Dinner Of Champions (Travelers Division)

Lately I’ve eaten a lot of dinners in airports.  It’s not a good thing.  Airport food has definitely improved over the years, but it’s still significantly burger/pizza/chicken-centric and often loaded with sodium, and eating a heavy, salty meal doesn’t exactly sit well when you immediately stumble onto a plane and then sit on your butt for hours.

So, I’ve started looking for these do-it-yourself yogurt/fruit/granola combos when I’m required to eat an airport dinner.  They seem reasonably light and reasonably fresh, they’re relatively low in calories and sodium, and they don’t leave you feeling like every ounce of moisture has been sucked from your mouth and a lead ball has been lodged in your stomach.

As airport dinners go, those are pretty high standards.

That Overcrowded Feeling

There are some airports that always seem to be incredibly overcrowded.  The Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood airport is one of them.  Is it because it’s the end of “the season”?  Is it because the airport just hasn’t kept pace with the growth of the surrounding community?  Is it because airport planners think it’s hilarious to cram people into concourses like sardines in a tin can?

Who knows?  But it’s not a pleasant way to start, or end, a trip to the Sunshine State.

Pet Stop

It’s become increasingly common to see people traveling with pets these days.  Whether it is service dogs or dogs taken along for comfort or company, canines are a much more frequent sight on airport concourses than they used to be.

All of which leads to the question of what the pooches do when they feel the call of nature.  The Philadelphia airport answers the call with a small astroturfed area complete with retrieval bags and a bright red fire hydrant.  

Armed Travelers In An Armed Nation

In 2016 the Transportation Security Administration found 3,391 guns being carried by passengers going through airport security checkpoints.  That’s a new record, and represents a 30 percent increase over the number of guns found in 2015.

Oh, yeah . . . and 83 percent of the guns found at checkpoints were loaded.

art-tsa-checkpoint-afp-giOf course, as a percentage of the millions of people taking flights from United States airports — the TSA screened 738 million passengers last year — 3,391 obviously isn’t a big number.  Still, it’s a surprising statistic, and disconcerting to those of us who travel frequently for business and pleasure.

Since airport checkpoints became ubiquitous after 9/11, any cognizant person has got to know that you can’t carry guns and ammunitions onto planes.  Can thousands of people really be unaware of this rule, or are those people just testing to see whether it’s actually enforced?  The story linked above suggests that at least some of the apprehended travelers claim that they did not intend to carry the guns found at checkpoints — that they simply grabbed a piece of carry-on luggage without checking to see whether it included a gun.  That seems wildly implausible to me.  Can people actually not be acutely aware of where they are storing loaded firearms in their homes, would they really not hear or feel a gun rattling around when they retrieved a suitcase from the closet, and wouldn’t they find the gun during the process of packing?

The recent shooting at the Fort Lauderdale airport baggage claim area by a guy who apparently had a gun in his checked-in luggage is scary precisely because airports are, by definition, impersonal public places where you’re surrounded by total strangers whose intentions are completely unknown to you.  It’s bad enough to think that the person next to you at the luggage carousel might pull out a Glock and start blasting, but in some ways it’s even worse to think that thousands of fellow travelers are so stupid or careless that they are trying to bring loaded guns through the TSA checkpoints.

In The Atlanta Airport Swamp 

Walking from Concourse B to Concourse A at the Atlanta airport takes you through this walkway, which features leaf-like objects overhead, subdued lighting, and the sounds of a swamp.  At least, I think it’s supposed to be a swamp, complete with croaking frogs, buzzing insects, and chirping birds.  It’s a nice change of pace between bright, bustling concourses.

Just another reason to walk the big airports, rather than jamming onto generic underground trams with a hundred of your closest friends.

Airport Sit-Ins

Here’s an another annoying airport development — the gate-sitters.

The gate-sitters have been a growing problem ever since the advent of smartphones, laptops, and charging stations.  They cluster around airport outlets and charging stations, plopping themselves down on the floor and spreading their bags and carry-one and other paraphernalia around them, casually blocking what is supposed to be a public area.  They could stand, of course, and reduce their traffic-blocking footprint, but I guess that would be inconvenient.  So they sit, and take up space, and expect the rest of us to just weave our way around them.

But now the sitters are spreading.  Yesterday as I was waiting to board a plane I observed a twenty-something girl sit cross-legged in the middle of a walking lane at the gate and promptly start thumbing away at her phone.  There were seats available away from the walking areas, but evidently those did not meet her standards. So when people got off the incoming flight, there she was, like an iceberg, blocking traffic and making people with strollers and wheelchairs navigate around her, oblivious to the fact that she was complicating their lives.  

What inferences could you draw about what this young woman was like in her everyday life?  Shallow?  Self-absorbed?  You got it!

Airbored

When you’re bored out of your skull, because you’ve been sitting for hours waiting for your flight, an airport can be an interesting place — well, relatively speaking.  Planes moves in and out.  Trucks race past to some unknown destination.  And some poor guy who doesn’t have anything better to do has lined up these luggage transport units with near-mathematical precision.  Why?  Only Delta knows for sure.