Airport Chic

  
The B concourse at Port Columbus has undergone a bit of a facelift, and the renovation process has addressed two of the new issues raised by modern travel.

First, what should be placed right beyond the TSA checkpoints, to help those sock clad, disassembled travelers who emerge stumbling from the process, holding up their pants, clutching belt and shoes, and trying to navigate their roller boards past the other huddled masses?  Port Columbus has come up with star-shaped benches just after the TSA area that seem to work pretty well as a drop bags, shoe-tying, put yourself back together gathering point.

Second, what about seating areas at the gates?  Before, the airport just had rows of back seats; the new feature is serpentine pods with low tables that look like the interior of the Jetsons’ house.  The black seats are still there, but the serpentine seats at least break up the monotony.  You’re not going to use them if you need to charge your devices, though.

  

The Good Samaritan At Port Columbus

Our plane arrived in balmy Columbus on time last night, we hopped onto the shuttle that takes patrons out to the Green Lot — the lot with the cheapest daily rate — and were looking forward to getting back home, seeing an excited Kasey, and vegging out.

After the shuttle dropped us off we walked to our car, commenting on the nice weather, and I pulled out the keys with the automatic door opener, pushed the button, and got . . . nothing.  No short beep, no flash of tail lights . . . nothing.

Ugh.

348sSo with sinking feeling I got into the car by using a key the old-fashioned way, tried the ignition, and the car was totally dead.  And, because married couples always do this, Kish then got into the car, tried the ignition, and got the same result as I beat myself up about apparently leaving some light on or some door ajar, even though I know that I checked twice when we locked the car up.  So we briefly debated about whether to just take a cab home, or call AAA and wait in the parking lot until they showed up.

But, as Kish called AAA, I saw a pick-up truck, with what appeared to be a snow plow on the front, far down our parking row.  Maybe this guy could give me a jump?  As I walked down to his truck, I noticed that he was giving a jump to another car, and my spirits rose.  When he was done, I asked if he could give us a jump, too, and he said sure.

It turns out this jovial fellow worked for Port Columbus and was roaming the parking lots, helping out travelers like us.  He explained that, while we were gone, the temperatures at the airport lots had fallen to around zero overnight, which took its toll on car batteries and the air in tires.  In short, our dead battery wasn’t our fault.  (Hooray!)  And sure enough, as he prepared to help us out, another Green Lot patron sheepishly walked up and asked for a jump, too.

We filled out a form as the Port Columbus Good Samaritan used a little gizmo that fired up our battery and brought our car roaring to life — no need for jumper cables in these modern times, apparently — and we gratefully gave him the last five dollars in our collective wallets, which he initially tried to refuse.  We insisted that he accept it, though, because his presence and helped allowed our vacation to end on a high note.

Thanks to Port Columbus for its foresight in employing the Good Samaritan, and thanks to the Good Samaritan for giving us weary travelers a hand in a time of need.

Airport Under Construction

Port Columbus, central Ohio’s uniquely named and pleasantly manageable gateway to the world, is under construction . . . again.  In fact, it seems like our airport, and every airport, everywhere, is always under construction.  As I did an in-and-out trip to New York yesterday, the familiar presence of temporary walls and workers laboring to  “modernize” the concourses and make them more suitable for the engine of American commerce moved me to compose some doggerel.

Airport Under Construction

IMG_5615Airports used to be just for flying,

But now they’re a bigger production.

Because it must be more, more, more!

Our airport’s under construction.

Bookstores, clothing. and food galore

All offer their consumer seduction

You need a frozen yogurt, friend!

So our airport’s under construction.

You know, a neck massage sounds good

But no!  There’s an obstruction.

I can’t figure out a proper route

‘Cause our airport’s under construction,

I yearn for simpler, easier days of yore

When flying involved less sucktion.

Will it ever, ever end,

This airport under construction?

TGFP

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When you’re traveling, you thank the gods of functional modern electrical devices for every accessible and charged outlet. Outlets where you can sit on a chair, rather than squatting on a dirty floor, are signs of a particularly benevolent deity. Thank God For Power!

The fickle gods smile upon Port Columbus passengers, although sometimes they fake you out with inoperative outlets. As I said, they’re fickle.

If Such Signs Are Necessary . . . .

IMG_4046As you enter Port Columbus airport from the parking garage, you encounter one of those exceptionally long escalators with this sign.  My God!  Is it really necessary to warn people not to try to wrangle a person in a wheelchair onto an escalator and support them as the escalator slowly rises to the next level?  Could some imbecile actually have tried to do it — and then sued because no warning sign was posted?

You might as well put a warning sign on a lawnmower cautioning people not to use it to cut hair.

Wi-Fi Wanted

The more I travel, the more I have come to value airports and hotels by the availability of free wireless access to the internet.  For airports, the availability of plentiful plug-ins also factors into the mix.

By these two crucial measures, Port Columbus fares pretty well.  The seating areas have lots of plug-ins that allow you to recharge your collection of electric devices after a long day on the road.  The wireless is free and seems to be available throughout the airport — or, at least, at the gates I’ve used.  The free wireless is advertised through a corny campaign that invites airport patrons to visit “Wai-Fai Beach” and features a little grass-skirted hula dancer figure, but I don’t care.  I’ve used the kitschy surfboard as a plug-in point when the seating areas are filled, and I appreciate the service.

It’s gotten to the point that I become irked if I can’t find lots of outlets and free wireless at airports or in my hotel room.  It’s bad enough when there is no wireless, but it is even worse when you have to register and pay for it.  I really feel like I’m being nickeled and dimed to death.  I’ve started to ask my secretary to check to see if the hotel has free wireless.  If it doesn’t, and I can free wireless at a competitively priced alternative, that is where I am going to take my business.

I’m not saying I’m entitled to free wireless, but if Port Columbus and many hotels can provide it, why can’t everybody?

The Houston In-And-Out

The modern world is a pretty amazing place.  Yesterday morning I went to soggy Port Columbus, checked in, and boarded a Continental flight.  Three hours or so later I was in sunny and warm Houston, Texas, in a conference room on the 41st floor of a downtown office building, looking at the view shown above.  A few meetings, a conference room lunch of shrimp etouffee and red beans and rice, and a few phone calls later and I was back in a cab, zipping by in the taxi lane to George Bush International Airport.  A few hours after that, I arrived in cold and snowy Columbus, getting home at a little after 9 p.m.

A few airports visited, two thousand air miles traveled, latitudes and longitudes spanned, enormous weather systems leaped, cultural divides crossed — and all in the space of a few hours.  We tend to take these kinds of trips for granted, but perhaps we shouldn’t.  It really is a pretty amazing thing.

TSA Roulette

This week I was in St. Louis overnight, so I went through the Transportation Security Administration checkpoint at Port Columbus on Thursday and the TSA checkpoint at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport on Friday.  I therefore must ask:  why are the checkpoint procedures so different from airport to airport?

In Columbus there are separate lines for “expert travelers,” casual travelers, and families in order to improve the flow through security.  In St. Louis everyone gets in the same, slow-moving line.  In St. Louis you can’t put your shoes in the plastic tub, you need to put them on the belt separately.  In Columbus, shoes can go in the tub with everything else.  In some airports you seem to need to hold your boarding pass as you go through the scanner, in others you don’t.  In some airports laptops need to be placed in their own bin, in others that is not the case.

Maybe the TSA procedures are ever-changing and that is the reason for the discrepancies, but I doubt it.  It seems like every airport has its own special procedures, and I think that is a mistake.  The TSA is a federal agency, and as a federal agency should enforce uniform procedures on a nationwide basis.  Having different, seemingly weird procedures — like placing your shoes directly on the belt in St. Louis — just slows down the security check-through process.  Passengers are already on edge because of the slowness of the process and the prospect of missing their plane, and it just makes them mad when they get yelled at by a TSA officer for not following a completely unknown requirement.

Is it too much to ask for some consistency in what is supposed to be an important security process?