Opinion

Massage, Slow Walking And Other Bad Ideas In Airports

They say hindsight is 20/20, and as I fly home, all I can say is boy are they right. In hindsight, I should not have invested in Dodd-Frank: The Musical. In hindsight, I should have considered the litigation risks before penning The Autobiography of Harper Lee. And in hindsight, I should not have stopped for that Swedish massage back in the main terminal.

At least I think it was Swedish, but I’m beginning to have my doubts. What classically trained masseur offers specific rubs a la carte, or for that matter calls them things like Slap Sandwich? Now I’ve missed my connection, smell unmistakably of pears and am stranded at forgotten Gate Z-130. It’s the little things that tell a seasoned traveler he’s at a forgotten gate. Like kiosks that convert dollars into currencies of countries that no longer exist. And people shaving.

Making matters worse, I have a large stain in the front of my pants. As I scrubbed at the men’s room sink to lose the pear smell, someone hit the hand dryer behind me. You know, the one powered by a Pratt & Whitney jet engine, with gale force strength and sounding like two hounds of hell fighting over a soup bone. Needless to say it scared the daylights of out me, and I splashed my trunks. While the supersonic hand dryer surely could fix this, I can’t see my explanation of why I was warming the ol’ flyover states in the men’s room holding up at an arraignment hearing. So I head back to Gate Z-130, wet-trousered and reeking of pears.

In the hallway outside the men’s room I see an advertisement for, of all things, pants. This seems weird until you remember I’m at a forgotten gate. What got me was the tag-line: Pants for All Occasions. Aren’t there really only two occasions in life, those that require pants and those that don’t? If growth for Big Trouser depends on convincing consumers to wear chinos in the tub, I’m shorting the stock.

So it’s been a bad day, but you know what? It’s good to keep things in perspective. Surely this very day plenty of people have had it worse. Somewhere this morning in a CrossFit gym a fella turned abruptly at the worst possible moment and caught an up-swinging kettleball right below the equator. What’s this inconvenience compared to that? It gives me time to reflect on my surroundings, and that’s good because you know something? Air travel has seen better days.

I’m not blaming the airlines, this one’s on the travelers. I can sum up the problem in three words – pace of play. Like in golf, one group of lollygaggers can ruin things for everyone. Perhaps we need rangers riding in carts throughout the airport, for they could put the worst perpetrators on the clock:

Slow-walking families. I’m not talking about the elderly, anyone injured or otherwise in poor health. I’m talking about able-bodied families of four-plus who get off the jetway and immediately flare out like soldiers on patrol in the Mekong Delta. When I see a tiny little Dora the Explorer backpack on the left flank, I know I’m in trouble. You telling me, exasperated, just to pass them is like me telling you, thirsty, just to drink from a fire hose. All approaching traffic is funneling through the tiny sliver of daylight that Easy Company isn’t blocking. It’d be like Pickett’s Charge.

People mesmerized by the arrivals and departures screen. Dude, it’s arrivals and departures, not the moon landing. Smart money says gate information for your connection to New Bern will be right there above New York like it always is. If you’re waiting for some whispered message a la Field of Dreams, I’ll provide it: Ease My Pain. Seriously, just get what you need and move on.

Cinnabon Dawdlers. These are the ones who stand at Cinnabon’s threshold, unsure of whether to purchase. They’re closely related to men at newsstands who hover around adult magazines but pretend to be zeroing in on The Economist. As if anyone in the history of air travel ever really thought I can’t decide between Harvard Business Review and Buns & Bikes. So listen up you pastry dawdlers, I’ll make it easy. You know who doesn’t eat at Cinnabon? People who don’t stop at Cinnabon. You on the other hand will place an order. I know it, you know it, and everyone trying to pass you in the Z concourse knows it. So stop blocking traffic and just get acquainted with that honey-glazed bear claw already.

These aren’t the only bad actors by any means, but my time is short. They just announced a gate change. I’m now flying out of Gate A-2.