Professional Grade

Airport bathrooms have got to be among the most brutal to clean. So what, exactly, does the custodial staff at a major American airport use to get disgusting bathrooms spic and span? According to this cart, it’s a mop, a bucket of soapy water, lots of paper towels, and a cleaner called Bab-O.

Bab-O? I’ve never heard of it. But if these guys use it it must be good.

Advertisements

The Airport Zoo

Delta has announced that it is going to tighten its standards for allowing people to fly with “comfort animals.”  Speaking as a frequent business traveler who recently saw a dog take a dump right in the middle of the concourse of the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood airport — which faces a lot of other challenges, including being, consistently, one of the most crowded and unpleasant airports around — I applaud Delta’s stand.

150-94503-sugar-glider-1460579077Delta believes that the influx of “comfort animals” is getting out of hand, and reports that there have been incidents in which the animals have exhibited aggressive behavior, including growling and biting, have fouled airport terminals like the incident I witnessed, and have even attacked a passenger.  The Delta statement also said that passengers “have attempted to fly with comfort turkeys, gliding possums known as sugar gliders [pictured above], snakes, spiders and more.”  Now Delta will require that passengers seeking to bring animals on board present evidence of the animals’ good health and vaccinations, sign a document confirming that their animals can behave in a closed airplane cabin, and presumably demonstrate that they really need to have the animals board the plane with them in the first place.

I’ve got no problem, of course, with visually impaired people using guide dogs, which are always well behaved, but I agree with another statement that Delta made:  “Ignoring the true intent of existing rules governing the transport of service and support animals can be a disservice to customers who have real and documented needs.”  The reality is that people are pushing the envelope with their animals, just as people are pushing the envelope in claiming “disabilities” that entitle them to board before the rest of us.  Anyone who has traveled much recently has seen the explosion of animals in airports, and I’m confident that most people have witnessed unpleasant incidents like the one I saw, or had to endure barking dogs while waiting for a delayed plane, or watched two “comfort” dogs growling at each other at a gate.

I’m a big fan of dogs, but they really don’t belong in airports, or in the passenger compartments of airplanes.  And that goes double for “comfort turkeys,” gliding possums,  spiders, snakes, and the rest of the modern airport zoo.

Down Into The Levels of Travel Hell

Dante’s Inferno envisioned nine levels of Hell, with the hopeless condemned being subjected to various kinds of torment depending on the nature of sins they had committed.

Any traveler knows that there are similar levels of Travel Hell.  Yesterday, Kish and I got down to about Level 5.

angerWe first crossed the river Styx when an early morning snowstorm and de-icing needs delayed our flight out of Columbus.  We abandoned all hope when our flight was late arriving in St. Louis and the airline inexplicably did not  hold the plane for only the few minutes needed for us to make our connection — leaving us winded and desolate as we stood at the gate, watching our plane move slowly away — and instead booked us for a flight to occur 11 hours later.  We then wandered like lost souls through the St. Louis airport, moving from terminal to terminal in the bitter cold, enduring the initial levels of Travel Hell and hoping in vain to find an earlier flight option.  We moved even lower when we decided to take an earlier flight, through Houston, with the thought that we could then drive to our ultimate destination of San Antonio, and learned that the flight was populated entirely by screaming, thrashing children and inattentive parents.

We reached our final depth when we arrived in Houston, found the rental car counters in the terminal were closed, checked to make sure that their signs indicated they had cars available, then went to a rental car area only to learn that notwithstanding the freaking sign, they had no cars, and we therefore had to return to the terminal and board another bus to get to another rental car outlet.  The final indignity came when, after waiting patiently in the line at the rental car counter and finally securing a vehicle, we were directed to a car, got in, drove to the exit, and were told that we were in the wrong kind of car and needed to return it and get another one.  After that piece de resistance, the three-hour drive through the rain from Houston to San Antonio, with oversized pick-ups with their brights on powering up right behind us, seemed like a walk in the park.

Fortunately, we didn’t reach the lowest levels of Travel Hell — which involve things like being physically ill, getting food poisoning at an airport terminal food court, and then having to spend the night in an airport in the company of fellow travelers who won’t shut up — but Level 5 was bad enough.  After 14 hours, we emerged from the pits into the friendly environs of San Antonio, and the air never smelled so sweet.

Airport Stalking

On yesterday’s flights back from San Antonio, there was an odd and somewhat troubling coincidence — on every flight, and in every gate area where I was waiting for a flight, there was a kid crying one of those shrill, keep your nerves on edge cries.

crying babby in airplaneOne crying toddler, I can understand.  Sometimes, your child is just exhausted and is crying for reasons you can’t even fathom.  I get that.

But a crying kid on every flight?  That seems pretty suspicious to me.  It made me wonder whether the crying kid was stalking me.

Now that I think about it, there were some other pretty suspicious coincidences at the airports, too.  Like the hefty guy manspreading to try to discourage people sitting next to him.  Or the woman loudly talking into her cell phone and carrying on an unending conversation apparently heedless of the fact that she was sitting in the midst of a bunch of weary travelers.  Or the young people sitting cross-legged on the floor, even though there are actual seats available, so you can’t simply walk past but have to carefully navigate through the clutter of hunched-over people, backpacks, and cell phone cords.  Or the old people who decide that it’s perfectly okay to stop dead in the middle of concourse traffic so grandma can find her sunglasses.

I mean, what are the odds that would find these same people on every flight and in every concourse?

A Place To Recombobulate

What do you call the area that is found just after the TSA screening and scanning section in a major airport concourse?  You know — the area where harried people are fumbling to retrieve and store their cell phones, keys, and change, putting on their belts and shoes, and grabbing for the carry-ons and bins that come rushing out of the scanner machines on the conveyor belt and jam up against the bags and bins of other travelers, and do all of those things all at the same time?  The Milwaukee airport has a good name for it:  the “Recombobulation Area.”

Of course, that name assumes that most travelers are discombobulated after they pass through the TSA checkpoint and need to be recombobulated — which is probably a pretty accurate assumption, when you think about it.

Guitar Riffs On The Tracks

The Denver airport has its good points and its bad points.  The bad include being out in the middle of nowhere, miles from downtown, with security checkpoints that always seem to be besieged with long lines of bedraggled travelers.

On the good side of the ledger is the fact that the Denver airport rail system tells you that you’re approaching a concourse with a guitar riff. It’s a snarling combination of quick chords, like the guitarist couldn’t quite decide how to wrap up his solo and just wanted to end it abruptly and get the heck out of there.

On some airport transit systems, you get ethereal chimes, or gently ringing bells, or even harp music to announce that you’re at the next stop.  Usually the music is something that is consciously striving to be soothing, like the airport managers are trying to use music calm down everyone who is crammed onto the transit system trying to catch their flight on time.  Not Denver!  No, the Denver airport train guitar riff has a distinct hard edge to it, properly acknowledging that modern airline travel isn’t exactly a soothing experience.

But I found myself wondering why, if you’re going to go with a guitar approach, you pick some anonymous riff rather than something that people will recognize — like, say, the epic first chord of A Hard Day’s Night, or the first few notes of Stairway to Heaven or Layla.  Maybe it’s too expensive to use part of a well-known bit of classic rock, but I’d be willing to bet that if you played one of these snippets about half of the travelers exiting the train would do so with that particular song playing in their heads.

A Hard Day’s Night seems like a particularly apt choice for the airport venue:  It’s been a hard day’s night, and I’ve been working like a dog . . . .