch the simulation play out as they wipe the buffalo sauce off their fingers and keep an eye on their flight’s boarding time.
I order a Cheese Curd Bacon Burger and set my neck pillow on the table.
At the bar to my right is a bachelor party. Steve is apparently getting married and his whole crew is flying down to Austin. The beers are flowing, the Zach Galifianakis quotes are flying, and the indigestion looks to be reaching a tipping point. Since I arrived, I’ve heard each of them turn to Steve at some point and say, “What an idiot! What a loser!” You know, like Will Ferrell’s Wedding Crashers character says in his mom’s basement, except not funny and in a combination Topgolf/Buffalo Wild Wings. One of them had claimed there isn’t much difference between the “hot” and “blazin” wings, and the pace at which he’s drinking gives me the impression he’s not the type of guy who likes admitting he’s wrong.
At the high-top table to my left a father and his 11-year-old son are being seated. I’d seen them at the terminal next to mine, your typical upper middle-class Fort Worth family on their annual trip to Destin, Florida. They’d caused a real scene earlier when the father—I think his name is Dale—had gotten in a volatile argument with his 17-year-old daughter about the ethics of fracking that ended with him yelling, “Well, Katie, the Barnett Shale paid for your iPhone so why don’t you give it back if you hate fracking so much!” Now, he’s trying to stay out of dodge in the combination Topgolf/Buffalo Wild Wings with his son who, I believe, is named Atlas.
The largest TV is playing the 1995 NFC Championship game. Dale leans into Atlas, who hasn’t taken out his Air Pods, and says, “You know, everyone talks about the Triplets, but they don’t win those Super Bowls without The Moose.” Atlas responds, “Yeah.”
Trouble’s brewing back at the bachelor party. A hostess explains to them that they have virtual golf simulators but not actual driving ranges because “there’s not enough room, we’re inside an airport.” One of them tries to negotiate. “Can we at least putt in one of the corridors that connects the airplanes to the terminals?” The manager puts on “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show to distract them before tensions boil over.
So far, it looks like the usual suspects you’d expect at a combination Topgolf/Buffalo Wild Wings. And then she walks in. I don’t know her name, but we have a history. She was in front of me in line at the Auntie Ann’s. She wasn’t like all these other dames you see at the airport. She was sophisticated. Think Lululemon travel scarf, with a secret zipper for your passport. She was classically beautiful in the kind of way that makes a guy want to upgrade to first class just to impress her. And now she’s here. I can’t help but think to myself, Of all the Topgolfs inside all the Buffalo Wild Wings inside all the airports she walks into mine.
She takes a seat across the room. I keep my distance, don’t want to come on too strong. I have the server send over a Sunrise Beermosa. Here’s looking at you, kid.
The bachelor party crew managed four pitchers of Miller Lite in one round of virtual golf before realizing it’s last call to board their flight to Austin. They rush out forgetting one of their own, who passed out in an empty booth 40 minutes earlier.
I hear some cursing, and it’s coming from Dale. He just spent five minutes teaching his son the proper way to swing a golf club before shanking his virtual drive into the virtual trees. Atlas reaches the green in two strokes before putting in for birdie. His indifference is palpable. He insists they order their wings boneless-style and Dale finally concedes before mumbling something about “this generation.”
A Japanese businessman behind me digs into his mini-corn dogs. He’s got a two-hour layover before heading off to Chicago for the big pitch. First time in America, and if he can’t close the deal in Chicago the whole company might go belly up. But if the Americans he’s looking at in here are any indication, I bet he figures he won’t exactly have to be a master of sales.
Then he does something that surprises me. He gets up and buys a t-shirt. The front reads “Don’t Mess With Texas.” The back reads, “Wings. Beers. Sports. Powered by Topgolf.” Says it’s for his son back home. I’m not sure what it is, but this moves me in a way that almost brings me to tears. Really makes you think, deep down, isn’t there a Topgolf inside a Buffalo Wild Wings inside an airport inside all of us?