Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The "Spirit" of Today's Airports

Some incidents are best forgotten (or disappear from our memories, even when we don't want them to), while others keep tapping us on the shoulder with a message, long after the moment has passed. Thus was the case for me after I flew out of Dayton OH a couple weeks ago. The message—and in this case it's multiple messages—has to do with the difference in "spirit" between small airports and mega ones, like Chicago O'Hare (hear me groan), my home airport, the one travel gurus keep saying, and with good reason, to avoid.

While I was making my way through Dayton's security line, a female voice announced over the loudspeaker that "an earring with a bunch of dangly stars on it" had been left at the security checkpoint. The owner should come claim it, she said, in a warm friendly voice. Even though I had not yet passed through (so to speak), I immediately checked my ears since I own many pairs of dangling starry adornments. Stars are my thing. And after all, I was in the area. But nope, two earrings accounted for.

Some time later, again came the earring announcement, which, in words, was an exact repeat -- aside from the fact that this time she started with "We still have . . . ." But this time, the female's tone of voice sounded like a cross between sorrow , sympathy and "Please, somebody, don't leave this beautiful thing behind!" Obviously the kind lady was concerned for the person who would one day discover her bobble done disappeared, likely while at 27,000 feet. "Please come to the security checkpoint to claim it," she nearly begged, her sympathy for the lose-ee clearly rising.

While standing in line to buy a bottle of water, the urgent tone of this second message caused me to start obsessing over what this earring looked like. Was it silver or gold? Multi-color or plastic? Chandelier in presentation, pinwheel, exotic . . .? Good thing I'm honest, I thought, otherwise I might go claim it for myself since it must be stunning to cause such concern. (Diamonds, perhaps?) Or maybe I should find out where unclaimed lost things end up (some giant warehouse somewhere, as I recall) and see if I can buy it. Honestly, I could not stop thinking about it. This is the type of stupid stuff that hijacks my brain when I'm travel weary.


By the time I unscrewed the cap on my water, another announcement thankfully interrupted my momentary insanity. This time the "found" item left at security was a cane with four feet at the base. I think this was followed by the starry earrings thing again, but I'm not sure since . . . .

WHAT?! Who needs to use a four-claw cane so badly that they go through the hassle of getting it through security, and then forget to pick it up? Are they crawling now and haven't noticed? Are they in a wheelchair? If you can believe it, this announcement was also repeated before I boarded. Thankfully, Dayton offers big comfy rocking chairs in their boarding areas in which I could sit and rock and ponder these things.

(Hear music from Jaws que up.)

And now, let's talk about O'Hare and other Monster Airports, where, at security checkpoints, I've left my driver's license, my laptop and sundry other items, as do tons of other people. Let's talk about O'Hare, where no personal announcements are made about anything. Nope, just cranky recorded canned warnings about unguarded bags, and unsympathetic information about delays, cancelations and gate changes. And where there is often NO waiting seat available in the gate area, let alone a comfy rocking chair. And the seats that are available are those molded things that were certainly not molded for my body that wants to slide right out of them. In fact, part of my time-passing time at O'Hare is spent trying to remain upright in those things!

Now I realize smaller airports offer a more personal feel, because, well, they're smaller. And I realize that if every item left behind at the security checkpoints at O'Hare came with an immediate announcement, they would rifle at us nonstop.

But still, wouldn't it be nice if the Big Guys occasionally offered a cheery grandmotherly sounding voice in their rotation of canned announcements saying something like, "You got everything, honey? You know it's easy to forget this or that when you have to strip nearly buck naked and turn over all your valuables to a stranger to have a look-see." Or, "We know gate G15 is a long way off and down a set of stairs, but YOU CAN MAKE IT!"

Or how about this. "We're sorry – seriously – to have to inform you that our on-time ratings are so pathetic, but we're working on it. Seriously."

1 comment:

maudie-mae said...

Let's start a collection of interesting announcements we hear at airports. I don't travel nearly as often as you do, but I do fly to my mother's twice a year and that puts me in an airport four times. I am also collecting funny things pilots say, which isn't a long list either. This trip, I flew from Spokane, WA, through Minneapolis to Little Rock, AR and then retraced my steps back. On the return trip this announcement was made in Little Rock, "Can you hear me now? Good. We have a cell phone at the security checkpoint and if you don't come back to claim it, we are going to start making random international long distance calls." I'll give you that one just for starters.