Sunday, December 31, 2006

Random Airport Madness

There’s something about airports that brings out the lunacy in many (all?) of us. Two example from today:

My flight from SJC was delayed by over an hour. No communication from Alaska via the notification phone number or e-mail address I had provided them during the process of purchasing my ticket on-line. To kill a few minutes, and a few brain cells, I wandered into the travel themed bar (Flights and Bytes?) and sat down to await a waitperson. The gal behind the bar stared at me occasionally while she busied herself with the very occasional patron. After about five minutes it became very clear that there was to be no table service. I debated continually staring at the bar tender to see how long it would be before she confirmed said “no table service” status. Hunger and thirst overtook me. I grudgingly levered myself out of my seat and stepped up to the bar. It was like the bar tender was seeing me for the first time. “What can I get you” she said. I paused a fraction of a second debating internally if I should pass comment on the lack of recognition and her inability (lack of desire?) to communicate with anyone past the border of her bar. As I began to respond “Corona and Tuna Sandwich” she wandered off. Clearly a fraction of a second being too long a period beyond which she should waste her valuable time on me. She eventually drifted back and took my order. She seemed confused that I wanted to pay for my food and beverage at that time (rather than wait a second eternity to get the check….). That troubling chasm crossed, she asked me where I would like my food. “At my table” I replied as I gestured to the table where she had watched me sit, un-tended, for five minutes. As I moved back to my table I overheard her placing my order with the fellow who tended the kitchen. Very impressively, he was back not two minutes later with my order – which he then preceded to place on the table next to mine, that table being empty and me seated at the table next to it being the only other patron within spitting distance. Obviously the bar tender had given him a table number and gosh-darn-it he was going to deliver the meal to the table to which he had been directed. No matter that there was no one sitting there – a trifling element of data that was not to sway him one whit.

I retrieved my meal and ate. The sandwich was more suited for scouring a floor clean than for human consumption. However I was hungry.

Later, as I exited the security check point I overheard a conversation between a TSA employee and a family traveling to the Pacific Northwest. As the TSA employee waved around two jars of what appeared to be home-made jam, she explained to mom, dad and assorted children that such items are not permitted on the plan. Mon, dad and assorted children looked pretty put out upon hearing this news. “But that’s grandpa’s jam!” exclaimed mom. The fact that it was a gift from grandpa, or perhaps was intended as a gift for grandpa, made it no less lethal in the eyes of the TSA. Interestingly mom, dad and assorted children had walked past three signs explaining the dangers of moist items, had responded in the negative to two TSA agents when asked if they had liquids with them, and had failed to hear a repeatedly broadcast announcements about the terrors that could be unleashed in the skies if they took liquids, jells or similar with them aboard a plane. Clearly they have no TV at home nor do they read newspapers or listen to the radio. They were completely unaware that grandpa’s slightly watery-looking jam could be such a potentially dangerous munition. Perhaps the worst it could do in their eyes was to give grandpa a touch of gas. In the eyes of the TSA it was potentially a potent acid or explosive accelerant. Offers from the assorted children to sample the jam (with or without toast) were derided by the TSA as the cunning ruses of skillful terrorists (or so it looked like they were thinking of saying). As I wandered away they were all arguing if grandpa’s jam could be safely dropped into a white plastic bag, wrapped with a coat and checked as luggage. I suspected not – but would have loved to have been at the arriving end to see what sort of mess came out onto the luggage carrousel (unless TSA or baggage staff had not swiped it for a touch of cream tea and scones in the afternoon….).

To cap off my day, there were no ground crew waiting for the arrival of my flight. We sat for about five minutes just yards away from the gate while staff scurried around looking for their high-tech orange glowing sticks with which to wave us forward the last few feet of our trip. Perhaps the arrival of a Boeing 737 was a big frackin' surprise to them. Little too large to miss I would venture to guess, but what do I know about the wonders of airport management? Perhaps they were busy enjoying scones and grandpa’s jam with TSA staff?