PortTik – Indianapolis International (IND)

Before the days of online maps and travel apps (I guess blogs fit in there as well), many went to the local AAA office for a “TripTik” when planning a vacation. You could get hotel reservations, maps, tickets to attractions and much more as a perk of your membership. Like much of the travel industry, TripTiks took a backseat to the online world of travel planning leaving this once great travel tool left behind amongst a sea of dead travel agencies and planners. AAA still offer TripTiks today through a virtual environment so it hasn’t completely gone away.

Anyway, in a way to honor the glory days of paper travel, I’m going to start my own version of the TripTiks but of course, focusing my efforts on the world’s airports. Since my job gives me the opportunity to do a good amount of travel, plus the travel my wife and I do on our own, I’m in a lot of airports and along with people watching, I like to explore the environments making note of the good, the bad, and the absolutely stupid. So I don’t infringe on AAA’s copyright, I’ve decided to call version “PortTiks” where I will do my best to give a review of airports I encounter along with some tips that I may learn along the way.

indy-airport-light02To begin this journey, I will start at my home base at the Indianapolis International Airport (IND) located in the “Crossroads of America,” beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana. This is the starting point for most of my journeys so it only makes sense to start with the one in my own back yard. The first thing to point out about IND compared to many of the other airports I will review, is that even with a few years under its belt, it is brand, spanking new. IND was one of the first airports to be fully reconstructed after September 11, 2001 which along with its visual appeal, is considering one of the safest airports in the United States. Although it is hard to consider IND a “major airport” given the low frequency of flights in and out daily and sine it is not a major airline hub, IND offers many of the perks of the larger facilities amplified to a new and modern level.

According the IND website, the airport consist of approximately 1.2 million square feet, with two concourses and 20 gates. Only two gates throughout the complex are designated for international departures but I guess that’s enough for them to say they are global. One of the first things you notice about IND both from inside and out, is the was built to incorporate as much natural light as possible. ind-lightThe terminal, concourses, and even the baggage claim area is made up of almost constant windows, many of which reach twenty or more feet in the air. During the day this adds a nice outside feel to the facility but at night it is equally as impressive especially driving up from I-70. I can only imagine that the pilots can see IND from miles away because of the amount of light that radiates out in the evening hours. I’m not an expert, but surely that is a plus.

If you follow me long enough, you’re going to notice that restrooms are very important to me. The one thing that will always be a determining factor between a good versus bad restroom is the presence or absence of dividers between each urinal. I’m happy to announce that IND passes theurinalsstagefright test and has nice, metal dividers comfortably situated between each urinal to keep me from having to view the business of the traveler next to me. The restrooms also have nice hangers on the backs of the stall doors; at least most of them have yet to be ripped off by some jerk-off who thinks it’s a good idea to hang up his 40lb garment bag. You can also get a handful of hand sanitizer on the way out which is another plus on their part.

IND has its perks but there are plenty of drawbacks as well. For one, some of the best restaurants are actually located before the security checkpoints. I wonder if this was intentional or a design flaw that wasn’t realized until it was too late. Of course with IND not being a major hub, there are few travelersindy-airport-inside-restaurants who arrive on a layover so that may have factored into this decision. However, since IND is mostly a come and go airport, you either have to decide to eat at one of these establishments before going into security or after you reach your destination. I guess one could go out of security waiting on a delay but who really wants to invite the additional screenings you get for making that decision. There are plenty of other eating or grab-and-go establishments in each concourse so dining options is not a problem. I just had to get this little annoyance off my chest.

As I’ve stated a few times, IND is not a major airport so whether you are traveling to here or heading out, most layoverlikely you’re going to layover at either Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas or Chicago (to name a few). I’ll review those at a later time and you can determine yourself how much of an inconvenience that can cause. IND has done a pretty good job of announcing new direct flights fairly often but for the most part, you’re on a leg when flying IND so get used to it. Maybe someday, as the city grows and more flights start pouring through this airport, they will get to the point where point A to B is the norm instead of the exception.

Overall, IND is a great airport which has been recognized by publications like Conde Nast, TripAdvisor and Airports Council International. It’s visual appeal, wide corridors and overall traveler friendly design make it worthy of all the allocates it has received. It’s relatively small size and low flight frequency are some negative attributes; however, IND fits into the direction of its host city as a growing, modern and clean facility that is ready to bust out into bigger and better things.

DUDES (DUD)

When you’re at an airport, men are everywhere. At Heathrow Airport in London, one of the busiest airports in the world, it is estimated that over 56% of passengers are men which I think is quite low just based upon casual observation. However, men are elsewhere throughput the facility. Men make up over 90% of pilots and over 75% of air traffic controllers. Of the remaining occupations at airports and for airlines, 66% of the work force are men. Men pretty much dominate the airline industry with the exception of flight attendants which we will cover another time. The point is when you are in an airport you are engulfed in a male environment from the minute you walk through the front doors to when you eventually reach your final destination.

With all the men running around the airport, it may seem difficult to categorize them into groups based on certain characteristics alone. However, the group being discussed in this post, will now and forever be known as the “Dudes” since they are easily identifiable and can be seen in airports around the world. the_hangover32Dudes are a specialized group of men who we’ve all encountered at one time or another and some of us may have even taken on their persona over the years. They are brash, unencumbered and come to airport on a mission to put their Y chromosomes promptly on display.

Dudes at the airport are usually meeting up with other dudes to go do dude related things at dude-like locations. They head to bachelor parties in Vegas or hunting trips in Alberta. They go on guy’s weekends in New Orleans and fraternity reunions in College Station. One of the more common reasons for dudes to grace the airport scene is the pilgrimage to support some sports team outside of their home turf. drunk-fanThe Super Bowl, NCAA tournament, and NASCAR Races all attract hordes of dudes, every one of them needing to be transported one way or another.

Dudes have characteristics that are unmatched by just about every other group of individuals. They gawk openly at young girls, sexually harass flight attendants and bartenders and usually make at least one reference to the mile-high club. Their favorite clothing is fan gear coupled with larger than average tennis shoes, ankle socks, cargo shorts and baseball caps. They are loud obnoxious and pretty much loathed by everyone else in the terminal. If you happen to be in their proximity, listen closely and you will probably hear the words “douche bags” muttered under the breath of those who are situated closest to them. Most of the time, dudes can be found at the bar nearest to their gate, downing domestic beers and telling lies that the rest of the group have probably heard a hundred times before.

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On an individual level, these are probably decent humans who are upstanding citizens, admired by their families and work hard in their occupations. However, once they meet up with even another member of their tribe, the dude mentality takes over and they are transformed into ape-like beings losing all sense of decency and self-control. Dudes can be further categorized into those who are married and those who are not. Most of what I am describing leans towards the married type since they seem to use these little getaways as a means of escape from their everyday domesticated lives. Their left hands are permanently imprinted by the wedding bands in their pockets thinking that somehow their perceived availability would distract women from their beer guts, ill fitted clothing and receding hairlines. Married dudes usually soak buzzlightyear-douchebagsup the airport Wi-Fi looking for the closest Hooters or strip club to their hotels. These are the guys that give the married world a bad name yet somehow get away with their antics time and time again. Some people would feel sorry for their poor wives waiting at home, yet I’m certain they themselves take these opportunities to relax, draw a bubble bath and look up old boyfriends on Facebook while fantasizing about what could have been.

In some ways, dudes need to be celebrated since they do add an air of excitement to the otherwise run-a-day routine of an airport. If you not easily offended (or female) their jokes can be funny and they do sometimes accept new members into their group even temporarily while waiting at the gate or on the flight itself. Dudes are never shy about conversing with others in the terminal which is a refreshing change since most passengers are absorbed into their laptops or smart phones. The dudes bring us back to a time when meeting new people did not include a screen swipe or friend request. For this we should thank the dudes, or at least forget one or more of their transgressions which are inevitably going to happen.

Dudes go forth and enjoy the things that make you happy. We will watch, laugh and be entertained while waiting to take our turns in the skies. It’s those like the dudes which make the ever growing airport society interesting and keep those like me coming back for more. I’ll close with a simple phrase from Jeff Bridges in the cult-classic, The Big Lebowski: The Dude Abides….The Dude Abides!the_dude

The OUTSIDERS (OTR)

In 1938, Sociologist Louis Wirth wrote in his paper Urbanism as a Way of Life, that a city may be defined as a relatively large, dense, and permanent settlement of socially heterogeneous individuals. He noted that cities in America have grown to include a relative absence of intimate personal acquaintanceships, a complex pattern of segregation and the affiliation of the individuals with a variety of intersecting and tangential social groups. This definition has been widely accepted amongst the academic communities as it points out many of the complexities that make up an urban environment.

If viewed from the outside in, airports can very closely mirror the make-up and characteristics of any major city as defined by Wirth. Most visitors will wonder through the corridors of an airport with no interest in building relationships with others, they segregate themselves into in-groups based upon final destination and enter and exit all areas of the premises with no reason to maintain a group mentality once their trip has been completed. In the U.S., there is a tendency for some people to be energized by this type of environment and even thrive within the confines of almost complete anonymity. Others, however, find it to be very uncomfortable and long for the intimacy that is most likely to accompany a life within a smaller community. This group will be the focus of today’s post as they can navigate the complex nature of airports around the world but yet wear their lack of comfort on their sleeves. Because this group historically dislikes the city atmosphere and chooses to live elsewhere for most of their lives, from this point on they will simply be known as the “Outsiders.”clampetts

There are other more common names associated with the outsiders. They are sometimes referred to as hillbillies, rednecks, hicks, yokels or hayseeds; though I did not see they need to refer to them in a derogatory manor, since, come on, we all have our flaws. The name “Outsiders” simply refers to their residence outside of the major metropolitan areas which could be anywhere: middle of nowhere Kansas, a farm 30 miles outside of Chicago or even a trailer park minutes from Bakersfield. They don’t necessarily live in the hills or work on tractors every day; they’re mostly simple people who prefer a smaller, less populated habitat. The one common characteristics of all who fit into this category is that they are not used to the environmental pace that resides in airports. You can see this through their frustration in almost every aspect of the airport experience; whether it is the parking lot, the security checkpoints, and of course, the air travel itself.

Outsiders usually travel in packs; mostly family units which by observation adds to the difficulties they sometimes experience at the airport. Usually they can be heard well before coming into view since the societal graces that dictate oral volume are not normally part of their formal or informal social education. Yelling at each other even from very short distances is common and can be expected just about everywhere in an airport including, but not limited to, the shuttle bus, the security line, the gate and the plane itself. Their tendency not to use the letter “g” and the monumental length of their vowels give them a distinct sound that can be universally recognized.

Lack of preparation is another key characteristic of the outsiders. Again, airports are small cities with a diverse set of interconnected parts and services all working to maximize efficiency. The simplicity of outsiders can conflict with these processes especially as airports become more and more automated. The first sign of conflict can usually be seen at the ticket counter. Most airlines have installed self-serving kiosks so passengers can quickly print their boarding passes, pay for their checked luggage and be on their way. redneck-2When faced with one of these fancy new airline machines, outsiders usually approach them with hesitation and even fear as things like confirmation numbers are not common in their everyday lives. Airline personnel usually spend an inordinate amount of time with this group getting through what I feel is one of the simpler parts of the airport experience. Lack of preparation amongst the outsiders can also be seen at the security check point. I will admit, the TSA rules regarding what can and cannot go through changes more than a presidential candidate’s accent so even the most seasoned traveler can never really be fully prepared for this part of the process. However, the outsider’s tendency to argue with TSA officials and loudly announce to the rest of the group what they are experiencing make this a particularly difficult task to undertake.

Once the outsiders negotiate the front of the house portion of the airport, it’s pretty smooth sailing from that point on. At least in their minds. Airports like any organized institution comes with a set of social norms that the greater population agree upon and act accordingly in order to maintain a sense of order. Much like the volume issue written above, the outsiders are not fully educated on these norms and instead take it upon themselves to make up their own rules. For example, they tend to treat the moving walkways as rides instead of an efficient means of traveling a great distance through the terminals. Because of the herd mentality of the outsiders, they clog up the lanes causing those behind them either to be torturously waiting for it to end or have to walk the distance these devices where created to eliminate with luggage in tow. The slow pace of their small town life also conflicts with the mores of an airport. Even those everyday passengers who are not late for their flights like to move at a faster than average pace as the designs of these buildings make this seem like it is the right thing to do. The outsiders however, walk at their own leisurely pace with no regard to those whose time is better spent at their gate or final destination.

Once the outsiders arrive at their gate the show is far from over. They spread out like locust consuming more room than is actually necessary for their own comfort. Once again the volume issue re-emerges as they constantly communicate their wants, needs, disgusts, issues, and bodily functions as if they were sitting in the privacy of their own living rooms. duck-dynastyThey usually wear very colorful clothing which in many cases attempts to communicate some sort of social or political position, their favorite reality TV show, brands of alcohol and/or tobacco products or the latest in camouflaging technology. Their wardrobe choices add to the ambience making them the center of attention whether that was their prerogative or not. Boarding procedures can produce even more confusion amongst the outsider as, once again, the lack of preparation rears its ugly head. They seem to enjoy congregating as close to the gate door as possible even when they are on one of the last zones to be called forward. This gives their fellow passengers the opportunity to wade through the entire herd getting a front row glimpse of the outsiders and all of their glory.

The outsiders are not bad people and should not be looked at as such. As stated before, the pace of airports is just simply more than some of them can handle. Just like Wirth wrote 78 years ago: “The city has thus historically been the melting-pot of races, peoples, and cultures. It has not only tolerated but rewarded individual differences. It has brought together people from the ends of the earth because they are different and thus useful to one another, rather than because they are homogeneous and like-minded.” The outsiders are just another piece of the of the puzzle that makes up these small cities we call airports. They to add to the experience of air travel and keep it interesting as we go from place to place. Cheers to the outsiders; we would not want to be without you!