38 Walking Miles, Broken French, and Beaucoup du Vin Rouge: Our Week in Paris!

The universe has a way of messing with us. Some people think it comes from a Devine source while others think it’s just purely coincidence. Either way it happens to us all eventually and we either deal with it or just give up. This was my thinking about a month before my wife and I took our first trip to Paris wondering if some force was either trying to stop us or just throw enough obstacles in our way so that we properly earn our ticket east. Whatever was going on I can now say…with all respect to everyone’s beliefs, dogmas and philosophies…EAT ME UNIVERSE, WE FUCKING MADE IT!

McDearmon-MuttA few weeks ago, I had started a post about a trip to Nashville, Tennessee which was abruptly ended with the passing of my grandfather. Stewart “Mutt” McDearmon died on April 19, 2017. Although it was an extremely hard time and difficult seeing someone larger than life as Mutt laying in a casket, we can all be thankful that he had a great life, a loving family and will leave a legacy that can never be matched.

One thing grandpa would never want us to do would be to grief to the point of missing an experience that he was never to have on his own. On top of losing a relative, we also battled bronchitis, a sick pet and my wife almost being denied entry into Canada (more on the Canada thing later). After all that, I’m happy to report that we did in fact make it to Paris and back in one piece.

My travel posts usually start at Indianapolis (IND) but for international trips it’s just as easy (and less expensive) for us to fly out of Chicago (ORD). We booked an Air Canada flight several months ago after seeing a deal via the Points Guy. BLAME_CANADAWhen trying to check in the day before the system kept asking me for our Canadian permanent residency card numbers which of course we do not have. Believing it was a glitch in the system I opted to wait until we arrived at O’Hare and deal with it there. Of course, no glitch. Somehow Air Canada decided my wife was a Canadian citizen and had her on the “no board” list until she could provide proof. The agent even called the consulate which determined this was an error and then we had to fix it with the airline. Luckily it all worked out and she was cleared but talk about an odd way to start your vacation!

The flight over was uneventful except for the unexpected complimentary wine which we eagerly took part. A few glasses down and we were out for the overnight portion of the trip. img_2389The Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport (at least the terminal we traversed) was nothing to write home about but I didn’t really care. I was just anxious about getting through customs seeing we had flown in the day after a heated Presidential election. I thought we would be there for hours but the agent gave me one look, stamped my passport and sent me on my way. Actually, I think she had to use the bathroom and she wasn’t going to let a nervous American cause her to shit her pants! After that we hopped in an Uber and headed to the city of lights (or love or whatever).

I have found that when people ask you about a trip like Paris, they always start with “did you go to ?” I’ll simplify this by listing the destinations we actually visited:

  • Eiffel Tower
  • Arc de Triomphe
  • Luxembourg Palace and Gardens
  • Paris Aquarium
  • Bois du Boulogne
  • Cathedral de Notre Dame
  • Isle St. Louis
  • The Louvre Museum (although it was closed for Victory in Europe Day)
  • Does the original Chanel Store count?Snapseed

I’m sure there are many people who visit Paris for less time than we did and have a much longer list but destination sightseeing is just not our thing. One thing you may notice is that there are no museums on the list. We don’t have anything against art, and especially the quality you can find in a place like Paris, but one little detail prevented us from making them a priority. THE WEATHER WAS FLIPPING GORGEOUS! How could you go indoors knowing that it was between 65-70 degrees (fahrenheit) and sunny outside.

SnapseedWe had the most fun just exploring new neighborhoods, sitting in random cafes enjoying a nice snack or beverage and just soaking in the culture of a great city. We specifically enjoyed wondering around what seemed to be an “old money” area in the 16th arrondissement (close to Bois to Boulogne) and the college town atmosphere in the 6th near Luxembourg. These contrasting neighborhoods along with the many more we traversed brought our experience full circle and allowed us to get a small glimpse into the diverse culture of the city.

For those who may be planning their own trips or if you’re just interested in my silly interpretations of the world around us, here are a few things I learned in Paris:

Contrary to popular belief (in the U.S. at least), Parisians are not rude. SnapseedThis is just one of those cultural differences that not enough people investigate before drawing a conclusion. Take for example going to a restaurant. In America, you are constantly waited on. You’re greeted promptly, given time to look over the menu, asked if you’re doing OK multiple times and then eagerly ushered out the door. In Paris it’s not this way at all. We were always greeted but never hassled to make an order until we prompted the server we were ready. If we needed anything, we had to ask and not just wait for them to come around again. And when we were done, we could sit there for hours if we didn’t ask for the check. From what I gathered, by bothering us during our meal/snack/drinks/whatever, that would be considered rude to the French. Once you realize this you’ll see that it’s just a different perspective than you may be used to.

If you speak bad enough French, anyone will address you in English. One of the tips I heard over and over was that most Parisians speak English but are appreciative if you at least try and talk in their native tongue. Therefore, in preparation for the trip, I dusted off my college level French by signing up for Rosetta Stone and Duolingo. In my head, I was fully prepared for speaking slowly and generally being understood by most people I encountered. That wasn’t the case. My words may have been on par but my accent wasn’t even close. My attempts seemed the frustrate more than communicate so eventually, just about every server/hostess/hotel concierge would just stop me and say “what do you want?” I did feel a sense of pride when I was able to have an even elementary French conversation and hope that this effort was not in vain. Either way, communicating was not an issue and am at the same time both happy with my performance and disgusted by the U.S. educational system.

American men need to come here and learn how to dress. Do I really need to write this? AfflicitionI mean, let’s call a spade a spade! I recognize that I am not the most fashionable person but I at least try to dress presentable and in clothing that is the correct fit. Unfortunately, that is not the mindset that prevails in the American male psyche. Pants that are too long, suits that are too big, camo, plastic shoes, Affliction t-shirts…where does it end? Parisian men really hit the mark on this one without having to work too hard. Even those in casual wear were put together, simply but in a way that displayed they had put some thought into the outfit before walking out of the door. The professionally dressed men were in well-fitted suits or sport coats supporting a “third” piece like a scarf or pocket-square. All-in-all, any man could take a lesson from the fashion in Paris and up their wardrobe without having to go on a spending spree. Of course, since I was there…I went on a spending spree!

Smoking dominates the landscape. With all the good things to say about Paris, the one obvious negative is the sheer amount of smokers in the city. Mad-Men-Don-barEverybody smoked; it was unavoidable. Every café was filled with smokers wall-to-wall and to the point where you eventually got used to it. Luckily the government was smart enough to ban smoking inside (or at least I think that’s the deal) so you could escape the second-hand clouds of death by walking through a set of doors. But again, the weather was great and we wanted to be outside so it was something we just tolerated for the time being. I can only imagine their lung cancer rates must be through the roof and hopefully they have a healthcare system that can sustain this habit. But again, it’s a cultural difference and not my place to judge. Of course, by the end of the week we felt left out and were tempted to start sparking up. Luckily the feeling passed and we didn’t pick up any bad habits.

Overall, our timg_2527rip was great! On the way back we were seated near some Griswolds who’s kids (ages around 18 months to 3 years) never slept or stopped moving in general. I actually started feeling bad for them. Here we are, on a flight or almost 8 hours and these two are constantly having to shift the kids around, get up and walk them around the plane and, as best as they could, try to get them to not scream bloody murder every five seconds. They did a pretty good job but it had to be exhausting (in their honor I decided to take a nap!). We flew through Montreal in route to Chicago which was a nice airport and our welcome back to the (North) American way of life. A meal larger than a family a four could handle, constant service at the airport restaurant and English…oh sweet English!

Thank you Paris for a wonderful time and we hope to visit again soon. There is much more for us to explore so we both decided that this would not be our last trip to the area. Au Revoir my new French friends…until we meet again!

Griswolds (FAM)

In John Hughes’ 1983 hit comedy, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Ellen Griswold (played by Beverly D’Angelo) tried without success to convince her naive but determined husband, Clark (played by Chevy Chase), that it would be easier if they fly to Wally World in Southern California than to make a 2,000 mile trip in the car. Clark fired back by saying “nothing worthwhile is easy” which is good advice unless of course you are planning to drive cross country with a car full of kids. Although I do not have any actual experience in this front, flying as a family has to be on the of the more stressful things to do. If only more families took Clark’s advice and opted to take their trips on the road instead of by air, we wouldn’t have the always entertaining and often irritating group of passengers now and forever known as…the Griswolds!vacation 1

Griswolds are a group that you cannot escape. They can be heard, seen, experienced, and sometimes smelled everywhere in an airport…from the parking lot, to the gate, and especially on the plane. Whether they come from the upper echelon of Santa Monica and suburban Connecticut or from the hollers of Appalachia and West Texas, Griswolds all share certain characteristics that make them a unique group within the airport population. They’re actually quite fascinating which makes this even more fun to write!

The first characteristic is chaos. Pure, unadulterated, CHAOS! They don’t try to be this way…it just comes with the territory. Imagine attempting to wrangle a herd of wild boars into a straight line on a lake of thin ice, all while trying not to fall through. This would just be just a nugget of what families have to go through in the airport. Evil_minions_by_minions_fans-d6txvphNot only do they have to get through the normal hassle of the airport routine, they also have to constantly be on the lookout for a wandering child, somehow navigate the troop through security, get to the gate all in one piece and keep the kids entertained enough to avoid a meltdown. Recently actor Ryan Reynolds stated on a Good Morning American interview, “I would rather drink a piping hot bowl of liquid rabies than get on a plane with my two children.” This probably sums up the sentiment of many parents although most will keep their frustrations to themselves and silently die a little bit inside with every trip.

Another characteristic of the Griswolds is volume. Let’s not beat around the bush, I mean high levels of volume which seems to be a necessary part of their everyday existence. Griswolds are loud in every area of an airport. Yelling to each other in the security lines is a common sight but it does not stop there. Yelling happens in the restrooms, at the dining areas, and even during the boarding procedures while others are trying to hear the flight attendant’s instructions. Loud noisesThe parents yell at the kids, the kids in turn yell back, it’s an exhausting pattern. Of course, they’re also loud on the plane. Everybody on a plane cringes at the site of a pack of Griswolds heading their direction. It brings forth imagines of a baby crying non-stop or a projectile vomiting toddler who for some reason always feels the need to kick the seat in front of them. Without knowing it, the poor Griswolds are the most feared and hated people on a plane. Even when they are cool, calm, collected and not bothering a soul.

The newest generation of Griswolds have introduced the characteristic of documentation. For some reason, they feel it necessary to document, via photographs, every part for the precious child’s flying experience. I’m writing this while watching a couple take an endless amount of photos of their son on the parking shuttle. share on FBIt’s 5:30am, cold, dark and everybody else generally has a murderous look on their face, yet these parents feel it’s a Kodak moment. I could only imagine the photo album of this trip: Here is little Johnny riding face first on the moving walk way; oh, there’s dad spilling his coffee on himself while chasing a three-year-old down the terminal; hey look, here’s mom flirting with the pilot while dad stuffs fifteen carry-ons in the overhead bin. It’s all priceless and deserves to be shared with the rest of the world. I don’t see an end to this practice so we might as well get used to it or get better at photo-bombing…either way, it’s here to stay.

Griswolds have a certain look that is unique and makes the fashionistas (a group I’ll discuss later) want to cry in agony. The male members are usually equipped with some sort of duffle bag, slung over their oversized (and usually stained) clothing and rounded out with a pair of unnecessarily large and dirty tennis shoes. The females come with whatever outfit Pinterest suggested would be best for flying that week. Most of the time this consist of black tights and a fleece jacket or the always popular mom jeans, a solid button down top and loosely threaded polyester scarf. ShoesThrow on some pleather boots and we’re ready go! The children surprisingly are usually the most fashionable of the groups. Dressing up your kids as American Girl Dolls has become a new obsession which doesn’t end in the terminal. The kids also come wearing (insert any cartoon character) backpacks filled most likely with their mom’s underwear or the dirty laundry. The still popular sneakers with wheels on the bottom are still around (I can’t believe a class action lawsuit hasn’t put an end to that yet). Nothing beats waiting to board while playing airport Frogger with a dozen children zipping from one side of the gate to the other.

Not everything about Griswolds is negative and in no way am I suggesting they’re a bad group. In many ways, they can be very entertaining which breaks up the monotony of the airport routine. If you ever catch yourself in a game of peek-a-boo with a kid a few rows ahead of you, it really makes you stop and think about the simplicity of life and that sometimes it’s fun to just stop and be silly for a while. The Griswolds are also exposing their children to a now normal part of our society. As I stated in my introductory post, airports are made up of a diverse population of virtually every racial, social, occupational, and socio-economical group. I believe this is an important thing to expose children to early on in order for them to better adapt to the world we now occupy.

Also, nine out of ten times, the Griswolds are the model passengers. I guess as a way to socialize their children, the Griswolds display a great amount of discipline. They rarely make a big fuss and mostly keep to themselves throughout the entire process. Of course, no parent can regulate or even contain the occasional temper tantrum, but that’s to be expected from anyone who enters a public domain such as an airport. putting up with shitFor those of us who are mere observes, it’s best to just keep calm, let them handle their own, and go about our business. I’ve seen too many people get upset because of a crying baby or squirmy toddler. This only adds to the stress the parents are already experiencing so if you are one of those people…get over it. Take the advice of the ancient Persians who wrote of human suffering by offering up a simple yet powerful statement, “This Too Shall Pass!”

So there you go Griswolds! Turn down the metallic pea wagon queen family truckster and head to the airport for some good old fashion family air traveling fun. Ignore the rolling eyes and avoid the business folks cursing on their phones because the airport is your oyster too. Just sit back, relax, and…“Hey we’re missing someone” “Dad where’s the charger?” “I need to go to the bathroom!” “Have you seen my shoes?”…enjoy the flight?

First Classers (FCL)

Thoughts of first class travel bring forth a media manufactured image of grace and high society. This has been developed by years of movies and television programs showing the rich and famous sitting in the front rows of a 747 sipping glasses of champagne and having a short skirted stewardess cater to their every demand. jerry-macguireThe scene in Jerry Maguire where Renée Zellweger (Dorothy) leans forward to listen to Tom Cruise’s (Jerry) story about how he got engaged and then turning to her son saying “first class is what’s wrong. It used to be a better meal. Now it’s a better life” have been embedded in the minds of people everywhere.
Although this might have been based on reality back in the 60s, today the first class cabin is a much different view of what it used to be and has in many ways taking the glamour of high society out of the equation.

Those who frequent the first class cabin are no longer beautiful, rich people wearing expensive clothing and barking demands to the staff although that can still happen. mad-men-season-7Most who fly first class are frequent business travelers who have been awarded the seat through an upgrade and not by purchasing an outright first class ticket beforehand. The first several aisles are usually made up of men in jeans and company logoed jackets peppered along a few in suits, some desperate housewives and millennials who booked the flight using their parent’s credit cards. People who make a living traveling for work can build up their elite status fairly quickly which enable them to fly in luxury. Their constant time away from home is payment enough and many of them deserve the amenities that go with being in first class.

No matter how the ticket was awarded, the idea of a first class cabin still divides the airport population into two distinct classes: those who sit up front and the scrubs. Again, money is not really the issue. The high flying billionaires with ten thousand dollar handbags and ripped jeans that cost more than my car would never be caught dead in an airport. There are private airports for them that most of us will never see or experience. No, the first classers experience the flight in a different way than the scrubs starting from when they board to the plane, to the minute we step off at the final destination. They board first which makes sense in regards to priority however is not actually rational seeing that it would be easier for everyone to board the back of the plane first and build towards the front. Of course, logic is not a part of aviation so let’s not even analyze this little detail right now. The scrubs go through the preflight ceremonies, fighting for position amongst the others in their randomly chosen boarding group while the first classes are settled in, drinks in hand and ready to face the skies. The one fascinating thing about the first classes are their ability to quickly be engulfed into some sort of work or entertainment before the rest of us even get on board (BTW…why are first classers the only people on the planet who still read physical newspapers?). newpapers-memeLooking at them you would think that they had been sitting there for hours before having to endure the throngs on desperate eyed wannabes shuffling to their seats in the back. I have to hand it to the flight attendants and their ability to get the first classers drinks prepared and to them so quickly. Most of the time, they slip past you without you ever knowing they were there.

During the flight, the first classers are waited on by a prompt designated flight attendant and depending on the size of the aircraft, they have a separate restroom as well. Although, I have personally never flown first class, I can’t imagine it being any better than the ones in a normal cabin. Jerry Seinfeld’s questioning of the types of flowers in the bathroom are just another example of the media fed fiction that engulfs the first class world. seinfeldAgain, depending on the plane, the flight, the airline, etc., etc., the first classers can have many more advantages over their economy counterparts including free drinks, meals, enhanced entertainment options and sometimes seats that fully recline. When the expression “you get what you pay for” was first coined, I imagine the author was sitting in the cramped, middle seat in row 32 looking north and seeing a better world many aisles away.

One thing about the first class experience is that it really does begin and end with the flight itself. Many airlines have now even limited the access of their lounges to those who straight up bought a first class ticket and not someone who has been awarded one through their status or miles.majorca_airport_baggage_glitch-389949 There are no first class restaurants or parking options available and like the rest of us, they still have to lug their own bags on board or go through the painful ritual of baggage claim for checked luggage.
Even at the gate, until you start getting up to board, there is really no designated area for first classers and they are forced to sit with the rest of us scrubs. This keeps the first classers humble and their advantages concentrated to just one part of the overall flight experience.

I can say whatever I want about the first classers in order to justify my position but the truth is I would trade places with any of them in a second. Let me on first and give me my damn drink is what I’m shooting for and hopefully in due time, my own flight regiments will earn me the right to check that upgrade button and see my name flash across the confirmation screen. Until then, I will continue to waltz past them towards my place in the back and may or may not purposely let my shoulder bag brush the sides of their heads as I walk by. Enjoy yourself thoroughly first classers, I coming for you one flight at a time!trade-places

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.

cargo-shorts

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!

People, People, Everywhere!

According to the International Air Transportation Association (IATA), over 3 billion people fly every year.  That means, on an annual basis, almost half of the earth’s human population takes to the air to get from one point to another.  Airports with all their glory, mystery, and sometimes misery, are the main hubs of this activity which makes them interesting places to say the least.  With millions of people navigating airports around the world everyday, there is bound to be some great opportunities for people watching which is why this blog has come to exist.

I spend a good amount of time in airports.  Even with all their craziness: the parking, odd setups, terrible food options, molecularly thin toilet paper…I can’t seem to help it but I absolutely LOVE AIRPORTS.  It’s been this way the first time I stepped foot in the Nashville International Airport at the ripe, old age of 16 on a school sponsored trip to New York.  The sights, sounds, and general perception of organized chaos, I was hooked from that point on.  That obsession has led me to seek out jobs that give me the opportunity to fly whenever possible.

The thing I love the most about airports are the people.  Where else on the planet can you find such a diverse population made up of virtually every racial, social, occupational, and socio-economical group, all together and on the same mission which is to navigate these manmade labyrinths only to be put on a large, aluminum, winged-tube and be shot 30,000 feet into the air.  It’s an amazing Sociological phenomenon that’s been present since the first airports were built during the 1920s.  This makes those who make up the airport populations worthy of investigating to the fullest extent possible.

Of course, the thing I love more than airports is people watching.  In my opinion, people are the most interesting creatures on the planet and never fail to provide me with hours of entertainment just by sitting around and observing those around me.  Being at an airport regularly gives me plenty of opportunities to practice my favorite past-time.   I watch them at the ticket counters, going through security, while waiting on my departure and even while collecting my bags at the end of a journey.  There everywhere I and soak it in like a sponge.

This blog will be dedicated to my own personal anthropological study that I conduct during my airport observations.  Creating categories is a cognitive process that we as humans have evolved into our brain functioning in order to simplify our thinking and allow us to process more and more information.  I have done this myself with the people I see at airports.  After enough time, patterns start to emerge amongst certain people which allows us to categorize them with those who act the same way.  What I plan to present here is a snapshot of those categories and highlight the behaviors that make up their group dynamics.  Each group will be presented with their corresponding three letter code to stick with the normal airport protocol we’ve grown to know and love.  I hope you find some humor and entertainment in these posts.  Feel free to leave comments plus your own observations as well.

I mean, if we’re going to be at the airport anyway, we might as well have some fun!  Enjoy!