So I’m waiting to board my United Airlines flight to Seattle. A few days ago I was congratulating myself on resisting the temptation to fly up in my own airplane, opting instead to take advantage of frequent flyer miles to obtain a free ticket.
Now that I’m here, however, the plan doesn’t seem quite so bright. Oh sure, the flight is on time and I didn’t forget to pack anything. But the environment here at LAX is strangely disquieting. I’m not sure why, but I think it has something to do with the fact that I’m at an airport, surrounded by airplanes, and this should be a very joyful environment for someone like myself. Yet there is no joy anywhere to be seen.
There’s something about a major international airport that brings out the worst in people. I don’t know if it’s the crowds, the security, or just the overall nervousness in a post 9/11 world. But it’s definitely not a friendly place.
The TSA goons are constantly eyeing you, as though you’ve certainly committed a crime and it’s only a matter of time until they uncover it or sweat you out.
The gate agents are stand-offish at best, undoubtedly a pre-emptive response after years of torture by a slovenly dressed, poorly mannered flying public.
Listless passengers either immerse themselves in reading material or simply shuffle about, eyes downcast to prevent any possibility of actual eye contact with another human being.
Perhaps I, as a GA pilot, am the only one that detects this pall. It’s like a funeral in here. A testament to the bankrupt status of United Airlines, perhaps? It does feel a bit like “last call” at a seedy bar.
I can only conclude that this is not really an ‘airport’ at all. LAX and its ilk don’t do justice to the word. Lord knows that if this is what my daily work environment was like, I’d be looking for a new career. The ‘airport’ I’m familiar with has quirky people who are friendly to a fault, and always ready to look you in the eye, shake your hand, and swap war stories about that old Stearman sitting out on the grass.
Even before 9/11, the only thing to look forward to at a place like this is the possibility of witnessing a warm reunion between friends or family as folks disembark. Now, even that small pleasure is gone. The only thing there is to look forward to now is getting the hell out of here.
Speaking of which, they’re calling my flight. And not a moment too soon — this place is starting to creep me out.