Travelers soon to be greeted by new carpet at PDX's airport

PORTLAND, Ore. - It's probably safe to say that no one likes heading to the airport on a week like this.

It's crowded and annoying. The delays are enough to make tempers boil over. But not all airports are created equally. Portland International Airport is different. Hometown passengers may just appreciate it a little bit more. The reason is - peculiar.

Travelers who are new to town may notice some strange behavior on the part of locals. They might witness those folks stop in the terminal, take their cameras or phones out, and snap a picture of their feet on the floor. Anyone who does it is documenting the telltale sign of "coming home" - stepping foot on the airport's signature carpet.

"There is quite a cult following here at the airport," said airport spokeswoman Annie Linstrom. "It's the first thing travelers see as they get off the airplane. I really feel like there's an emotional attachment, an emotional connection."

It's a connection that's best expressed on social media. The airport carpet has its own Facebook page. The homecoming photos that people take end up on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag, #pdxcarpet. It's downright weird. But "weird" is part of Portland's identity - and it gets weirder.

Jeremy Dunn designed bright green socks with the carpet's signature pattern emblazoned on them. He never could have imagined how they'd sell.

"I made a small run of them just to sell to my friends," said Jeremy. "Now we can't keep up with the number of orders that we've got."

Zane Gunderson designed a T-shirt with the design and found literal overnight success.

"I went to sleep, woke up, and sold over a hundred shirts," said Zane. "I wasn't expecting that."

Air Force Capt. Donovan Matteson cajoled airport staff into sending a piece of the carpet to him in Texas. It was a gift for his homesick wife.

"She always talked about, when she would fly home, she would love the sight of the carpet," he said. "She was blown away."

Many folks are blown away. The carpet has caught on in a way that's unexplainable. It's taken on a life of its own. Unfortunately, it's not invincible.

"This is basically what the new design, or close to, is going to look like," says Linstrom, as she shows us the pattern of new carpet that will be installed in about a year.

The old carpet has been trampled on for 20 years and is showing its age. PDX staff know they're getting rid of an icon, but even admirers say it's time.

"It's a ratty old carpet," said Jeremy.

The hope is that lightning will strike twice.

"We want this to resonate with passengers over time and become like home to them," Linstrom said of the new design. "I know it's a little bit different. It's a little bit more modern, but it's still home sweet home."

The airport won't start installing the new carpet for another year. It will take into 2016 for the installation to be finished.

Like the old carpet, a lot of thought, research, and testing went into the design. The airport doesn't know yet what they'll do with the old carpet, but they realize folks may want pieces of it. They don't know if that will be possible, but they're looking into all commemoration options.