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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Airports: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

I’m as familiar with airports as most people are familiar with their local grocery store. It doesn’t really matter to me which airport it is per say (I do have my favorites…O’Hare is definitely not it <insert I hate O’Hare>) I’m truly comfortable in all of them. I would go as far to say that I love airports (yes you read that correctly I love airports). My love for airports is a kin to Lorelai Gilmore's love for snow (if you don’t watch Gilmore Girls, you should, but just know that she loves it a lot). People can of course point out a myriad of things wrong/terrible about airports, but in the end I don’t care. The airport is like my home away from home. I know that must sound weird for most people since typically airports are not seen as a fun place to be. I guess too many bad memories of near missed flights, lost baggage, and/or less than enthusiastic flight attendants. Also there are still people out there who have never flown or only done so maybe once in their life (how that is I don’t know), so I can imagine that it would be very uncomfortable and foreign walking around an airport for them. I didn’t have an option really on whether or not I wanted to like airports or flying for that matter. My dad lived in Michigan, I lived in Florida, and flying was the fastest way to see one another. So it was that simple, flying just became a normal part of my life, thus I spent a lot of time in airports. In a lot of ways I’m very thankful for that.
 
Also one main contributing factor to my love for airports probably has to do with that fact that I’ve had tremendous luck in them. My baggage has always arrived (hopefully I didn't just curse myself), I’ve never missed a flight (though on this last trip I almost did, but I’ll talk more about that in a little bit) and typically I come in contact with very friendly workers (this past trip a flight attendant told me after a brief conversation that I seemed like a good kid, and to have a great life. And another person told me I had a princess name...which what girl doesn’t like hearing that). Honestly I’ve spent more time in airports than most people probably will in a lifetime. And like most things, the more time you spend doing it or around it, the more comfortable you get. With all that said not much can happen to me in an airport that hasn’t happened before. At the age of 14 I was traveling through airports by myself the way most teenagers walk around a mall. I’m pretty well versed in all things airport. I know how to check in, get through security effortlessly, navigate my way through the terminals, and how to stay asleep during takeoff and landing (very impressive skills I know).
 
Though this past trip home I had something happen to me not once but twice while traveling that had never happened before. I was bumped off my flight (ok well I was actually only bumped off once but they tried twice, I’ll explain more down below). Now I titled this blog the good, the bad, and the ugly for a reason, but surprisingly this is the good part and not the bad. See when I was flying home to Jacksonville, they told me I was bumped. You can imagine that I was not happy about that at all (I mean hello I'm only going for the weekend, so I want as much time home as possible). Thankfully I put up enough of a fight <insert I stood at the counter and just kept telling the ticket agent that is wasn't possible, when she tried to tell me I was bumped> and a lovely woman happened to be nearby, who had time to spare, and offered to trade places with me. The reason I'm including this part in the story in the good section was because I learned a few things from this woman, whose name I don't know (but I'm really thankful for her). While I was waiting for my boarding pass to print, I listened to this woman skillfully negotiate with the ticket agent over ticket vouchers and meal vouchers. It was obvious that this was not this woman’s first time at the rodeo.
You would think with all my traveling I would know more about how to handle a situation like that but I was (notice past tense) quite the novice until this last trip. So back to my story, flash forward to 5 days later, when I leaving Jacksonville (which was amazing but I'm not going to write about it because...well I'll cry) and heading back to Iowa, you can imagine my surprise when my flight was once again over sold but this time they were looking (not just rudely selecting people hunger games style) for volunteers to be bumped. Well I start thinking "hey I'll get to stick around in Jacksonville with my mom for another night, why not". So I enter into my little kiosk that yes I'll volunteer to be bumped (for those that haven't traveled in a while, you no longer check in with a human being unless you are checking luggage. But even so you still start off by signing into a little computer). Anyways having watched the woman negotiate with the airline earlier in the week, I knew that $400 was the most they would give. So that was the number I told them I wanted, and they said <insert the computer said> that they would call me up to the desk at the gate if they selected me to be bumped. (So I guess technically I only got bumped once, the second time I volunteered but whatever). 
I end up not being selected...in Jacksonville that is. It was when I arrived at the gate at my connection in Atlanta that they informed me that they would indeed like to take me up on my offer. It wasn't originally what I had planned, but when they offered to get me a hotel (my flight to Des Moines was the last flight of the night) and give me meal vouchers galore, it was an offer to good to refuse. And oh yes they gave me the $400 voucher that could be used any time during the next year <insert I'm using it in two months...seriously I'm not waiting another 5 months to go home>. And let me just say that Delta took care of this girl. They put me up in the Hilton, in a beautiful room, with a very comfortable bed that had 8 pillows on it (if you know me, you know I love a pillows and lots of them). From the driver of the shuttle, to the concierge at the hotel counter (she was the one who told me I had a princess name), to the guy who brought up my room service (I was surprised when the hotel said they took meal vouchers...works for me) everyone treated me wonderfully. Even though my stay in Atlanta was only roughly 13 hours, I had a wonderful time and zero complaints.
 
Ok so now that I’ve shared the good, here's the only bad part about this story. I was not the only one to take a voucher, a lovely elderly lady, by the name of Beverly did as well. And being that there was just the two of us, they booked us at the same hotel. So it just made sense that we would walk down to the shuttle and take it to the hotel together. Well I’m not one to not talk to people, so I took that time to chat to Miss Beverly. We shared what each of us did, why each of us were traveling, and had a nice little chat about how neither one of us particularly liked winter, and were ok with not going back to Iowa just yet. Again like pretty much everyone else I came in contact with on this trip, Beverly was a lovely human being. When we arrived at our hotel, we both retired to our rooms, but had decided in advance to meet at the shuttle the next morning at 730am. So all goes as planned...at first. We ride the shuttle back together, get onto our first flight (see we had to first fly to Detroit and then go to Des Moines)and all is going well.
 
Until we get to Detroit late...leaving us less than 30 minutes to get to our next flight before it leaves. Now in some airports this wouldn't be a problem. But we arrived at gate 72A and our connecting flight was leaving out of gate 32B. Again doesn't sound too bad, right, A and B are typically close. Well not in the Detroit airport. Pretty much it's like over the river and through the woods, and running up an escalator later, and you finally make it from gate 72A to gate 32B with only 5 minutes to spare (yeah that was pretty much my experience). And by escalator I mean a giant escalator, the kind that when you get on it you have to duck your head down to be able to see the top. Not only did I run up that escalator but I also power walked what felt like the length of a football field practically pushing people out of my way just to get to my gate before they closed the door. {Side note word to the wise when the conveyor belt style walk way has writing on it, that says walk on one side and stand on the other. Pick a side, don't stand in the middle. Or you can't wait for someone like me to come along, who will help you pick a side} Now that wasn't the bad part, see I've had to do that kind of stuff in the past and that's why I recommend not wearing heels or flip flops to an airport. The bad part is that in all the hustle and bustle, I selfishly forgot about Beverly <insert hanging head in shame>. Over the years I've predomitaly traveled alone, so I'm not use to having to think about others. And it wasn’t like we had made some pack to always stick together, but she was kind to me, and I try to never under value kindness. Sadly it wasn't until I was seated and we were pulling away from the gate, did I think "Oh no! Where is Beverly"? I soon realized, after scanning all the seats, that Beverly did not make it. My “everyman for himself” mentality kept me from feeling too horrible about leaving her behind, like I mentioned before she was elderly and never would have been able to keep up at my pace, but that was definitely the bad part about this trip.
 So now moving onto the Ugly, literally I could have spent this entire time talking about the atrocious fashion choices people make when traveling. I will admit up front that I’m a bit of an airport fashion snob. I have standards of what appropriate apparel is and I've come to realize that few people meet said standards. In general I appreciate good fashion sense. But I’ve learned that US airports is not a place that you will come across this often. Somewhere along the way it was deemed socially acceptable to wear velour tracksuits and pajamas to the airport and to not brush your hair before boarding a flight. Like I said I don't recommend wearing high heels but please if you are reading this blog, have some self-respect the next time you fly and put on real clothes. Even on my 23 hour flight to South Africa, I managed to put on pants that didn’t have an elastic waistline. Again if I’ve learned anything from Stacy and Clinton from What Not to Wear, you can be comfortable and not look like some FEMA refugee. That's all I'm going to say about that.
 
But I will mention a few of the fashionably challenged people I came across while traveling. Starting with the women who was wearing the black spaghetti strapped top, that was paired with what looked like two black dollies strapped around her waist <insert her whole a%$ was hanging out and it was obvious to everyone around what color her thong was...disgusting I know>. She accessorized this outfit (if you can call it that) with fishnet stockings and black leather high heeled boots. I'm not saying she was a prostitute but if I ever want to dress up like one, I planning on copying her look, though I may tone it done a bit. Another set of winners <insert this is what sarcasm looks like> I came across were two brothers who were both roughly middle aged, wearing mandels <insert man-sandals> and matching t-shirts, that looked like thing 1 and thing 2 t-shirts, but instead they said bro 1 and bro 2. All I have to say that is no. I could go on, but actually I’m going to stop there. I feel like I've shared enough for y'all to get the picture, but not so much as to scar you.
 
But even with people committing horrible fashion crimes in my beloved airports, I still love them (airports, not the fashion criminals...actually I kind of love them too. I have a love/hate relationship with them <insert I love to hate on them>). But truly it’s the hustle and bustle, the opportunity to people watch, even all the little shops that draw me in and entice me to buy overpriced water and magazines that I love. Walking through an airport alone at the age of 14 gave me my first real taste of independence. And I'm pretty sure my wanderlust spirit was birthed by me just staring at the departing flight board, thinking I had so many places that I needed to go to (I still have so many places that I need to go to). I love the way it feels when a plane takes off and I know I'm heading to either a new destination or a familiar face. From the age of 9 airports have been a constant presence in my life, and like I said before I'm very thankful for that. And even with all things considered; the good, the bad, and the ugly, I love them. Ok now I'm off to go look at planes tickets to Jacksonville…and possibly some far away destinations. Hope you enjoyed this blog.

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