The Din At The Gate

Yesterday I was flying back home, connecting through O’Hare.  As we sat at our gate, crammed in the overcrowded, narrow seating area, there was a small child screeching somewhere nearby, three guys in the next row over were talking loudly, and a woman sitting two seats down was speaking into her cell phone.  And above all the din was a TV set tuned to CNN, broadcasting at sufficient volume so that anybody who was interested could hear talking heads yammer about Stormy Daniels and her alleged tryst with President Trump.

Let’s just say it wasn’t exactly a peaceful, relaxing waiting area.  Instead, it was close to the exact opposite — an area seemingly designed to jack up the tension and general unpleasantness that could have been made worse only if somebody was dragging their fingernails against a chalkboard or running a dentist’s drill with that high-pitched whine over a loudspeaker.

There’s not much you can do about a crying baby, or the talking habits of your fellow passengers.  Those are things that you just have to endure when you travel.  Notably, however, so far as I could tell nobody in our cramped waiting area was watching the CNN broadcast on the TV monitor overhead.  It was just a big part of the background racket contributing to the general unpleasantness.  And while you can argue about whether following the news at all these days is good for your mental health, do we really need to have the TV news on in public areas, bombarding us with more noise during every waking moment?  At an airport gate waiting area, at least, there’s no way to turn the TV off to try to minimize the tumult.

Finally getting on the plane, where it was a little bit quieter, was a relief.  The experience made me appreciate our Columbus airport, where there aren’t TVs blaring at every gate area and you actually can sit quietly while waiting for your flight.  I don’t know if the O’Hare airport authority gets paid something by CNN for broadcasting the news in every waiting area, but I’d sure appreciate it if they junked the TVs and reduced, at least a little, the noise pollution and the din at the gate.

 

O’Hare

O’Hare.  Mention it to any business traveler, and you are likely to hear a groan and a war story about some travel mishap.

O’Hare.  The fifth-busiest airport in the world.  Named for World War II flying hero and Congressional Medal of Honor winner Edward Henry (“Butch”) O’Hare, who bravely faced down a group of bombers heading for his aircraft carrier.

O’Hare.  It’s unavoidable if you live in Columbus and need to go just about anywhere to the west.  You’re likely to be routed through O’Hare on the way out and on the way back.  You keep your fingers crossed that there won’t be a line of thunderstorms, or snow storms, or wind storms that blow out your travel schedule and bring the nation’s air traffic system to its knees.  Otherwise, you’ll find yourself wandering through one of the bustling concourses at O’Hare, wondering how you’re going to get to where you want to go.

O’Hare.  I spent the night there once, after my flight in from the west coast was delayed and I arrived at O’Hare at about 1:30 a.m. to learn that every hotel room in the airport was booked and my flight out would leave at 5:40 a.m.  There was no place to sleep and no where to go so I walked back and forth on the concourse, like one of the dazed passengers on The Poseidon Adventure, counting down the minutes until my flight left.  It was probably the longest four hours of my life.

O’Hare.  I’m heading there today, and I’m hoping it doesn’t rise up and bite me, again.

Hey, Big Brother

I was sitting in one of the countless terminals at O’Hare yesterday, waiting for my flight back to Columbus, when I heard a series of announcements from the Department of Homeland Security over the PA system.  One reminded me of the 3-1-1 rules that apply to carrying liquids (no more than 3 ounces, in 1 clear plastic zip lock bag, and 1 bag per passenger).  Another advised us all to sneeze or cough into our arms, so as to avoid spreading germs.

Seriously, is this what we’ve come to?  Americans can’t even sit in an airport terminal without being hectored repeatedly by a federal agency about how to sneeze and cough, and using a particular kind of baggie when going through security?  Can’t we leave it to the mothers of America to teach their children to cover their mouths when they sneeze or cough?  And why should it make a difference to the feds whether my liquids are stored in one plastic bag versus two?

I’m tired of our ridiculous Big Brother government.  And when the announcements made me think of Big Brother, I thought of this classic song from Rare Earth.  Our Big Brother government is far more intrusive now than it was in the ’70s when this song was recorded — but at least humming this tune made me feel a little better.

Planes, Trains, And Automobiles

Today I drove to the airport, caught an early morning flight to the Windy City, then took the Chicago Transit Authority Blue Line train from O’Hare Airport to my downtown meeting site.  I therefore completed the John Candy-Steve Martin business travel trifecta when the day was still young.

The train ride was a pleasant way to get from the airport to the city — much more enjoyable than a cab ride through stop-and-go traffic.  The trip took a bit less than an hour.  We sat in a clean, relatively quiet car with no exhaust fumes pouring in, rolled past some interesting neighborhoods and buildings, and heard recorded announcements that encouraged us all to be polite to our fellow passengers by not listening to blaring music or having annoyingly loud conversations on our cell phones.  It seems like the Transit Authority is working hard to make the train trip more tolerable, and it was.

One part of the train ride made me laugh.  At two of the Blue Line stops, you can get out and transfer to other subway lines — one of which is the Pink Line.  Huh?  The Pink Line?  In the Stormy, husky, brawling, City of the Big Shoulders?  Carl Sandburg would probably laugh and like that development, too.