Saturday, April 16, 2005

Random Thoughts at Airports

I jotted these down on my trip today.

  • Airports are never finished. In the thirty-some years I’ve been traveling through Miami International Airport, there is always something under construction, whether it’s a new terminal, new parking, new access roads, new something. The same is true at DFW and the Albuquerque International Sunport. I’m guessing that if all the airports were actually completed, there would be a spike in unemployment like that of the Great Depression. It keeps America working.
  • There is an FAA regulation that states all arriving planes with connecting passengers must park at the farthest gate from the connecting planes on an inverse proportion to the time between the arrival of one plane and the departure of the next. At DFW this is facilitated by making sure that all connections less than one hour arrive at the south end of the C concourse and departing flights are at the north end of the A concourse. If the connection is more than two hours, the connecting gates are next to each other.
  • The FAA also requires that airlines announcing a gate change must hold off until the last minute so the agents can get their bets in on which passenger with the most luggage will get to the new gate the fastest.
  • If you have to pee, the nearest restroom is ten gates away from your departure gate. If you don’t, it’s across the hall.
  • If you want to see where people who drive like idiots on the freeways of America learn how to do it, take a look at the concourses of a major airport. People walk as if they are driving on the Palmetto Expressway: turning suddenly into traffic, changing lanes without notice, proceeding slowly without any idea of overtaking traffic, and generally walking as if they just flew in from Zombia. Unlike the freeway, though, if you bump into them, there’s little damage, and that’s good. However, unlike in a car, they can hear you when you curse them for walking like an idiot.
  • If you find a remote spot and are lucky enough to find a corner with two electrical outlets where you can recharge your dying cellphone and plug in your laptop for a little peace and quiet and writing, it sets off an alert to all families traveling with small children who will then congregate around you, call their mothers on their cellphones and describe Aunt Edna’s funeral in great detail (“Lucille insisted on having an open casket, and Edna looked like she was made outta wax and covered with bad stucco. Uh huh, and Eugene brought that floozie that he’s been shacking up with, too… The nerve of some people.”) Meanwhile the children are running around with a sugar buzz from Cinnabon that would light up Toledo, they throw things, shriek like car alarms, and trip over your power cord.
  • Airlines should throw in the towel on trying to load planes in an orderly fashion. American uses the Group method; some still board by rows. It doesn’t matter. Passengers will knot up around the boarding door so that no one can get on in an orderly fashion, and even people in First Class have to wait behind someone whose boarding pass refuses to be read by the card reader. (I have a friend in the airline business who refers to passengers as “self-loading cargo.”)
  • I have found that the best way to get through a trip is to just accept the fact that these things will happen and it makes for an adventure. Just grin through it, find a good crossword puzzle, and take notes.