Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What I Have Learned in Airports

These are some random notes, and thoughts I have gathered on my last trip on the wings of many planes (eight, to be exact). My emphasis is on "random" here. But anyone who's ever waited for a plane in long, endless hours will agree that your mind is going, and you notice all these things. It's an avalanche of thoughts ... and ... I am sure you can relate to most of these.

I swear that one day someone needs to write a compendium about what people learn in airports. We are all becoming so much more savvy and knowledgeable about what to do in the "oh, sh^t", time-limit situations airports force us to live in. That, and also we're experts in knowing human nature now. But let's see why ...

First off, I have learned that the meaning of such expressions as "short temper", "little patience" and "hot blooded" become absolute superlatives or absolute relatives in airports. You think you have a short temper, usually: in the airports it's at least half of what you think it is! Maybe 10% is more accurate ... This, I think, is the most amusing (and sad) find. Because airports and especially planes are some places we, as individuals, have zero control over. I am pretty sure that even if you were a pilot, you would have no control over when you take off. But still, people don't get it. And they yell, scream, threaten to sue, and the likes, when delays and cancellations happen.

And since we're speaking of delays and cancellations. I have seen planes being delayed for many random reasons. Some of them legitimate, some of them ... make you wonder: snow, rain, thunder, pilot is drunk, or not present at all, ice removing mechanism faulty in 100+ degree weather. But "wind" is a new thing for me. I have always thought (and I mean, I could have bet my life on it) that at hundreds of miles per hour speeds (not tens) that the airplane is capable of reaching, and when they make planes able to fly into hurricanes (???), wind (especially the one not mentioned to be a problem by meteorologists, like a tornado or something) is not an issue for planes. Hhmm... think again! So, yes, my whole trip was almost all messed up, all planes missed because my first plane (out of four) was being delayed by two hours because of winds. In a perfectly beautiful 75F, cloudless day.

And about those folks whose tempers are ever so short in airports: why are they louder than necessary? I mean, who cares, first of all, if they're mad? If someone did care, they would put them on a plane. But no, they're still here. And they scream, throw tantrums, while 50 other people are in the same boat, and guess what: that plane is still not moving. Conserve your energy, folks! Turning up the volume will do nothing but annoy whomever is concerned (is there anyone??) even more.

Also, these little angry people need to stop using "important" words, that mean nothing, but they do it for effect, to make sure they conveyed to all how mad they truly are. For instance, if you say " I'm gonna go there and literally smack that damn captain if we're not leaving. Literally." - I want to see you marching down to the cockpit and doing it, 'cause guess what: we're not leaving. Otherwise, hold off the "literally". Please.

I have asked myself many times, and still have not come up with an answer: why do they call it "cockpit". Hhmmm... I'll leave you with that one, on your own.

One other thing I have learned: it pays to be ridiculously early at the airport! Sure, your flight will be delayed, because ... who knows, The Phillies lost another game that day, right??, but ... you can get on flights delayed from earlier that might be empty! You're a step ahead of them! They think they can delay you further: guess what: you're there for their delayed flights. Not your own, but who cares: they fly you to the same spot! You win! All my life I have thought the ONLY way to succeed in life is to figure out how to trick life faster than it will trick you. 'Cause it will!

I have raved about the Paris airport before but one thing I didn't mention was: in Paris, they have free scotch (as in "whiskey") tasting in the airport! Yep. In one of their liquor stores, they have a huge table with all sorts of brands of scotch you can taste before you buy. What I have to say to that is: eat your heart out, open container law in the groceries of US! But ... "no pictures, 's'il vous plait", so I could not prove it.

I probably should write a whole chapter on this, but I'll just mention a couple of things: this should be under "Things only Romanians Do in Airports": they sit cross-legged on the floor, and eat sunflower seeds, while spitting the shells on a newspaper; they also listen to Gypsy music on their cellphones, with no headphones on, so everyone shares the joy ... err... dread ... of it ... ; or, sometimes they have a real life - like rooster singing "cock-a-doodle-doo" for their ring tone, which makes you wonder: who is bringing dinner alive on the plane. (?!?!?).
There is always a mixed feeling of embarrassment and of a certain familiarity when I run into my compatriots in airports, a familiarity that is sort of comforting, strangely enough.
Don't ask!!

What you also see in airports is people waiting. Such an overwhelming mass of them! I have always wondered what can humanity accomplish, if they can bottle up all the hours all the people spend waiting, between flights, in airports and use them for a project, somewhere... Could we discover another planet? A cure for a cancer or two, or ...?? Just time. Wasted. Material time, and material human force, talent and probably genius. On hold. For virtually ever. Just wondering ...

I have also now seen live music in airports: a cover band playing anything from 'I will survive' to Jimmy Buffett in the National terminal in Philly. My plane was on time, but ask a few folks that were about 24 hours late on going home what the live music did for their stress level. I would kill to know the answer.

You have probably seen my rant about water penury in airports before, but now I had to splurge, as I was craving really cool and really good (filtered) water: so I paid $3 for a bottle of water and $2 for a large order of fries! When water is more expensive than food, I reckon you know you've made it to ... civilization... ?! Again: think "Idiocracy" , the movie.

And still the number one "wow" of this past trip is just noticing impatience. Just people fretting, screaming, jumping up and down, cursing, for the very thing they can do nothing about: leaving the airport NOW! When will the supply of crappy service align with the (hopefully) very lesser expectations of the passengers, in this Post 9-11, "Brave New World" of flying ... I am not sure...

But pretty soon people will stop flying. Or some folks will start shooting. And I am not sure which one will come sooner. And I am not joking, either.

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