Anticipatory Improvements

I flew through New York’s LaGuardia Airport recently, and these signs are everywhere. The Port Authority, which operates LaGuardia, obviously wants appalled travelers to know that it also recognizes that the airport is an embarrassment for such a major city. Of course, the signs leaves unanswered the key question: namely, how did the Port Authority let LaGuardia sink to such a state in the first place?

I’m not sure that touting anticipatory improvements is a good approach. To me, the signs and their slick representation of the supposed LaGuardia to be are a pointed reminder of just how crappy some of the bleak and overcrowded existing concourses are.

Cannabusiness

Cannabis sativa — the name of the plant species that includes marijuana and industrial hemp — seems to have gone mainstream in modern America.

When I was walking through LaGuardia Airport last week for my flight back to Columbus, I passed a shop that featured the above advertisement for cannabis sativa seed oil, as an “herbal fix for problem skin” with “100% naturally derived ingredients.”  And Kish and I have been to parties where people our age have knowledgeably and seriously discussed the claimed health benefits of cannabis-infused oils and creams for conditions like sore shoulders and aching backs.  For years, people who have pushed for legalization have claimed that the plant could produce many different types of useful products — and now it seems those claims are being realized.

If cannabis products are being accepted by the masses for skin care and health care purposes, it’s a pretty good indicator that cannabis has become big business.  In America, there aren’t many product areas that are bigger than skin care and health care.

SNALU

What is it about flying through New York City’s LaGuardia Airport?  Over the last few years, it has become increasingly difficult to fly in and out of New York without suffering some catastrophic travel failure that involves flight cancellations and having to stay over in some crummy hotel room.

250px-laguardia_airportThe most recent incident happened this week, when I flew in to New York and was advised that my flight out was cancelled outright more than 24 hours before the flight was set to depart, due to anticipated winter storms.  The airline then booked me for new flight that required staying another night in NYC.  This latest travel snag follows up on my last use of LaGuardia, in which my flight back was cancelled, no flight out was available for days, and I had to rent a car and drive back to Columbus.  On yet another recent LaGuardia excursion I spent 7 hours waiting in the terminal for an outbound flight that was repeatedly, and annoyingly, delayed in half hour increments for no apparent reason.

By the baseline metric that defines a successful flight — do you actually leave reasonably close to your designated departure time? — LaGuardia has become a consistent, exasperating failure for me.  It’s worse than a coin flip.  You could just use the acronym SNALU — Situation Normal, All LaGuardia’d Up.  And it always seems to be the outbound flight that’s the problem.  Going to New York through LaGuardia is liking checking in to the Eagles’ Hotel California.

If you’ve been to LaGuardia any time during the last few years you know the airport is in the midst of a massive renovation project.  I’ve heard that there is a new Southwest terminal that is very nice.  But I really question whether pumping a bunch of money into LaGuardia makes much sense.  It’s a very old airport that’s penned in.  The runways are where they are, and it may not be situated in the best place, local weather-wise.  Given the problems I’ve had in using the airport recently, I wonder if fixing up LaGuardia is like putting lipstick on a pig.

The next few times I have to fly in and out of New York City, I’m trying Newark.

Tangible Signs Of Abject Failure

Any experienced traveler knows that you want to avoid the C and D concourses at LaGuardia if at all possible.  They’re old, and cramped, and noisy, and horribly overcrowded.  It’s embarrassing that many travelers get first exposure to New York City by passing through one of these ancient, unpleasant, and inadequate buildings.

Yesterday I had to connect through LaGuardia, arriving at a gate in concourse C and leaving from a gate in concourse D.  This meant that, unlike virtually every other modern American airport, I had to go back out past security in leaving concourse C and then go back in through security, again, as I entered concourse D.  It also meant that, as I was making my way through the crush of humanity, I got a good look at the latest additions to these hopelessly outdated concourses:  rentable workspace cubicles that promise the stressed-out traveler who is willing to fork over a few bucks the ability to “think/create/connect/recharge.”  They’re called a jabbrrbox, and they come equipped with a bench, a computer screen, an electrical outlet, and a glass door to shut out the ever-present LaGuardia din.  Their motto, which apparently is not ironic, is:  “Your private office, whenever you need it.”  Being on a public concourse at LaGuardia, I wouldn’t exactly call it “private” — but maybe that’s just me.

Could there be a surer, more tangible sign of the miserable failures that are concourses C and D at LaGuardia?  The conditions on these concourses are so appalling and unfavorable for working or reading that someone decided that they could actually profit from the fiasco by selling travelers hoping to gain a few minutes of solitude the chance to sit in a phone booth-sized glass cubicle where they can be gaped at by everyone passing by.  And never mind that these boxes just add to the clutter of already narrow walkways.

I didn’t see anybody actually using one of these contraptions yesterday.  Perhaps other travelers react to them, as I did, with a mixture of astonishment, disgust, and rueful resignation.  Who knows?  If the jabbrrbox approach doesn’t work, maybe the powers that be at LaGuardia will actually consider trying to improve conditions for everyone.

 

When The Cab Ride From LaGuardia Sucks

I’ve been on the road a lot lately, with several in-and-out trips to New York City being part of the travel schedule.  New York City is a very cool place — once you get to the City itself.  Unfortunately, the cab ride in from LaGuardia usually bites.  It’s as if New York City planners decided that the best way to prepare someone for the rigors of Manhattan is to toughen them up and lower their expectations by giving them a painful ride into town.

IMG_7035I’m not the sort of person to get car sick, but Sunday night’s ride into Manhattan got me to the verge of spewing all of the old, crappy, duct-taped seats of my cab.  My driver was an angry guy (of course!) who had only two driving modes — maximum acceleration and jamming on the brakes, and he did both, alternatively, while cursing the traffic (which was heavy, of course) and gesturing angrily at the other drivers (who paid him no attention).

As a result, my fellow passenger and I were like those old Weeble toys, constantly rocked back and forth with the speeding and braking, lurching forward and careening backward and slamming into the seat behind.  Occasionally the driver modified his technique by changing lanes abruptly, so that we got that delightful unexpected lateral motion sensation, too.  Add to it all that the weather was hot, the cab had no air-conditioning, and the windows were cracked to lessen the heat factor — which only means that the back seat was filled foul-smelling, exhaust-laden air — and you will believe me when I tell you that, to put it mildly, the ride in to downtown really sucked.

It doesn’t have to be that way, of course.  Our ride from Manhattan to LaGuardia this afternoon was reasonably pleasant, with a smooth, non-jarring ride and no death-defying lane changes or unhinged gestures.  It makes me wonder — once you get a cab license, in NYC, is there ever any random, anonymous testing to see whether you should still be ferrying passengers back and forth through some of the worst traffic conditions in the United States?  And is it any wonder that so many people prefer Uber, where you know something about your driver and how they have been rated by prior passengers?

On The LaGuardia Approach Vector

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I don’t care how many time you’ve flown into LaGuardia, even the most jaded traveler has got to enjoy the approach that takes you right past downtown Manhattan and over the Brooklyn Bridge. Even on an overcast day, it’s one of the greatest sights in the world. Of course, it helps if you are on the skyline side of the plane.

Hydration Fixation

Yesterday I was in LaGuardia Airport, waiting for my flight home, when I saw that Delta had helpfully put a “water bottle refilling station” in its terminal for those people who seem to carry a water bottle and take a swig everywhere they go. A simple water fountain isn’t good enough — we need a “station” where those brightly colored, quart-sized plastic canisters can be filled to the rim.

IMG_1848I’m sure there’s a purported health reason for this fixation with water, but it’s always seemed weird to me. A few years ago I asked a summer clerk at our firm to come to my office for a meeting. To my surprise, the guy brought along a full, sloshing jug of water, with a plastic straw protruding out. Good lord! How long did he think the meeting was going to last? Was he really worried about becoming dehydrated during a discussion about a research project? Maybe he thought I’d spew so much hot air that the risk of dessication was more than he could tolerate. And his constant sipping made me think of a hamster, too.

What is it with the hydration obsession of some people? Is it supposed to help them stick to a diet by filling them up? Is it supposed to keep their body’s flushing systems working at desperate overload levels? Is it supposed to keep their skin moist and dewy fresh?

I like to drink water as much as the next person, but this hydration fixation seems to be reaching ridiculous levels.