Pushers (PSH)

In the world of airports, the airplanes themselves allow you see as much interesting and crazy stuff as you would throughout the terminals. As a frequent flier, I completely understand this. 21st Century Torture DeviceCrowding a few hundred people on a space the size of a single-wide trailer and expecting them to just magically get along is insanity in itself. There are always going to be issues but luckily most passengers have been conditioned enough to go with the natural order of things. Unless you are someone who just doesn’t think that way…that’s when there’s a problem.

As I have written in the past, air travel is made up of routines. Routines for the passengers: getting to the airport, going through security, queuing up to board and taking your seat. Routines for pilots: going through the checklist, constantly checking and re-checking equipment and controls, also queue up the plane for take-off and fly to the pre-determined destination. sxdwnAnd of course, routines for the staff: assign everyone a seat, usher passengers into the plane, work through the safety announcements and serve meals/beverages.All of this makes up the working order of air travel and is widely accepted by the general public. However, when someone decides these routines just don’t work for them, or they feel somehow they are above the socially accepted rule of order, things can get uncomfortable for others on the flight. It doesn’t always turn to a melee that is diverts a plane and is forever captured on YouTube…but it can be just as annoying.

One group in particular who seems to forget the fact that the planet is made up of other humans and chooses to break one highly coveted and necessary routine when de-boarding the plane is the topic of this post. This is the group that chooses not to wait on retrieving their bags from the overhead bins regardless of the distance between their seats and their luggage. They push, squirm, and claw their way back and forth through the throngs of increasingly impatient passengers to claim their prized possessions while not trying to lose their spot on board. This group is known as “The Pushers!”

Pushers have distinguishable qualities that a trained eye can spot sometimes even in the boarding area. They usually come equipped with a designer bag either covered with brand initials or some sort of animal print that I guess is supposed to impress the rest of us waiting around. They’re always relatively high-voiced either on the phone while everyone is trying to hear the crew instructions or with the rest of their party where they continue telling some obviously over-exaggerated version of a story that, again, is designed to somehow elevate their social status. the-rich-daddys-girl-starter-pack-6091394The final, and almost required quality of the Pushers, is that they have been assigned to the LAST group to board the plane. This is where the trouble begins because in the minds of these self-absorbed, members of a pretend royal family, their upgrade to the highest level of first-class should have already been secured. That and being caste into economy class like some hobo is just an oversight that will be dealt with the next time they brunch with the airline CEO.

It’s not until everyone is actually on the plane before the rest of the passengers can start seeing the true nature of the Pushers play out. With the recent addition of fees for checked luggage, the overhead bin space on a full flight has the real estate value of a two-bedroom condo in San Francisco. Flight crews know this all too well and begin informing passengers before boarding gets underway. itll-fitOf course, the “it can never happen to me” syndrome that plagues human nature is in full effect; even for those in Group 9 who watch hundreds of their now enemies walk down the jetway roll aboard in tow. Pushers are never deterred by this spectacle and have already established  that their bags will be safely stowed in the fuselage regardless of the irrefutable laws of physics. To their credit, they’re usually right! Even if they get on right as the cabin door is being closed, a Pusher has the unique ability to get their bag stuffed somewhere in the overhead. This is usually 10 or more rows back from their own seats. At this point, we wait, anxiously as the insanity will inevitably begin the minute the plane safely hits the ground.

Something interesting happens every time a plane lands. It’s hard to explain it but a sudden burst of energy courses its way through the aircraft causing passengers to suddenly turn into a classroom full of un-medicated ADHD 6th graders all with a sense of doomsday-style urgency as they frantically pack of their stuff for arrival. This is when the Pushers really come to life. Like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, the Pushers are already putting together an elaborate plan to rescue their prized, PVC-made Louie Vuitton. 15th IAAF World Athletics Championships Beijing 2015 - Day SixThey work out every step and mentally move all obstacles that could possibly get in the way. You see them looking back down the aisle, finding the weakest links and plotting their course well before we hit the gate. And like Usain Bolt during the last leg of an Olympic trial, the ding of the seatbelt sign propels them into a legacy building dash as they fly aisle by aisle towards the bin in which their treasure awaits. They get there in record time, just as planned. However, the battle has just begun. Their seat is now several rows in front of them…and waiting is not an option.

In most cases, I try and create a name that cleverly disguises the true nature of the population being examined leaving enough detail to the imagination (see Griswolds, Techies and Outsiders). However, the Pushers earned their name through sheer force; they literally push their way back to their seats. This is part that I don’t understand. Years of public school education included lining up in an orderly fashion to efficiently move from the classroom to just about anywhere else in the building. single fileTo me this creates a sense of relaxation knowing that years of operant conditioning will allow us all to be guided one-by-one towards the front and eventually to the openness of the awaiting terminal. Apparently, Pushers went to schools that were more like Hunger Games arenas where everyone was out for blood and the need for cooperation was just a disguise. Pushers will use every physical, verbal and nylon-constructed weapon at their disposal to get back to their original spot. The dozens of bodies and luggage in front of them is no deterrent. The endorphins from success must be orgasmic as they seldom fail. They are, however,  usually accosted at least two or three times during the journey. Although, I want to say, “my hats off” to the Pushers and their determination, I secretly plot with my fellow passengers to halt their advance for nothing more than a few minutes of frustration-breaking entertainment.

So push on Pushers! Your impulse to reunite with your carryon obviously outweighs the wants and needs of everyone else on board. Why should you give in to societal norms that say to sit down, shut up and wait your turn? Keep on marching to the beat of your own drum which, of course, is leading you in the wrong direction. I can’t say that I will discontinue my desire to purposely get in your way, making the trek that much harder. Who am I kidding…I definitely going to keep doing that! Best of luck in your quest!

-DPW

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Techies (TEC)

Since the first commercial flight in 1914, airlines have been working feverishly to improve all areas of the flight experience including the reduction of turbulence, passenger comfort (which has regressed in the last few decades) and, of course, in-flight entertainment. in flight movieIn the early years, passengers were entertained mostly through reading, lavish meals, liquor and even reeled movies that airlines start showing as early as 1921. It wasn’t until the mid-90s that many airlines installed seat-back screens for longer flights as a way to keep passengers occupied. For the shorter hops, passengers have pretty much been responsible for their own amusement which continues even today.

Luckily for fliers, technology has been supplying us with an almost endless array of options in order to keep us distracted both before and during a flight. The first portable Walkman (believe it or not, was introduced by Sony in 1979) gave passengers their choice of their own music without having to rely on the channels broadcast by the airlines. From there we moved to CD players, handheld game consoles (a Gameboy accompanied me on my first flight), portable DVD players, laptop computers and eventually the phone/tablet based devices we know today. Cuddling with multiple devicesThere are those who carry a device or two but can easily walk away from them for a good book or a friendly conversation. Others, however, are wired in. So reliant on their technological devices that every glance down at their phone or firing up of a new app is like getting a junky’s fix where they are always reaching for that first taste. These individuals are part human, part robot, roaming around the concourse surrounded by an invisible shield of Bluetooth and wireless wavelengths and wrapped in a blanket of copper wire. These are not your normal, everyday passengers; these we simply refer to as…the Techies (TEC).

Unlike some of the groups I have wrote about in the past, Techies are quite easy to spot. They can usually be found surrounded by a self-constructed fort of laptops, smart phones, tablets, iPods (if that’s still a thing) and a sea of chargers, Bluetooth devices, speakers and other accessories. These flyers come to the airport equipped with the latest and greatest devices which enhance productivity, make the time pass quicker and limit the need for any sort of human interaction. You can usually spot them sitting on the floor huddled around outlets, making sure that every device is at optimal level before boarding. christmas vacation outletThe new outlet hubs which many updated terminals now employ brings forth a whole new level of power for the Techies as they now can charge all of their devices simultaneously and do so from the comfort of the gate seating area. This revolution also highlights one their best superpowers which is the ability to ignore the deep rage burning from the other passengers who just want to get a few minutes of juice so that they can listen to a podcast or text onboard even after it’s no longer safe to do so. The Techies can move past the eyes burning holes into the backs of their heads or the passive aggressive comments from those around them. It’s all about the electricity for the Techies…the lifeblood of their obsession.

The electrical sexcapade doesn’t end in the terminal; it continues for the duration of the flight, from the boarding process all the way to baggage claim. headphonesTechies are usually sporting large, Mickey Mouse looking headphones that are designed to keep out any distraction including in-flight instructions or crew requests. If you’re ever seated next to one them, be prepared to assist the flight attendant with a quick elbow during the beverage service. They’ve also been known to mentally miss a flight altogether as they are so engulfed in the matrix that the plane can take off and land and they never knew we ever left the ground. I’ve experienced this phenomenon personally yet not at the hands of my devices. It’s usually a few glasses of wine and a pharmaceutical that does the trick!

One good thing about the Techies is they usually keep to themselves. With the exception of the panic attack that can happen when a crucial piece of wiring goes missing, this group is one of the more pleasant to be around. The-Bing-Bang-TheoryThey can go unusually large amounts of time without needing to hit the lavatory which makes them the perfect seat mates. This of course is probably due to hours of Call of Duty or World of Warcraft in their parents’ basement which is great training ground in this domain. They’re also a helpful bunch. In our new, smartphone based world, there’s an app for everything and the Techies know them by heart. Want to find a highly rated restaurant for your layover…there’s an app for that. Need the fasted route from one gate to the next…there’s an app for that. Interested in writing a poorly written blog about the people you see in airports…yep, there’s an app for that too! Anything you need is just a download away and the Techies are a dictionary of information when it comes to this part of the travel experience.

The Techies actually represent the new normal of airport life. everyone phonesTechnology has allowed for individualism to take hold in just about every public setting that still exists. Look around the terminal and you will see it slowing taking hold of everyone in sight. Kids, parents, business people, flight crews, even the elderly, all have their necks bent downward, engulfed in their own little pixelated biosphere while the world goes on around them. Although the Techies will always be the first to have the newest technological terror to hit the market, the rest of the population will continue playing catch-up and follow suit as new innovations take us to places we never thought possible.

So play, watch, listen, work and create on my Techie friends. We’ll be right behind you…every electronic step of the way!

-DPW

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Planes, Trains and Ride Sharing Apps: NYC Never Disappoints

After a couple of years and hundreds of rides, I finally decided to update my status in the 20th century and downloaded the Lyft app. I’m really not sure why this hasn’t happened yet, but for some reason I’ve had an artificial loyalty to Uber. Free marketDon’t get me wrong, I still like Uber and have enjoyed many great rides. But when a normally $17 ride to the airport pushes $40, it’s time to start thinking competition. Add in an extremely crowded parking shuttle to the mix and, BAM, I’m off to let free market capitalism work in my favor.

Being a frequent flier I often forget how new this experience is for many people. However, I never thought the day would come when I would actually see someone who didn’t understand that for a roller board suitcase to work properly, you must first have it facing wheels down. doing it wrongI watched a woman drag her upside down suitcase through the IND terminal seemingly without a clue that she was doing something wrong. On this particular morning, it was too early to stop and explain to her the friction reducing qualities of wheel technology so I just let her be and hope that her destination doesn’t include a carpeted concourse. I do owe her a bit of gratitude. If people didn’t continue to do stupid shit all the time in the airports, what would I have to write about and why would this site exist in the first place.

I had an uneventful flight with the exception of the party going on in my head for the empty row and the fact that I was heading to one of my favorite places on the planet: Good ole’ New York City! Ever since my first trip here when I was 16 years old, I’ve always had a love affair with New York. The noise, the people, random street fights (that I actually witnessed), people parking illegally to grab a slice of pizza and not even having the courtesy to move before chowing down…it’s a pleasure!

Maybe it’s because of my small town upbringing but the anonymity associated with NYC is one of my favorite characteristics of this city. I can only imagine this may be a factor on why so many famous people have come from here because it’s one place where you can be whatever you want and no one cares. self-consciousness_0Are you a singer? Then belt our your highest chords while walking down the sidewalk…no one cares. Are you an artist? Then set up shop on some street corner and give it a go…no one cares. Are you an entrepreneur, performer, social media sensation or just someone who wants to be left the hell alone? You guessed it…no one cares. This may sound illogical seeing that the common held belief is that we are supposed to be pushed in order to fulfill our dreams but that’s just one piece of the puzzle. I think the first step is to lose any self-consciousness towards whatever you are interested in and use that to your advantage. Always being worried about what other people are thinking is a debilitating disease when it comes to inspiration and I’ve never witnessed that in New York. Good work New Yorkers! Your blatant disregard for what others are doing is actually causing a great deal of positive momentum in the world. What a town!

Speaking of abilities, I saw the Broadway show Bandstand while I was in town. This show was choreographically different than any other show I’ve experienced but still amazing. The movement never stopped which was interesting given that the setting was based on the days immediately following WWII. SnapseedThe amount of talent displayed by Broadway actors goes beyond my imagination every time I’m in the audience. Singing, dancing, acting and even the playing of musical instruments were all on display throughout this show. I can’t imagine the amount of work it takes to make it to the level but my hats off to those who do it. Even if you never make it to NYC, I recommend for everyone to try and catch a Broadway show somewhere (even community theater). It’s a great experience and will change the way you look at what it means to be in show business.

If you’ve read my site before, you probably know that I completely nerd out when it comes to public transit. However, I do need to clarify…I like trains. I don’t care how many there are, you won’t catch me dead on bus. I took a Megabus once to Chicago and after a snowstorm, a bat-shit crazy driver and nonexistent Wi-Fi, I decided cut that out forever. subwayWhen I’m in NYC I take the trains everywhere. It’s not just the convenience I enjoy; I like everything. I especially enjoy the moments when you’re barreling down the track and the squeaks and squeals are noticeably in the background but all of a sudden, they stop, and the silence left behind makes me feel like but I we are floating above the track. I’ve noticed this on many different occasions and each time and brought forth a momentary sense of relaxation amongst the chaos of the city. It’s the little things that make travel interesting and keeps the wander lusters of the world coming back again and again.

The whole trip wasn’t exactly peaches and cream. I did make several mistakes which almost bit me in the ass. One, I relied on public transit which made me extremely late for a meeting (BTW…I’m never late). Yes, I know…I just had a literary orgasm over the subway system in the last paragraph but it still has its faults. Things happen which cause delays and I failed to plan accordingly. Luckily I wasn’t too late so it worked out in the end. funny-tourist31Another issue is I booked a hotel way to close to Times Square. On your first trip to NYC, go for it…Times Square all the way. On your 2nd and beyond, stay as far away as possible. Of course, I was being budget conscious so that was my reasoning for choosing this location but it does add an extra layer of annoyance having to wade through the tourist who are either looking up at the buildings or down at their phones while they walk. This immediately turns me into the loud sighing, fast walking, pushy asshole, but you have to do it or get caught up in the swarm. At least there are several subway stations nearby so escape is easy to achieve.

The rest of the trip included lunch at the Yale Club, people watching at Washington Square Park (who saw that coming!), a tour of the new Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island and some time in Brooklyn. One thing I’ve come to realize is that I have not spent enough time in Brooklyn and will remedy that on future trips. It’s a quieter, more eclectic part of New York that still gives you a glimpse into why the city is still the cultural hub of the U.S. What a great place and I’m looking forward to visiting again.

LaGuardia didn’t disappoint. Here are some quotes from an actual conversation I overheard while waiting on my flight: “I like talking to you because you are talking coherently and I am talking coherently. weep for futureI’m usually drunk or you are asleep…or you are wasted and I’m am too. You would tell me if I’m drinking too much right?” These obvious overachievers also made reference to digital dope (which is apparently better than analog dope), the thought that going to a bar and sitting next to “some old guy” will eventually land one of them a high paying job, what actually makes up the definition of “hater” and an unusual amount of times saying the words Dim Sum. As entertaining as it was, I’m pretty sure I’m dumber now than I was before choosing my unfortunate place to sit.

The trip ended with my first, first class upgrade! How many thousands of miles and hundreds of flights did it take for this to finally happen but it did. It wasn’t random and upgradeI’m a true believer of creating your own luck so I basically approached the gate agents and asked. After telling them I was $200 away from Gold Status, and them learning I had never been upgraded, they took pity on me and gave me a seat. Dress nice and act naive; it hasn’t failed me yet! It was only an hour and forty-minute flight but I still enjoyed the free wine, having everyone file by me one-by-one and being one of those guys I wrote about a few month’s back (see First Classers). It closed this chapter on a very high note and makes me look forward to my next adventure. Onward and upward!

-DPW

Snapseed

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Vacationers (VAC)

The days of the annual family trips are upon us and airports are filled with small platoons of sun-seeking travelers dressed in their best polyester, Hawaiian print shirts and loud, obnoxiously colored flip flops. hawaiian shirt dayThe air reeks of coconut and sunscreen and the giggles of the overly tanned moms and daughters can be heard has they sip from their virtually virgin Pina Coladas. The family vacation which is a tradition that dates back to  after WWII is as American as gun ownership and apple pie. However, for those of us who still have to use the skies as a place of business, the Vacationers (VAC) can be nothing less than wolves in khaki-colored clothing!

Although the vacationers share many similarities to other groups on this site, they have enough unique traits that make them a separate category and therefore open to analysis. Also, not all vacationers are families and can consist of couples, friends, large tour groups and even loners who choose to see the world on their own. But because of their lack of airport experience and general disregard for anyone else around them, they are open to scrutiny and ridicule alike!

There exist two types of vacationers in the airport universe: Outbound and Inbound. batman two faceBoth of them are the same people, on the same trips, with the same ugly and out-of-date luggage, but they are completely different personalities when they hit the terminals. Outbound vacationers are usually upbeat, full of hope and excited at  even in the most stressful parts of flying like security lines or baggage claim. They glow with enthusiasm as their destination is something they’ve probably been looking forward to for a long time and its finally upon them, just a few hours away. Outbound vacationers spend money like its water. Snacks for the flight, souvenirs at the airport and they even splurge on the inflight booze just to keep their heads in “vacation mode” at 30,000 feet.

Inbound vacationers…well, they’re a little different. The depression of knowing their time of leisure is over and they’re heading back to the hell that is a meaningless and mundane job casts a huge shadow on this group as they move through the airport corridors. after vacation 2The smell of desperation and aloe engulf them as they stride with a thousand-yard stare leaving a trail of sand and misery. They watch every dime and are known for violent outbursts when the slightest delay keeps them from making it home right on schedule. Any relaxation that this group accumulated on their trip immediately evaporates the minute they hit the tarmac. The only reminder of better days comes in the form of slightly out-of-focus, iPhone photos and the temporary tattoos that are slowly fading away from their sunburned skin.

Vacationers can be further divided by sheer numbers. friends 1Couples are easy and are barely noticeable outside of the obnoxious honeymoon bound, newlyweds who insist on holding hands throughout the entire flight and feverishly try to talk gate agents into an upgrade (BTW, that never happens; thanks a bunch “Friends”). Loners too can be incognito with the exception of the chatty, world traveler who insists on peppering anyone who will listen with their endless stories of being chased by a pack of Baboons in Africa or swimming naked in the Danube with some fellow hostel guests who don’t speak English (why do all their stories involve naked people?). Families have been thoroughly covered (see the Griswolds) but vacations do bring out another whole dimension of insanity. The sheer thought that packing up a herd of children or teenagers, putting them on an uncomfortable, ear-popping, recycled-air, flying minivan and thinking they will by some miracle behave, makes me want to sprint to the near Urologist.

Tour groups have emerged as the new cluster-fuck of humans to avoid if it all possible. In fact, tour agencies now make up the third largest segment in the travel industry behind air transportation and accommodations. Imagine hordes of geriatrics or foreigners, wearing matching T-Shirts and large, straw hats, strolling at a snail’s pace as you race to make a connection. walking_dead_what_lies_ahead_zombie_hordThese groups come in like clowder of cats, wandering off into oblivion, needing constant herding and all wholeheartedly unprepared for any process regarding boarding a flight. There is usually a guide of some sort trying his or her best to keep them as a cohesive unit but themselves rendered with a look that makes you believe they have just rethought every decision they’ve made since college. If you get behind these groups in the security line, then go ahead and pop open your in-flight entertainment because you’re going to be there for a while. Hopefully their disruption of the airport force means they are getting ready for an experience of a lifetime which is little solace to those left in their wake.

Vacationers do mean well and enter the airports usually in a good mood which is nice to see amongst the crowds of annoyed frequent fliers. They’re stimulating the economy (or economies of wherever their heading) and for the most part are trying to inject a little joy into the world one trip at a time. So in essence, throw on your best floral prints and Jesus sandals and go out to find your own little piece of heaven. The rest of us will watch and judge, while planning a time soon enough where we will join you for a vacation of our own.

-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!

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?

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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