Airport Judgement Calls

A lot that goes into air travel is routine. Once you get into doing it more often, everything becomes second nature. How you pack your bags, the timing you set to get to the airport and, of course, the airport itself is just one routine after another. You just really don’t have to think much about anything which makes the process much less painful and it makes you a more efficient passenger.

Although there a plenty amount of good that can come out of routines, having situations arise that break them up can cause serious anxiety. routinesThings can always go wrong; there’s no way around that. Issues with transportation, delayed flights…yada, yada, yada…all can mess with your grand plan and throw you into a spiral. But it’s the times when you, yourself, could possibly cause the routine to collapse are the ones that seem to be the worst. This is what makes me bring up the idea of judgement calls and how sometimes your routine can go to hell!

There are plenty of judgement calls an individual will have to make during air travel. Some big, some little. Do you order a salad or the colossal burger with fries? Little. Do you take the stall with the broken lock because you don’t want to wiggle you and your luggage out to find another one? Again, little. Do you inform the proper authorities that a potential terrorist attack may be about to happen? Yeah, let’s call that a big one.

As you can imagine, I’m writing about something that recently happened to me before a flight. On this particular occasion, I get to the airport like usual and go through all my, and the airport’s routines before getting to the gate. I find my usual preferred seat; always facing the gate agent and never around children (don’t you judge me!) and then go about my other routine of getting out my iPad and wasting some time on Reddit before boarding.

This day, I happened to look over by the window and I saw a piece of luggage sitting all by itself. Usually I wouldn’t notice something like this but the bag was the brightest shade of pink you could possibly imagine. You couldn’t miss it. The best way to describe it would be if Hello Kitty vomited and some genius decided that this would be the perfect color for a carryon set. hello kittyAnyway, it was sitting at the end of the aisle with no one evenly remotely nearby. Immediately my mind went into panic mode thanks to the media/politician fueled rhetoric, force feeding us the idea that another attack is imminent. That and I couldn’t help but think, if ISIS was to blow up an American airport terminal, of course they would use a pink suitcase.

So here is where the judgement call comes to in play. Do I…a responsible citizen and frequent visitor to the airport…tell someone what I’m seeing or do I ignore it and go about my own business? Now, I know what you’re thinking, “hey Dr. Dumbass…tell someone. You’ve seen the billboards (if you see something, say something), there are lots of people around and you will obviously be deemed a hero if you thwart a nuclear detonation” (not that the hero thing matters to me…). report activityBut you don’t know the whole story. I was in Indianapolis…in January. It was 12 degrees outside. If I tell someone that the suspicious looking pink bag could turn this place into an ash-filled crater, I’d probably have to go stand outside for at least an hour. You see where I’m going with this?

Therefore, my options are, A: Report the bag and freeze my ass off. Or, B: Risk being blown to smithereens and…well, I guess that is about the worst that can happen here. I mean, it couldn’t be that bad, right? Given my proximity, the percussion shock would probably kill me instantly and I really wouldn’t be facing some blazing inferno (that would’ve been Terminal A…they’d been screwed). So, am I wrong to do nothing? Well in this case, my conscience got the best of me and I set off to find the nearest whatever officer. I didn’t even have a scarf and knew this was going to suck but better to be safe than sorry.

As I made my way down the terminal I looked over and noticed a young woman, sitting by herself with a backpack the identical shade of pink as the TNT filled roll aboard near the window. I stopped and asked her if that was her bag. She looked at me as if I had told her that monkeys were crawling out of her ass and in an almost inaudible tone, responded “uh huh.” its-public-shaming-time-n00bIn my head I gave her the public berating of a lifetime and shamed her into finally turning into an active participant in this little thing we call a society…but I didn’t. Instead, I gave her the look of “alright stupid” and walked away relieved by the fact that I was neither going to freeze to death or be splattered into a million pieces across southwest Indianapolis.

The moral of the story is, my good judgement along with my heightened peripheral vision saved the day even though nothing actually needed to be saved. Plus, my overall airport routine was not disrupted too much so win, win! Let’s just hope that next time I’m faced with the possibility of being the person between mass causalities and a happy ending, that we at least have good weather!

-DPW

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Travel Time: IND-ATL

Air travel is an adventure. It’s an adventure when you first head to the airport, while you are on the trip, and when you reach the destination. Of course, like for most, these adventures include other people. Unless you have your own plane or are rich enough to fly in solitude, people come with the territory. Instead of my usual 6am departure this one started later in the morning. My path was Indianapolis to Atlanta via Charlotte which I know goes against convention since every airport has a direct flight to Atlanta. In this case Delta decided the flight home did not need to fit into my work schedule so American it was (a decision I would later regret).

I brought up the adventure part because of my departure. Even the mostly seeming, uneventful flight has its moments and mine started the minute we left IND. I am one of those flyers who usually ignores the person next to me. Through experience, I have grown a shield which prevents me from paying much attention to my fellow passengers. However, that day it must have been down. Next to me was a young girl, probably 11 or 12 (or 8 for all I know…I’m terrible at determining someone’s age). ShieldsAnyway, this isn’t the first time I’ve been in this position but she boarded the plane with NOTHING. Absolutely, nothing to keep herself entertained. At first I didn’t notice but after a half hour or so, my instincts kicked in and I noticed she was struggling. She wasn’t losing it…she was just bored. My empathy alarm started going off immediately. Here I am, iPad in hand, watching videos, reading, basically having a smorgasbord of entertainment at my finger tips and she has nothing. Damn my conscience.

Now my empathy tank usually runs on about a quarter full so I wasn’t ready to give up my iPad (would she really want to watch reruns of Curb Your Enthusiasm anyway?). At the same time, I am a grown man and she is a young girl.

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Unblock Me

There is a very thin line on being helpful versus being creepy so I had to first decide if I was going to take that chance. After watching her open the airline magazine for the fifth time I decided to take a chance and see if I could help. On my phone I have a very entertaining game called “Unblock Me” where you move blocks around until the designated piece can escape the room. I asked her first if she like puzzles which she said yes. I showed her the game and handed it over which she seemed to really enjoy. I felt good about helping out but sorry for her at the same time. I can only imagine she was flying from one parent to another and this was probably routine. But who puts a child on a flight with nothing to do? It’s so easy to lose faith in humanity these days…

With the exception of some pretty heavy turbulence in and out of Charlotte, the rest of the trip went fine. I do forget that some people are still afraid of flying. One little jerk during the flight can send some on a full scale panic attack. On the second leg of the trip, the woman next to me kept doing the trinity cross thing on her chest after every bump. I don’t want to be the one to tell her but if we start going down, there’s no amount of praying that’s going to stop a 150,000 pound metal tube full of jet fuel from turning us all into a mountain of ash (all due respect to the faithful). Even for the most seasoned flyers, bad turbulence can make things uncomfortable and cause you to start thinking about what realturbulencely matters. Like did I clear my browser history before leaving or did I let the chance to tell someone they were an asshole slip by me forever. You never know what’s going to happen so for now on I’ll be more prepared! Anyway, for people like my new devout friend, I usually keep a few anxiety pills handy and will happily turn into the in-cabin drug dealer if anyone near me really starts flipping out. What can you say, I’m a people person at heart!

Atlanta really is a great city and someday when I feel like I’m up for the challenge, I’ll do a full review of Hartsfield. Until then, I’ll just ride the tram, get my car, and jump head first into the famous traffic of the ATL. IMG_2324I had quite a bit of stuff to write about during this trip but it all pretty much got trumped when I-85 caught on fire. No joke…the damn interstate caught on fire (Google it!). Luckily it did not affect much of what I was doing but the entire city went into a panic. The traffic there is bad enough without a large chunk of a major artery missing. Luckily nobody was hurt but the pain associated with increased time at the wheel is going to be felt by the natives for some time to come.

During my off hours I was able to see some of the new and old attractions of Atlanta. I was advised to check out the Ponce City Market, the new multiuse retail/dining/living monstrosity built on an old Sears & Roebuck building in the city’s historic fourth ward. IMG_2323It’s a pretty impressive establishment with lots of interesting places to eat and shop. Based upon the surrounding neighborhood, I imagine this is an attempt to gentrify another area closer to the heart of the city which is not isolated to Atlanta. Projects like this one are now a common sight in urban areas across the U.S. as the interest in moving closer to city centers has become the newest trend in American migration. The upscale clientele along with the fact you have to pay to park even in the surface lot leads me to believe the property values that surround the market are probably skyrocketing as I write this post. It was a nice place and I’m sure I’ll hit it up again on another trek south.

For me, no visit would be complete without a trip to the Zoo. Zoo Atlanta located just southeast of downtown is an impressive campus that sits within the grounds of Grant Park. IMG_2328They had many great exhibits and for an afternoon visit, the animals were very active which made the trip that much more exciting. Of course, it was 72 degrees out so why wouldn’t they be out and about. I have an affinity for the great Apes so I spent a good amount of time just watching them roam around their enclosures. No trip to Zoo Atlanta would be complete without stopping in to see the Pandas. This was a great day to do so because the 7 month old babies were playing together on the firehose hammock. There was a good crowd but not so bad where you couldn’t enjoy the view.

I really enjoy visiting Zoos when I get the chance because they are just one way we humans are still trying to maintain the natural world. Like many Zoos, Zoo Atlanta is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums which is dedicated to animal conservation. These facilities are not just fun places to see animals; they are places that will make sure these animals will exist even as we continue to destroy their habitats around the world. There are a lot of dedicated people who work for these organizations so let’s just say, a quick trip to the Zoo puts my faith back into humanity!

On the trip home I learned two lessons: One, the Atlanta airport punishes you for not flying Delta and two, you can pretty much be in Iowa and still be allowed to call yourself an Chicago airport hotel as long as American Airlines is paying the bill. My flight out was in the T terminal at ATL which can’t stand for anything other than “terrible.” It has limited amenities, small gates and in the afternoon, bakes in the hot southern sun.

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Yep…looks like a murder scene.

A delay in one flight meant mine was as well. It happens; nothing in air transportation is perfect. However, I did get the chance to miss my connection and take advantage of the wonderful accommodations provided by the airline. I imagine in 1985, this Holiday Inn (which calls itself an airport hotel even though it it 30 minutes west) was once a great place of business. Now it’s a $60 per night, John filled shithole where apparently soap is optional (maybe it’s a perk for the working girls!). The 70 year-old shuttle driver who proved that interstate lane lines are just decorations was entertaining enough to get me through the night. A few hours later, I was back at O’hare and on my way home. Like I said, it’s always an adventure!

Travel Time: IND-CLT

This week’s trip takes me from Indianapolis (IND) to Charlotte (CLT) for a three day stomp around the South.  Not often do I get to my home airport with enough time to just grab a

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Indy Car for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500

latte, sit back relax and just enjoy the environment. This has been my first later-in-the day departure in a while so I calculated in plenty of time for rush hour traffic. Luckily the roads were clear so I made it in no time. I also got to take an uber which is a treat in the rain. One covered pickup followed by a covered drop off and I’m on my way (yes, I’m a spoiled first-world consumer!).

Of course being here allows for a good amount of people watching and, subsequently, people listening which is another airport hobby of mine. Here’s a thing: at what point is it appropriate to intervene in a conversation? Not to break up an argument or god forbid, get into a political discussion (I would rather stand behind a jet at take-off) but just interject into the discussion. Of course I only ask this when you can add something meaningful in a respectful way that may actually do some good. A father and son were sitting next to me discussing if the young man should apply to his school’s honors program. The father was aloof about it but was not discouragiblog-interruptingng him either. As someone who has worked in higher education for a long time, I could easily persuade them to give it a try and even discuss some of the benefits they probably didn’t know about. That’s a rhetorical question of course but something that I’m sure we all face at one time or another. At this point I decided to just stay quiet and let it go.

The solitude of business travel life makes you rely on the antics of others for inspiration and sometimes entertainment. Like my seat mate on the way to Charlotte. She wasn’t an full time talker (thankfully) but I guess she worked up the courage to speak once we landed. I learned she had taken this trip to meet her father for the first time. She looked to be in her twenties so that had to be an emotional experience. It’s amazing what people will share like how he was abusive to her mother (before she was born) and how she had been raised by several sets of relatives over her short life. I guess sometimes the anonymity that comes with a short term acquaintance allows you to dump some of the pent up emotional baggage you had been holding in. No tears were shed but I could tell it was an experience she didn’t want to relive. I listened, sympathized, and wished her well.

The next was my shuttle driver from the airport to the hotel. He was a nice older gentleman who I guess enjoyed giving the occupants complete details on the ride including how many minutes we had remaining before arrival,

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Summit of King’s Pinnacle

the list of amenities at this particular property and the birthday and history of Billy Graham (as we were driving on the Billy Graham freeway). I felt bad for not asking him more questions but like the bus we were riding in, I was out of gas.

The trip went well and took me all over western North Carolina.  I went from Gastonia to Winston-Salem, even took a beautiful hike at Crowders Mountain State Park.  Unfortunately, I was only downtown Charlotte for a few minutes which is sad since it is a very clean and vibrant city.  The revitalization around the perimeter of uptown tells me that, like most medium sized cities in the U.S., there is a growth in demand for urban living around Charlotte as well.  The city is helping itself immensely with the continued additions of new train lines (slowly but surely, of course).

As of now, I’m back at the airport waiting to board and wishing that one of the rocking chairs that line the atrium would open up soon.  I’ll cover those more when I finally do a full review of CLT.  Off to the skies I go!

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Travel Time: IND-ORD-SFO

This trip took me to San Francisco via Indianapolis and Chicago. The day started with a dense, ghostly like fog to the point where I could barely see the signs into airport and the parking lot. Unfortunately I had to drive due to the lack of early morning Ubers. IND is an easy shot from my place so it’s not a big imposition. img_2145After parking, a creepy figure standing at the shuttle bus waiting area which ended up being just a nice lady with big hair. I would have loved to get a photo but the bus was bearing down on me so I had to pass.

For the first time in hundreds of flights, I was almost late. Of course my definition of being on time means having a comfortable amount of waiting before take off. Pre check was packed which is what led to timing issue but I made it fine.

The first leg was IND to ORD which is only about an hour from take off to touch down. Because it’s early I’m usually asleep before ever taking off. I find the thrust very soothing. As you can see, Chicago looked peaceful from 10,000 feet yet I’m not naive enough to things that’s true. Being originally from Illinois it saddens me to see what’s happening to that city. I still enjoy Chicago and ORD but has its share of issues. What city doesn’t?

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Chicago from 10,000 feet.

Thanks to our friends the Canadian plane manufacturers, we had to gate check all the roller boards since I guess up north you don’t carry on anything bigger than a child’s backpack. This is always entertaining when we deplane with the bottle necking that inevitably occurs on the jet way. Every time there is the one ass hat who

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Rebel or douche…

thinks he’s too good to stand in line for the gate checked bag. Probably the guys who drives a large loud vehicle and has a tiny you-know-what. Another guy stepped up and ran him off…good for you, bro!

The longest leg of the trip went great, especially since it was in a new aircraft and there was an empty seat between me and the guy in the window seat.  Sometimes being in the back of the plane has its perks too. There were plenty of entertainment options to the 4+ hours went by without noticing.

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Empty seat!

There was quite a bit of turbulence both right after take-off and as we approached SFO but nothing that set off my alarms. A few people around me started gasping but it wasn’t that bad.

SFO is a nice airport and I plan on giving it a review in a few months. At least the B terminal is clean and has lots of dining and retail options. It even has a Yoga studio somewhere on grounds which is not surprising. The airtrain is extremely efficient and quickly gets you from point to point. Once I reached the rental car garage I got a free upgrade and was on my way.  Off to rainy San Fran I go!

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.