Airport Deja Vu

I actually wrote this in the airport on Saturday but I’m flying home today, so who knows…?

The sun is coming up and I’m sitting in the airport waiting to board my flight.  While I sit here with my carry-on baggage tucked close to my feet so no evil person can tamper with it, I’m reflecting on the changes in air travel since I flew for the first time thirty-some years ago.

After several decades, you’d think things would have changed more than they have.  I still feel unaccountably guilty every time I go through security.  The boarding lounges are still the same boring rows of uncomfortable seating. In fact, judging by the numbness of my butt, these may even be the very same seats as thirty years ago.

They still ask us to get to the airport an hour or two before our flight, apparently for the sole purpose of clogging the boarding lounge with cranky people.

The aircraft are basically the same.  The same cramped seats, the same seatbelts, the same impossibly tiny washrooms.  I never cease to marvel at the fact that some people actually have sex in those washrooms.  Hell, there’s barely room for me in there.  Then again, I guess if you did actually manage to cram two people in there, they’d pretty well have to be having sex.

It’s funny, but the only major improvements are to the airport terminal washrooms and the public-address systems – the two things that aren’t directly related to flying.

I like the automatic flush toilets, except when they flush before I’m done.  There’s nothing like a splash of icy water on your ass and a sudden loud noise to get the old adrenaline pumping.  But it’s nice to see they haven’t eliminated (sorry) the most critical function of airport toilets:  they still project a spray of contaminated water up to three feet when you flush, and it’s impossible to vacate the cubicle fast enough to avoid it.  You haven’t truly travelled until you have splatters of toilet water on your pants.

I have a love/hate relationship with the motion-activated water taps and soap dispensers, too.  When they work, they’re wonderful.  When they don’t (which is most of the time), I feel like an idiot waving my hands up, down, and sideways under an unresponsive spigot.  But, whatever.  I look like an idiot on a semi-regular basis anyway, so there’s really no added humiliation there.

The change I appreciate most is the improved public-address system.  I used to hate those old PA systems that sounded like a garburator attacking a table-setting for twelve.  You never knew whether they were saying your departure gate had changed and you had ten seconds to get to the opposite end of the airport; or that your flight had been cancelled altogether; or possibly that a fireball of death was speeding directly toward the terminal and everybody should flee.  It’s wonderful to be able to effortlessly interpret the announcements now.

But I’ve just discovered that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  The public address system just came on and delivered a lovely, crystal clear message:  my flight has been delayed for nearly two hours.

Sigh.

* * *

Since “that new-fangled internet” can be unreliable in airports, I’ll be responding to comments sporadically today… unless that fireball catches up with me.  If that happens, all bets are off. 

36 Comments

Filed under Commentary, Humour, Life

36 responses to “Airport Deja Vu

  1. Diane, I have the same problem with those automatic faucets and paper towel dispensers. Are they really more sanitary? If someone has touched them, that means they were in the process of washing their hands. It’s the door handle I worry about.

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    • That’s the other thing I really like about the newer airports – a blind-corner passageway instead of a door with an icky door handle! I always feel as though I need to wash my hands again after I grab a door handle. But it’s funny – a few decades ago we never really thought about door handles, and I don’t seem to recall getting sick that much more often.

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  2. Ah, the joys of air travel. At least the first-class passengers have more space. If only we could benefit from the same. 🙂

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    • I’ve never flown first-class, but it certainly sounds like a better deal, particularly if you get the lounge service @Pleun was describing! I can’t even remember the last time I was on a plane large enough to have first-class seating – I guess I’ll have to upgrade the class of my destinations before I can upgrade my seating. 😉

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  3. I rely on flying a lot, and when I enter an airport I just go dumb. It seems to work really well. When I fly with the hubby I get to go to lounges, that is actually really nice. Drinking a nice white chardonnay while the staff checks when your flight is boarding and then, then they come to get you! In person! By myself no lounges so far, but you never know what’s in my future haha.

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    • Oh, the lounges sound very civilized! I don’t fly often, so I don’t know what it takes to sign up for the “lounge” service – maybe I should look into it. It certainly seems like a good idea to have someone come and get me personally – I always have this irrational fear that I’m in the wrong place and the plane will leave without me! 😉

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  4. Hahaha I love when I read something that’s so delightfully relatable– auto flushing toilets splashing cold evil water on my arse? Yes. Feeling like an idiot waving my hands in front of a plastic box in hopes of a paper towel? Yes. Weirdly guilty as though I have evil intentions when in reality I just want to put my shoes back on? Yes.
    And yes and yes. Aaahhhh….
    I wish you safe travels 😉

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  5. Those self flushing urinals are no joy either! Gawd forbid if you move to get yourself better lined up, as sure as hell, you’re going to be looking like it was an inside job when you walk back out onto the concourse. Of course, EVERYBODY saw you go in and come out. 😦

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    • Oh, you made me laugh! “Looking like an inside job” – what a great line!

      I wonder if there’s some subversive employee in the toilet/urinal business who randomly tweaks the flush mechanisms just to create those wild sprays?

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      • LynnB

        I’ve see the guy who does that stuff with the restroom equipment. He is a seriously disturbed individual who works for no one. Instead, he is an escapee from an institution for the criminally insane. He somehow has acces to the best forged documents and makes his way past the most closely controlled airport security. I’ve seen him skulking around in men’s rooms, brandishing a screwdriver and a Crescent wrench, jimmying the flush valves on toilets and lavatories so that they’ll splash and squirt and spew, all the while chortling with fiendish glee. He’s on Interpol’s most-wanted list and has been for years, but still he escapes capture. Oh, that perpetrator of heinous deeds! His day of reckoning will come. And on that day, if justice will be served, he will suffer! Mark my words, he will SUFFER! That brigand! That n’er-do-well! That MISCREANT!!

        Hm. Clearly I have too much free time on my hands. 🙂

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  6. moondance4me

    I haven’t flown all that much over the years, wasn’t too impressed with any of the 3 airlines I did fly on. However, thinking of the “Mile High” thing, never thought about it but I wonder what it would be called when you spend a night of your honeymoon in a place like Morgan City, LA which is actually below sea level. Hmmm Not sure if that is any indication of…….nahhhhhh. LOL!

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  7. You know…I actually don’t miss travelling so often as I used to before! Oh…do you have the same experience I used to…when the captain of the flight “speaks” to his trusting passengers? I’ve always…ALWAYS wanted to go up to them and ask them to kindly attend some sort of class to learn to speak and not mumble incoherently..hehe

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    • Ha! True indeed. We had a very well-spoken female captain for this flight, but often I feel less confident about the whole flight after the captain has finished mumbling!

      Reminds me of the joke about the captain addressing his passengers after levelling off at cruising altitude: “Ladies and gentleman, we’re looking forward to an uneventful flight- OH MY GOD!” and the public address system cuts out. A few moments later, he comes back on and says, “Folks, sorry about that, but a flight attendant just spilled a cup of hot coffee in my lap. You should see the front of my pants.”

      And from the back of the plane comes the voice of a Newfie: “Lord T’underin’ Jaysus, man, ya should see the back a’ mine!”

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  8. “I never cease to marvel at the fact that some people actually have sex in those washrooms.”—I have wondered about that, too. They’re cramped, smelly, spattered with pee stains–not much of an aphrodisiac. And I’m not just saying that because I’m old; they didn’t appeal to me when I was young, either. I think people are making it up. The true number of members in the Mile-High Club is probably less than ten…

    Great post. Safe travels!

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    • LynnB

      My wife and I are charter members in the Mile High Club. We’ve been vacationing in Denver (elevation 5,280 feet) for years. And getting there by driving. Heck, we spend more time than that in Santa Fe, NM. Elevation 7,000 feet. Also driving… 🙂

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      • So, are you saying you’re a member of TWO Mile High Clubs? 😉

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        • LynnB

          Actually, three. We spent a night on our honeymoon in Cloudcroft, NM. Elevation 9,000 feet. I guess that’s two mile-highs and a mile-and-a-half. And then there’s the campground at Slumgullion Pass, CO, at 11,000 feet. That’d be a TWO-mile-high club, if one is a real stickler. But who’s counting…

          Reminds me of something that happened in a small town where we lived many years ago. Seems some of the country club set liked to live life in the fast lane, so to speak. And one of the players owned a largish twin-engine private airplane. And others let it get out that they’d joined the mile-high club in his bird. The problems started when some couples discovered that one half of the couple had gained membership before the other half had. Ah, life in a small, rural town. They kept the two lawyers in town pretty busy that summer… 🙂

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    • Thanks! I had a nice smooth flight with no surprises.

      “The true number of members in the Mile-High Club is probably less than ten…” LOL! …and none of them enjoyed it… 😉

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  9. LynnB

    When I reached young adulthood, my first flight in commercial air was from Amarillo, TX, to El Paso, TX. Wth only four other stops in between. Amarillo was where I signed up to join the Army, and El Paso was where I was going to Basic Training. Late ’60s, it was. We, the young troopies, and everyone else on the flight, were all royalty, judging by the way we were treated by everyone involved in the process of getting us from place to place. And it remained so for several years.

    Further, everyone used to dress up to fly. It was a big deal to get to travel by air, and people made a big deal out of it. I remember noticing in the mid-70s that if an adult male wanted to disappear completely, all he had to do was dress in gray slacks with a white shirt and red striped tie, put on a navy blue blazer, head to the nearest commercial airport, and take three steps inside the door. Why? Because EVERY OTHER MAN IN THE AIRPORT WAS WEARING EXACTLY THE SAME THING. I loved to fly then.

    I hate to fly now. We went to China in 2006 for a family wedding. Flew over and back on American Airlines. Terrible mistake, that. The whole flight crew wasn’t just rude to the Asian people on board, they were MEAN. Both directions. So when we went to Taiwan in 2009, we flew Northwest. Much better. Except that two days before we left, a volcano had blown up in Siberia and blocked the northern route with airborne volcanic ash. So we took the southern route and had an unscheduled layover in Seattle that screwed up our schedule for the whole time we were with our kids and their families in Taiwan. And the airline new about it the day before and did nothing to reroute our flight beforehand or even to warn us, the passengers.

    Gad, I hate flying. Last summer, we went to Grand Cayman to visit our son who works there. AA struck again. (At the time, AA was the only game in town. Cayman Air has since stepped up. YAY.) I won’t do details, but suffice it to say that Miami International Airport is where bad people go when they die, and American Airlines is HOW THEY GET THERE!!

    But I’m not BITTER. Much. Any more.

    The next time I go anywhere overseas, I’m driving…

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    • Best line ever: “Miami International Airport is where bad people go when they die, and American Airlines is HOW THEY GET THERE!!” I’m still laughing! But let me know how that driving thing works for you – I’ve been considering that myself…

      But. If you’re ever flying anywhere in Canada, take a WestJet flight. Best airline ever. No frills, but the staff is always cheerful and happy and telling jokes along the way. They still can’t control flight delays and inconveniences, but their sense of humour sure takes the sting out!

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      • LynnB

        Thanks! But found out that tidbit is true the hard way. Don’t ask, it’s ugly.

        WestJet sounds like the company Southwest used to be. Their safety spiel used to have the words, “if you’re sitting by a child or someone who’s acting like a child…” and some other great one-liners. But Southwest has merged with another mediocre bunch, and I quit flying before that, so I’ve no clue how they are these days. And don’t particularly want to find out. Flying absolutely is the last resort now.

        The driving thing works very well. Two years ago, we did a two-week, 3,800 mile (not km) road trip that was essentially a lap around the southwest quarter of the U.S. Saw some beautiful country, visited lots of old friends we hadn’t seen in ‘way too long, and had all that quiet driving time to ourselves. No lost luggage, no stolen valuables, no unscheduled layovers, no missed connections, no getting left at the gate because the oversold flight filled up and left early, no screaming kids, no obnoxious parents, just the two of us. Glorious! Seriously.

        And GPS has changed our lives. The two worst fights my wife and I EVER had were over her navigating and me driving. Again, don’t ask, it’s ugly. But all that is behind us now. 🙂

        So much so that we’re taking an Alaskan cruise this next summer. Flying to Vancouver? Nope, driving. The whole trip is already booked, including accommodations along the way, there and back. We take this driving thing seriously. Shop early, avoid the rush. AAA discounts are the thing, too. We pay for our AAA Premium membership several times a year just in hotel discounts. AAA rocks. Won’t leave home without it. And we’ve never actually had to call them. 🙂

        The trick to making driving long distances work is to determine early that you are going to drive because you want to drive and you are not going to fly because you DON’T WANT TO FLY. Makes all the difference. Try it once, and you’ll gladly plan your schedule around driving instead of waiting until the last minute to rush to the airport and watch your sanity evaporate and your blood pressure explode. Years ago, we made several trips by air that we could have made quicker by car. I’m not kidding. A particularly rotten trip from Wichita Falls, TX, to New Orleans, LA, comes to mind. Twenty hours. By air. Seriously. Could’ve driven it easily and comfortably in ten or less and arrived rested and in a good mood instead of contemplating murder and mayhem. Gad, I hate flying.

        But, in fairness, I should also mention that my wife claims most of my ire against flying is because I’ve been bolstering my inner curmudgeon of late. I think not. Perhaps history will decide. 🙂

        I apologize for posting more on your blog than YOU have. As you may have guessed. this is sort of a hot-button issue with me… 🙂

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        • I understand completely! I’m a big fan of driving, and if I’d had a choice I would have driven this time, too. I do this trip frequently, and I can comfortably cover 750 miles in 12 hours driving by myself. (If I have other people in the car, it takes longer and I get tired of it sooner.) 🙂

          But when you only have four days allotted for the trip, it’s hard to justify using two of them to drive. And I think my door seals would leak if I tried to drive overseas…

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  10. bigsheepcommunications

    I loathe airports and flying. I can feel the jet fuel fumes seeping into my brain. Gag.

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  11. My favorite airport experience was when I was traveling alone with my kid and the security guard decided to randomly pat me down and check my carry-on while I had a screaming toddler with separation anxiety. The only plus – seeing him pull out a dirty diaper from that bag that looked like a leftover from the prehistoric age.

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