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Some thoughts about traveling

September 3, 2009

After spending last week on the road, I have some reflections on travel.

I wrote them down on a pad of paper in the Seattle airport, because there is nothing else to do in the Seattle airport—not that I’m bitter but I have a website here that needs attention and the Seattle airport must be the last airport in the world that doesn’t have free wireless Internet.

Hence the pad of paper. Thank you, Seattle liberals, for living down to my expectations. And by the way you need more seats in your airport, too. Everywhere you go—the food court, the boarding gates, everywhere—people are wandering around looking for a place to sit. Futilely. Only liberals could take the confluence of Microsoft and Boeing and create a miserable Internet-less flying experience. The airport coffee probably sucks, too.

Reflection number two: why do people jump up and stand awkwardly in the aisle at the end of a flight? It’s stupid. The plane taxis to the terminal, the “fasten seatbelt” light goes off with an accompanying gong, and Pavlov’s dogs stand up and start drooling all over their carry-on’s. They can’t go anywhere for another five or ten minutes and there isn’t room in the aisle for all of them so they’re forced to hunch themselves into various contorted positions—breathing their peanut breath down on me—and duck flying carry-on’s and elbows as people frantically unload their stuff from the overhead bins.

What are they thinking?

They aren’t thinking. They’re mindless pod people, I’m convinced.

After standing there like idiots for five or ten minutes, the plane’s door opens and the brainless husks march out of the plane headed for the baggage carousel. They start out fairly dignified but they always end up walking faster and faster, one-upping each other until the March To The Baggage is a full-blown race through the airport.

Seriously, they race. I know you’ve seen it. You’ve probably participated. It’s like the running of the bulls, only dumber, because the suitcases won’t be there when they get there. They never are.

I’ve seen little kids nearly get trampled because they drifted to the left on the people mover.

When they get to the baggage claim area, what do they find? Well, they find they have to wait because the baggage isn’t there yet, of course, so they raced to get there and now they wait. Remember how they jumped out of their seats and then waited? Same thing only with more panting, sweating, and potential for heart attacks.

This is where the pod people start to freak me out a little bit. After all, it’s comforting to think that our fellow human beings have brains, right? At least some of them? They give me hope by standing back from the baggage carousel while they wait but then, as soon as the buzzer goes off and the carousel starts moving, Pavlov’s conditioning asserts itself again and the drooling dogs move forward and surround it.

(I know, I know, I’m mixing my metaphors. When I decide whether they’re pod people or Pavlov’s dogs, I’ll stop… or, hey, maybe they’re zombies.)

Just like in the airplane aisle, they have to stand awkwardly because there isn’t room. Many people can’t even get next to the carousel so they stand back and look frantically for an opening, hopping up and down or peering between legs. It isn’t logical. It bugs the hell out of me.

“Hey people! The conveyor goes in a circle! Your suitcase will come back around if you miss it!”

The sensible way is for everybody to stand back, with a clear view of the carousel, and when they see their bag they can step forward, unimpeded, and grab it. Duh.

It makes me feel like the last human on Planet Earth who hasn’t had his brain sucked out by aliens. (This one was a simile, so technically I’m not mixing another metaphor.)

Inevitably, it makes me grouchy. Granted, I get grouchy pretty easily when I fly—something about cramming my six-foot-one-inch body into a seat designed for a four-foot-tall hunchback—but still. The grouchiness definitely increases.

The end result is that I see my bag and elbow my way in harder than really necessary. Maybe it’s just because stupidity offends me, maybe I want to see if the pod people still feel. As near as I can tell, they don’t.

A wise commentator would probably draw some brilliant philosophical lesson from these observations, but all I kept thinking was, “Dumbass people like this are the reason Obama won the election.”

From Reno, Nevada, USA

September 8, 2009 - Seattle has, quite possibly, the WORST airport ever. (Can you believe the home of Microsoft & Google doesn't have wireless internet in the airport??) I hate our airport. They've improved it recently, but they have SO very far to go.. The Port Authority police who monitor the airport traffic are the WORST!! I swear if you drop somebody off there, you have to simply slow the car a bit, while they open the door & jump; but for the love of God & all that's holy, DON'T stop the car. They'll blow their whistles & holler at you the entire time you're picking up/dropping off your guests. In the great tradition of my grandfather, I wrote a letter complaining about the horrible first/last impression of our otherwise awesome city people get because of these hostile jerks. I will, however, dispute one point... Nowhere in Seattle, including the airport, is the coffee bad. Our coffee's fabulous. All the time. - Bree, Seattle
J.P. replies: Okay, okay, maybe the coffee isn't bad at the airport, I don't know. Meanwhile, I hate to break it to you, Bree, but Seattle isn't the home of Google. Just because the Google search site shows up in your web browser doesn't mean that the company itself is local. Understand? The Internet is WORLDWIDE.

September 3, 2009 - WOW! This is exactly how I feel at the airport. Although I have never been to Seattle, trust me, there are so many airports just like this one. Same food courts with the same 'cardboard' food, same uncomfortable chairs... as if they thought ,"oh! they'll only be sitting for a minute", never mind flights that arrive late, flights that don't show up at all because somewhere down in Florida, hurricane 'Yolanda' was raising hell and my flight was rerouted, or 'get this one!', they OVERBOOKED!!@#$%^&, so here I sit for 18 hours waiting for the next flight which has already been delayed, then rerouted and now cancelled. (Remember Yolanda? She made land!) I'm not bitter either. RAT BASTARDS! - Glenda, Nevada
J.P. replies: Listen to yourself. So rude, and angry. You need to take a blood pressure pill, or have sex with someone, or start a website where you can vent to your heart's content... like I did.

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