Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Terminal Frustration

Okay, "automatic" is a grand concept, but I'm here to tell you there's work to be done before whoever invented automatic bathroom equipment gets to claim success. Not until you deal with automatic toilets, automatic soap dispensers, automatic faucets, and automatic paper towel dispensers in multiple airports in multiple cities in for multiple days do you realize that "automatic" is a relative term!

In Asheville, the toilets worked but the towels didn't. In Minneapolis, the towels worked, but the soap didn't. In Phoenix, the soap worked, but the faucets didn't. In San Diego, the faucets worked, but the toilets didn't. And who is the idiot who designed 99% of airport bathroom stall doors to open IN instead of out? Hello? Increasingly bigger carry-on luggage to haul in the stall with you? (See previous blog rant about that.) Add a toddler, a winter coat, or pantyhose to that mix and you have the kind of frustration that leads women to commit random acts of violence--like ripping the door off the hinges or--horrors!--boycotting all but the handicapped stalls. One of the many airports I've visited in recent weeks actually had stall doors that opened OUT, and what a happy surprise that was. I wish I could remember which one, so I could give due praise.

I do recall which airports had great art, however (yes, I realize that "great," when applied to art, is also a relative term), and given the fact that we are now obliged to spend many aimless hours wandering terminals in order to accommodate the "arrive 2 hours before your flight" command, a good art exhibit can make a big difference in being bored to death or reasonably entertained. Oakland currently has a fun display called "Artists as Collectors," which features everything from wedding photographs and magazines to blenders and dryer lint. Memphis has a series of close-up photographs of people that had me grinning all the way down the corrider (grinning + airport= really rare phenomenon these days). Would that Buffalo International had had something entertaining last spring when I got stuck there for six hours...but that's a whole other story.

Here's my last observation on airports: security staff on the West Coast is a lot nicer than security staff on the East Coast. Now, I have no problem taking off my shoes, peeling off my jacket, or having someone sort through all my worldly possessions (although I was a tad miffed about the seizure of my homemade peach jam), but you don't have to be rude about it. There's a man in the Buffalo airport who ought never to be allowed to work with the public, and there are a few in Tampa who could use a Dale Carnegie course as well. But the folks guarding the airways in Arizona and California are doing it with a smile, and that does not go unnoticed by those of us who remember when flying used to be fun. Let's face it: if someone's gonna pat you down, they should at least be courteous about it!

1 comment:

Robert said...

You're right about "automatic." Sometimes I view big public facilities like interstate highways and airports as rivers. People flow through them and the thing is to optimize the flow. Eureka... let's have automation! But then there are the kinks in the system, rocks in the stream... people getting all testy in line or whipping out some Platinum Card of Privilege, etc. and there goes automation out the window. And if it's the people cruise control so to speak, they're probably more of a hazard to themselves. Instead why not design airports to wake 'em up, prod 'em a little, require a bit of thinking... or cooperation... while in line.