Saturday, March 27, 2010

That A Way

Rest assured, my airport looks nothing like this (above).

Things worked so much better when the Mafia ran the airport nearest my home [and I use the term 'nearest' loosely, as it's about an hour away]. Granted, you paid $34 for a Pepsi and $150 to park your car, but at least you had a place to park near the airport. Now, you have to park - literally - a mile away from the airport and wait for a shuttle bus to pick you up.

It's not just that, though. Since the Mafia left, there is no one at the entrance to the airport to try to shake you down. You might think that's a good thing, but it ain't: at least under the Mafia people were there to answer questions for a fee. "Are you lost, sir?" For a mere $10 the guy'd get you to wherever you needed to go. "The restrooms, sir?" For another Hamilton you'd be peeing in comfort [well, the bathrooms were cesspools, now that I think of it; but at least you were peeing where you were supposed to]. I mean, those were the days.

Since they drove the Mafia out of the airport, however, it's been a fucking lonely nightmare. Sure, the place is cleaner than a virgin's you-know-what, but good luck figuring out just where the fuck you're supposed to go or finding someone to tell you where the fuck you're supposed to go. Sure, the Pepsi is back to an only semi-laughable $8, but good luck finding a place to get one once you pass through security.

One of the fears we all had back when the government created the Transportation Safety Administration [TSA] was that they'd grow into a typical government bureaucracy staffed by losers, shiftless daydreamers, hopeless ne'er do-wells and people incompetent to do anything else. Sure enough, eight years later, we're there. And good luck firing anybody. At least when the Mafia ran the place it was pretty simple to... how shall I put it?, Terminate an employee.

All of this is a prelude to an ode about my recent trip. Thanks to Osama bin-Laden, I have to get up at 3 am to catch a 7:30 am flight. Just for that they should kill him. As I say, it's about an hour's drive to the airport from my house, plus they want you to get there at least 2 hours beforehand because they readily admit they don't know what the fuck they are doing at those security check points.

So, I get to the entrance and get ready to get in line for the security/anal penetration check. It's a longer line than I'd like, but I'd listened to my government and gotten there early enough. Just as I was about to get to what I assumed was the back of the line, an enormous TSA person - to call him a "worker" would imply that he did, in fact, work - put a big fucking paw on me and said, "The line begins back there." I looked to where his Rush Limbaugh-like stubby finger was pointing and saw a line of people with about 100 to 150 awfully pissed-looking would-be travelers in it. TSA Man had cleared the space in front of the roped off area so people could walk [where to, I've no idea, since the checkpoint was up against a wall], separating it essentially into two very long lines instead of one enormous cattle train. I took one look and instantly realized I was going to miss my flight despite getting up at 3 am.

Just as I started to trudge back to the end of the line, this Gabourey Sidibe-looking TSA Woman waddles past and says to the first fat bastard - the one who put his chubby paws on me a second earlier - "That fuckin' door ain't workin'. Shouldn't we send 'em to Gate C or D?" She was talking about the one security scan that was open [the other two were unstaffed and closed]. It was responsible for the long line. She had asked this question loud enough for me and the first few people in the line to hear, but soft enough so that no one else could. I nearly knocked Gabourey over - no small feat, mind you - to race [at least what passes for racing in my condition] to Gate C or D. Whew! Almost no line and I got through security with only a minor anal probing and this time without a catheter sweep [one day I'll write about that trip].

I figured, "Hmmm. My luck is changing. Normally, I'd have been waiting in that line for 3 hours only to later find out I could've gone to Gate C or D." So, I start walking to my gate. Naturally my flight is leaving from the one gate at the airport that they built so far away from the rest of the terminal [I'll grant you, that was the Mafia's doing; but everyone makes mistakes] that you - again, literally - take a bus to it.

I start walking expecting to see the signs for the "Bus to Gate F" - which is the most appropriately named Gate in the airport because you are Fucked if you have to fly out from there. Instead, I see signs pointing directly to Gate F - not a bus to Gate F, but the real Gate F. Now, since the Mafia left, they've been building additions to this airport. I figure, "Hmm, they must've built a walkway to Gate F so you don't need a bus." I keep walking, and walking. A mere 15 minutes later I see a set of glass doors that read, "Gate F". I get ready to walk though them when I notice an itsy-bitsy little sign the size of a postage stamp that reads, "Hey Asshole: If You walk Through These Doors You Have to Go Back Through Security Again and Get Your Ass Probed."

I turned on my heel and reversed myself. Now, I noticed another enormous TSA employee [don't ask me how I missed him the first time] sitting in a big go-cart-like kind of thing, seemingly taking a nap. "Excuse me, how do I get to Gate F," says I. Looking at me as if I just asked him how many times he'd banged his sister, the TSA guy mutters, "There." and points to the doors I just passed. I replied, "But, uh, that thimble-sized warning sign says I'll need to go through security again." Again, TSA Guy looks at me like I'm trying to goad him into a fistfight. "Oh, yeah, you'll need to go through security again." This was getting me nowhere. "OK, " I said, starting to lose my famous temper [they don't call me Evil for nothing]. "Let me rephrase this: How do I get to Gate F without having to go through security again?" Now he smiled. When a government employee smiles at you it's like a spider smiling at something it has just caught in its web. "You need to walk a way back down that hallway to Gate C. There's a bus that picks you up." I couldn't believe it. "But, there's no sign there for the bus." I could tell that the concept of actually putting a sign there telling people where to go was a completely foreign idea to this asshole. "There is a sign. Just like that one," he said, smiling and pointing to the postage stamp.

So, now I'm doing a slow burn. I walk the 15 minutes back from whence I came and found the microscopic sign and got on the bus. One bus ride later, I get off at Gate F. I'm looking for F-44. I see a big, big sign that says "Gates 41-49 This A Way". So I walk 'this a way'. I get to the end of the terminal and simply cannot find Gate F-44. Then I notice: all of the gates on this side are odd numbers. These fuckers put the odd numbers on one side of the terminal and the even numbers on the other side. "But", I thought, "that sign distinctly said that Gates F 41-49 were 'this a way'." I walked back to where the bus dropped me off and, taking a second look at the sign, I see what they've done: the sign I saw did say 'Gates 41-49..." But now I see another sign. This one says "Gates 40-50 This A Way". What the two signs don't say, however, is that "Gates 40-50" means Gates 40, 42, 44, 46, 48 and 50; while "Gates 41-49" means 41, 43, 45, 47 and 49. Shaking my head, I caught my flight.

Now, if I went through my airport to leave, I am obviously going to have go back through it again when I come back. I remind you of what I said earlier: back when the Mafia ran the place, there was ample parking everywhere. Since then, they have knocked down a couple of parking garages. That's why I had to park a mile away. Ok, you say, what went up in place of the parking garages? Well, they put up some green space, with a fountain, couple of benches. Very nice. Except no one is allowed to use it. It was built in a part of the airport that is now off-limits for "security reasons". So, in place of useful parking spaces they now have the Hanging Gardens of Babylon where no one can go.

Back to my return trip home. I left, obviously, from another airport. I arrived super-early, as I had no idea what their security check points would be like. Naturally, then, my flight home was delayed. Hours later, I finally boarded. Now, this was a weather thing, and no one can control that - not even the Mafia. So, I finally land home a few hours later. Late? Yes. But, it could've been much worse.

Then I notice what gate we're pulling into... You guessed it, Gate Fuck You. This means that I'm going to have to get back on that damned bus to the regular terminal from which I'm going to need to catch yet another bus to get to my car. I'd have rather made a crash landing on the nearby interstate, closer to my car.

So, I start walking to where I think the bus is. Then I notice a huge sign - biggest one there - says, "This A Way to Parking Lot Bus". Hmmm, thought I: they actually run the parking lot bus to Gate F. Who woulda thunk it? So, I walk and walk and walk a bit more until - finally - I'm outside at what looks like a pick-up point.

By this point, it was about 30 degrees colder than what it had been in the city I'd just left. So, wearing only a Unabomber-type hooded sweatshirt, I waited. And waited. There were half a dozen TSA mothers sitting around drinking and smoking, kind of looking at me. I guessed they were on break - shocker.

Twenty five minutes pass. The TSA workers and I are still there. "This is some fucking break these assholes are on," think I. Just then, I see the parking lot bus. "Thank Christ!" I think. I get my stuff ready and prepare to make the last leg of the trip. The bus slows down.....and then immediately speeds up when it sees me and takes off right past me. "You fucking motherfucker where the fuck are you going!" I screamed. "Mother Fucker!" I screamed again, making sure to make them two separate words. I turned to the cadre of TSA wastes-of-space still on break. "Where the fuck can I get the parking lot bus?" At first, I thought the big guy in the group was getting ready to punch me. Instead, he simply was pulling out a lighter from his pocket to light his 15th cigarette of the break. "Ya gotta go a way up that a way [pointing to where I had just come from....30 minutes and a case of pneumonia ago] and cross over that thing [pointing to a walking bridge that takes you over the Hanging Gardens you can't use] and go through that thing [pointing to what looks strangely like another terminal] and it's there."

Now, I didn't really know where I was going. But I knew that it involved more walking and that I'd just lost 30 minutes of my life that I'd never get back. "Mother Fucker!" I screamed, again, making sure to say them as two separate words. "What the fuck!" Just then, the guy calls after me, "Well, sir," for some reason the politeness from someone who I know is a complete prick in real life just really pisses me off. "You coulda just taken a bus back to the terminal." I was going to get into an argument and say something like, "You douchebag: don't you think I would have?! You assholes put a fucking sign up telling me to come here." But I realized he was just going to tell me that there was another post-it note-sized sign back where I'd gotten off my plane telling to catch the bus there.

So, I blurted out something that I think was "Cocksucker!" but I can't swear to it. It might've been "Asshole!' or "Douche bag!" For the continuity of the story, however, I think "Cocksucker1" works best. Just then a TSA cop was at my side, "Can I help you sir," says Barney Fife. "Yes, you can get that fucking bus to stop and come the fuck back here to take me to the fucking parking lot!" Barney looked disturbed. "I don't really like being spoken to like that, sir." For some reason, that just made me mental. "Really?! Well I don't like having my chain yanked for 30 fucking minutes waiting out here for a bus that these assholes [pointing to the TSA workers who were still on break]] obviously knew wasn't going to stop here." Just then Barney got real serious-looking. There was still a fraction of my brain functioning normally - well, normal for me - telling me "Feets don't fail me now!". It was pulling me away from what was probably going to be an unpleasant confrontation. "Sir, you need to lower your voice and calm down." God, I wished, he hadn't said that. I was going to walk away without saying another word, honest-to-God I was. Then Barney had to go and say 'calm down'.

"Calm fucking down?" I said, although I did so while walking away. "Fucking goddamned motherfucking cocksucking pigfucking motherfucker!" I managed to get that out before being out of earshot of everyone. Fortunately for me, TSA Man didn't mace me and drag me into a holding cell. I was steamed. Then I realized something else: I always tell my employees that I don't give a damned what they do on their own time - including drunk driving, public urination, aggravated sexual assault - whatever. Just for God's sake make sure you're not wearing anything that has the company's name on it when you get arrested and booked. Just then, I looked down and realized that the Unabomber-type sweatshirt and the polo shirt peeking from under it both had our company's name big and bright and bold out front. If I'd have pushed that TSA Cop a little further, it might've meant more than an arrest. It could've meant my job.

For some reason, this made me angrier. At least, though, I was walking away from the situation without handcuffs. I finally found the spot where the parking bus will pick you up. 25 minutes later - again spent out in the cold - the fucking bus came by. One hour after I'd gotten off the plane. That was, itself, a few hours late. I was finally getting to my car.

I had flown instead of driving to my destination because a 7 1/2 hour drive was just too much for me. As I was driving away from the airport, I looked at my watch and was exactly 7 1/2 hours after I'd first gotten to the airport to begin my journey home 450 miles away. Time saved? Zero.

Somewhere, Osama bin Laden was laughing his terrorist ass off.
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