For the business class traveling masses, airports are a necessary evil. One of the rouge elements sewn deep into the fabric of travel in general is delays. I live in New York City and I know what it’s like to stand around on a train platform and watch helplessly as the seconds tick into minutes when you absolutely have to be somewhere. I get that. I also understand that it’s usually when my senses are most heightened and I’m running late in general that the trains or even worse, the swarms of street crowds always seem to be creeping along at their slowest. Women in power suits amble alongside men in Armani suits; together the glistening white teeth of the heard of them lighting their way through the sidewalks in throngs eight or ten deep.
In reality the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on it’s 800+ miles of track is probably the most efficient train system in the world with service operating 24 hours a day 365 days a year. In reality, the problem with the train system is the passengers in general; New Yorkers specifically. We pack our days too full, we don’t leave on time, we are as we are; but we shouldn’t blame the train system. And while there is a problem of overcrowding on the main thoroughfares in Manhattan; 42nd Street, 34th Street, 23rd Street; we all know that there are ways around that mess (the yellow line in traffics middle is my own personal favorite!)
No, no! There is a much guiltier culprit I’ve noticed for the traveling truant; it begins with a Fiorello H. and ends at LaGuardia Airport. I usually fly from Kennedy; I’ve always felt like JFK was the last secret transportation hub in New York; it’s clean, it’s efficient, the people who work there are friendly or at least passably unnoticeable. You get in, you get out; it’s brilliant.
I’ve never liked LaGuardia; maybe it’s because I grew up in the shadow of her noise in Flushing. Corona specifically. Anytime I’d be enjoying a lemon ice from the Lemon Ice King of Corona or a slice from Ray’s Original (the ONLY Ray’s; my young naive mind thought. I had a lot to learn about marketing and replication of an original; another subject for another time!) but anytime I was there trying to enjoy my own private piece of the world, every six or eleven minutes actually, a loud, noxious shadow would climb overhead.
“Oh well,” my mother would say. “There are bad things about anywhere you live.” My mother was going to broadcasting school in Manhattan at Announcer Training Studios; we were temporarily holed up with her ex-husband’s, my father’s parents; my perception of the world would be greatly influenced by these few short months and I’d forever consider myself a New Yorker at heart, which I was all through grade school and high school; visiting these grandparents from a very young age so often that a weekend with me back in the shadow of these exhaust fumed giants in Corona became commonplace.
It wasn’t just that these grandparents spoiled me to an extreme rarely seen, it wasn’t just the majesty of Grand Central terminal or the thrill of being “among them” – actual New Yorkers, as they all busied themselves doing their New York thing. It wasn’t just that I was, and still am, a lifelong fan of the New York Mets who played ball just a short walk from their home.
While, yes, I understand that that was “then” and this is “today,” there is still this madness going on. The real culprit here and the one that is still in its final throes, in my estimation, is the airport that is absolutely disgusting and seemingly in perpetuity behind schedule.
I recently took a flight out of LaGuardia airport and all my deepest fears were realized. This was a pretty important trip; I was going to see my step dad whom I hadn’t seen in more than a year. While this destination was not a “hub” per say (Charleston, SC); even if you’ve got one passenger to get somewhere, it’s always a good idea to get them where they need to be on time, or relatively so. So when I got to the airport an hour before takeoff I figured I’d wait around for an hour or maybe a little bit longer and then we’d be on our way.
This was not to be; the ineffectual ineffectiveness of the staff and the absolute filth that resided in the holding area was to say the least, disturbing. I was directed to the US Airways holding area which was at the very end of a long since deserted stretch of hallway where I was greeted by a few former businesses that had long since shuttered their gates. I kept my attitude fast and loose; yes I’d left my home and arrived at the airport what ended up being more than 90 minutes before my flight was to take off, but we’d be boarding any minute!
As the seconds ticked to minutes and the minutes to quarter hours, then half hours, then full hours, I started gauging this time spent against my pro driving skills and how far along the I-95 corridor I’d have been if only I’d driven. And as the US Airways waiting area drizzled out and as passengers began boarding their planes for places like Bangor, Syracuse, and Louisville, I began to realize that we would be the absolute last plane to leave this day.
While there were no televisions anywhere nearby, we did have a link to some entertainment. When I say entertainment, I mean giant (2-4″) roaches that scuttled along the areas behind which many of us were sitting.
When we finally were able to board the plane it was more than two hours past the time we were supposed to. It was a tiny, rickety, 50 seat Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ200) and the winds which swirl around out near that end of the LI Sound did not make me feel any better about the likelihood that we’d make it at all. It was then that the pilots alerted us to something even more alarming; this two hour and ten minute flight; the one which boarded a good 85-90 minutes late, would be arriving only one half an hour late. So they were going to play Speed Racer with our lives; all to the ethos of union ascribed starting times or whatever else they felt like sighting, justifying their actions.
Well, the long and short of it was that we did touch down and my fears at that moment were a little bit unfounded. But I will never, so long as I have any control over it, make my trip from the sadly sagging and almost crumbled ruins that are LaGuardia airport.
Sorry dad, next time, I’m driving.