Why I Hate Air Travel: O’Hell Airport

Because I have to vent…

The check-in procedure in O’Hare is seriously horked, which is surprising given it’s the main hub of the major American Airline(s) I used to get there. Despite doing the electronic checkin and having a printed boarding pass in hand, I had to repeat the process because I had bags to check. There were several check-in pods, but half were “out of order.” Initially it was unclear where the line started, but I realized there was no line. The teeming, unclean masses (fellow passengers) were all waiting for the airline employee to affix the sticker to their bags. When my name was called, they wanted to weigh my hardside Samsonite, but not the heavier duffels. The process took twenty minutes, I felt like I aged at least a month.

With that done, I had to trek back through the swarm to the (separate) TSA area where one guy was queueing bags, the other fed them through the Bagulator 2005GT. Occasionally, queuer barked commands to people to disperse or follow procedures that would only be apparent if you were psychic, an employee of TSA, or a frequent flier. The rate of bags coming in was exceeding the rate they were being processed, casting doubt that they’ll be rifling through my stuff this time. Still, when I pack, I always wonder if the person doing the rifling will be judgemental about my bags’ contents. Or see the “white powdery substance” and detonate my bag for fun.

After bidding farewell to my stuff, I walked to the fourth line for the security check. While it’s quick and orderly, it’s also nuts. The magnetometer doesn’t seem to be on a reasonable setting. It’ll trip if bumped. It’ll trip if I’m harboring impure thoughts about the scandalously dressed lady in front of me. It’ll trip if I have my wallet, cell phone or watch on my person. Fine. I’ll walk straight, think of England, and put my personals in my carryon.

Then there’s the shoe thing. Because some nut job tried blowing up a plane with carved out sneakers, we’ll likely forever have our shoes scrutinized not just for fashion, but also for explosives. I know Woodstock pointed out the shoe inspection is not mandatory, but they always ask, and it’s slightly less hassle to take them off. I say “slightly,” because there’s never enough space to sit and put them on once I go through the line. It’s bad enough that I have to juggle putting my laptop back into its carry-on sarcophagus, but walking on the dirty floor in search of a place to sit down and put my shoes on is cruel.

With shoes on and personals back in pockets, I hoofed down to the gate listed on my boarding pass and the monitor. The previous flight, to Vegas, hadn’t left, so my gate was reassigned to the cluster of gates at the far end of the airport. There’s scant place to sit.

This was the most mind-numbing flight home I’ve taken. I finished most of the puzzles in my “180 puzzle” book, read the in-flight magazine and laughed at some of the things in the SkyMall catalog. There wasn’t enough room to set up my laptop, so I was relegated to counting the people on the plane by groups: people with brown hair, people who look as bored as me (subjective), etc. The little girl in front of me, also bored, started singing ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” Over and over and over until we landed. I tried thinking of common earworms, starting with “We Will Rock You” and escalating up to the sub-nuclear option “It’s a Small World.” Nothing could withstand the melodic repetition. Admittedly, as soon as the plane landed and door opened, I jutted up front hoping to shorten the time until I’d get to my car and could play Led Zeppelin IV.

I was sitting on this, hoping I’d calm down. However, my spouse and kids are due back tonight and I already know their flight is going to be delayed at least an hour.

11 thoughts on “Why I Hate Air Travel: O’Hell Airport”

  1. In the “mixed blessing” department, the American Airlines’ phone notification system seems to be working. It’s called me three times to update me on the most recent delays and gate changes.

  2. Great… fifth phone call and the system is now saying the flight is “On Time” even though it’s really scheduled to arrive nearly “two hours later.”

    Add 40 minutes to retrieve luggage and the half-hour drive home, and I know everyone’s going to be cranky.

  3. Add 40 minutes to retrieve luggage and the half-hour drive home, and I know everyone’s going to be cranky.

    Hell, I’m cranky already just reading about all of this! I’m thinking agoraphobia has an up side.

  4. 10 years ago, one of the triggering events that got me to quit smoking was what I called the “death run” through O’Hare. Arriving late on flight “A”, I was instructed to “run” to catch flight “B”, in another terminal accessed via a tunnel. The flashing lights and echoing sounds as I loped along in my suit, combined with the self-flagellation provided by my laptop bag and my lack of oxygen capacity had me firmly believing I’d be triggering that $255 death benefit.

    I made it, only to be informed that flight “B” would be taking off an hour late.

  5. For me, the best part of travelling is getting the free shower caps in the hotel rooms. They make great bicycle seat covers on damp days!

  6. Ooh, I didn’t realize shower caps were useful for that purpose. All this time I’ve just been leaving them sit on the counter for the next guest. Well, with my trip to Reno on Monday, that will change!

  7. Wow….just…wow. Nothing like having to deal with airlines to make you insane. Take comfort in the fact that the farther away from DC you are the better TSA operates. 😉

  8. Doug in Exile

    I don’t travel much any more, thank God, but I did discover this year that Delta has replaced their 737/757/767 aircraft on the Zion to Seattle run with Canadair RJs. If you haven’t had the experience of flying on one, I suggest that you start making your reservations WAY in advance if there’s any hint that your favorite airline uses them. It turns out that the seating for 50 or 70 (depends on the model) really refers to dwarf trolls rather than actual homo sapiens. If you happen to be one of the latter, there are only about 20 actual “comfortable” seats on the plane, those being the seats on the aisle. Sitting in a windows seat will get you permanent sideways curvature of the spine by the time you’ve reached the active runway. Just think of it as the reward that awaits you after enduring the security check.

    And WHY, with so much evidence to the contrary, does the FAA still maintain, and the aircraft interior designers believe, that the average human weighs 170 pounds? “Dude” is much closer to the average, and that leaves, by any math you choose, 80 surplus fanny-pounds to cram into that narrow little space between the armrests! Try holding your Coke on the tray table that sits at a 45 degree angle no matter how much you suck it in…..

    Now, just for grins, go take the Coast Starlight Acela train from Seattle to Portland. Compare the two, wonder why rail service is headed for the same destination as our vanishing civil rights, and marvel at the beautiful symmetry of it all.

  9. You can thank Tricky Dick Nixon for the decline of rail service as he gave priority to freight over people

  10. Doug in Exile

    Where’s Micro$oft Rail when you need it…? It’s a good thing I’m not electable!

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