It is, most likely, the single place outside of Clark County where the largest number of Clark County residents congregate. And yet it is uniquely Portland.
So it is no surprise that the city which brings us the mantra “Keep Portland Weird,” has developed a most uniquely Portland attachment to … a carpet. A carpet?!? Yes, a carpet. The acres and acres of floor covering that wind through the terminals at Portland International Airport are slated to be replaced next winter, and that has generated a decidedly Portlandia response. Suddenly, the imminent demise of the teal rug with intersecting dark blue lines, lavender dots, and red dots is being treated as if Voodoo Doughnut was about to be replaced by a Walmart. Consider:
• No less than three Twitter accounts are devoted to the doomed carpet, including “I’m the hideous beauty under your traveling pants.” There, travelers have taken to posting selfies — or, more accurately, “footies” — of the now-famous carpet under their feet.
• There is a #pdxcarpet hashtag on Twitter and Instagram.
• A Facebook page, “The Carpet at Portland Airport,” has nearly 8,000 followers.
• Teal T-shirts featuring the carpet design have been making the rounds, proving that there’s no better way to say, “I’m from Portland” than to wear a carpet design.
• And TheAthleticCommunity.com, has been selling water bottles and socks featuring the distinctive teal, blue, lavender and red pattern. The kicker: Both the water bottles and the socks have sold out, and a new shipment of socks will be available after Jan. 20. Pre-orders are being taken now.
But wait, there’s more. The Portland Tribune carried a short item under the headline, “Who knew PDX carpet has cult following?” and Portland Monthly has written a brief history of the carpet as well as “Ode on a Carpet” by T.S.A. Eliot — inspired by T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men:”
We are the rain-drenched,
We are the fugitives and refugees,
Luggage filled with … bacon maple bars? Alas!
It continues but, well, you get the idea.
Now, all of this might lead to bewilderment about what has inspired such wall-to-wall devotion. The carpet has been in place for more than 20 years, and odds are that few people saw fit to take a portrait of it during most of that time. Odds are that nobody in the past two decades has written an ode to it. Odds are that no design guru ever sung the praises of the unique pattern and colors. Teal, after all, went out of style probably before the PDX carpet was finished being laid.
Yet there is a description on “The Carpet at Portland Airport” page on Facebook that likely sums up the entire phenomenon: “The amazing carpet that tells you that you’re home.” For people throughout the Portland area and beyond, that summarizes the importance of the bizarre, unique, difficult-to-describe floor covering that has been under their feet for two decades — it’s a symbol of home. As John Schleuning of SRG Architects, who helped design the carpet, told Portland Monthly: “People love coming back to Portland. The carpet represents home.”
There’s nothing uniquely Portland about that; it’s universal. Even if devotion to a carpet is a little weird.