February 19th, 2009 → Leave a comment

No, this is not my mother when I told her that I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. This is me at the Detroit airport two days ago.

Dear person who designed the Detroit Airport,

I am writing you this letter now from bed where I’ve been out of commission for two days. I have been hacking, blowing my nose (my laundry hamper full of wet mucus filled hankies), and sleeping in odd positions to clear my blocked nostril into the semi clear one. I am unproductive in my ailing which is not good because I am self-employed and every moment to work counts. I am very very sick and I find you somehow responsible for all this.

On February 16, I attempted to do a relatively routine flight from LaGuardia Airport in NY to my home in Los Angeles. With one stopover at your airport. ONE stopover. I was in good health, though a little underslept as I often am with the anticipation of morning flights.

My first flight was delayed by 45 minutes (weather or repairs, I don’t know, don’t care). Instantly, this becomes an issue because my connecting flight is in the next hour. The woman working the gate before my first flight assured me I had time to connect. Also, that the next flight to Los Angeles from Detroit was full. She said it was in my interest to catch my assigned flight to avoid stand-by. Why would she do this when it was so clear that I would not connect? Why didn’t she just go ahead and give me an alternate flight? Because she was one of the devil’s minons. YOUR minions.

I slept through the first flight and was groggy and so tired when I awoke when our flight landed at your foul creation– the Detroit airport. Unfortunately, my connecting flight was not at the adjacent gate. We parked at A6 and I had to get to A66. It perhaps doesn’t help that the stewardess on my first flight got our hopes up by saying to exiting passengers, “If you dash for it, you can still make it.”

And so I did. I went from deep sleep to running for my life. And during this mile-long run (and it is one mile), I began to think of you and your intentions for the wayward construction of this airport.

Was it really necessary to build such impossibly long terminals? Seriously, a terminal that stretches for over a mile? Or at that, make the tram equally as unproductive to ride (go up an escalator, wait and wait, only to take a tram that cuts the walk time down by half?) And don’t you think that most people are unable to travel at the speed of light?

You have built many points of mockery in your airport. The people movers for example are pointless. What is the philosophy here? Why walk, when you can move at walking speed without the walking? I could have run on them, but the people who use them tend to block the whole thing between their bags and their bodies.

As I snaked in and out of bodies, I began to feel like an action hero or the star of an antiperspirant commercial (minus the antiperspirant, of course) when they must quickly assess horrible situations under the gun.

You also have fancy lighted signs of your endless Terminal A that block my run space so that people can see for themselves how hopelessly far away they are from their terminal. It’s a wonder you don’t have a neon sign that says, “You are stupid for even trying to make your next flight” that flashes every five feet.

I finally arrived, out of breath, carrying a heap of jackets and scarf that I had stripped off under one arm (I was just in NY in February mind you), a purse and backpack in the other. I was sweating through my clothing, I had no bra on (I hadn’t anticipated this strip down) so every detail of my silhouette became visible to the gatekeepers. The woman at the gate tells me she can put me on a connecting flight to Cincinatti, with a two hour layover, and then I can go to Los Angeles from there. She adds, “You are going to have to run all the way back and go to Terminal C– and you need to run.”

I’m covered in sweat, pulling my wet shirt off my body and fanning myself, holding my hands to my knees and I’m panting. My mouth is dry and I won’t get a sip of water until I get on the plane and it’s up in the air.

I say this not to arouse you, but to make a point of the sheer humiliation that the design of your airport brings someone trying to make a tight connecting flight in a hurry. You turn us into amateur athletes, refugees, and very desperate people.

Delirious, from having just been asleep 10 minutes prior, then having to break into a sweaty run. I decide to take the tram. I mean, obviously, this tram you have must hit all terminals, otherwise, it’s pretty useless right? Because other airports make trams that go to all terminals, especially when they are so far apart.

Aah, yet another piece of your design mastery… the tram, which is effectively unmarked, only seems to exist in Terminal A. I managed to take it back and forth and back and forth across the same terminal before realizing I wasn’t going further than Terminal A.

So, again, I get off, go down the escalator, and I run for it.

Your signage for finding Terminals B&C is confusing. You have a sign that points to the “terminals” but that is the baggage terminal. I had to ask a custodian where terminals B&C were
only to learn they were down several sets of escalators and more corridors.

And then there was more mockery. There is the wannabe Bill Viola light tunnel thing (which a people mover goes through) that plays “oohs and aahs” as the lights change over the metal tunnel. Is this supposed to be comforting? Am I supposed to enjoy this in my sickly run against time?

Of course, this flight to Cincinatti is at the end of another mile long terminal, down the very last escalator. And when I get there, panting and out of breath, more of your minions give me attitude for being out of breath and frantic about getting on the plane like there was something wrong with me for having run for a flight.

I get on. I smell. I’m wet from my hair down with sweat. The cold Detroit air hits me, as does the petri dish temperature of the plane.

It’s a formula for a cold. This cold I have now.

I at least found kinship in the guy sitting next to me. I had spotted him with flailing arms, speeding through the airport too, having missed the same flight. On the shorter flight to Cincinatti, I was very uncomfortable. You see, all the running made my t-shirt wet and cold. We were able to bond in our misery and the lies we had been told that we had a fighting chance to catch it.

On my two hour layover in Cincinatti, I ate tremendously overpriced black bean roll-ups (oh god, I don’t know what they are, but they were gross). For some reason the screens at the gate play CNN and they keep playing the above clip of the woman in Hong Kong who missed her flight. I feel her. I really feel her.

I slept on the way to Los Angeles. Feeling sick, stomach nauseous, and very achy. The flight hit some big turbulence because of the weather. I sat next to the same guy who was on the Cincinatti flight and we kept commiserating about how sick this was making us, watching the monitors and anxiously willing the flight to land already.

Here I am. Home. Sick. Unproductive with a lot of things I want to do but can’t.

So how can you repay me for my troubles oh architect who built lame airport? Well, to start, you can add the features like a pedicab inside the airport to help transport folks who need to get from one gate to another in a pinch. I didn’t see any of these when I ran through and wonder how seniors or disabled are expected to make connecting flights that I couldn’t. You can ask your airline minions to be realistic about missed connecting flights instead of telling people to run for it, when it’s not a realistic option. And finally, you can send me a wet nurse to take care of me in my final hours.

Yours in sickness and frustration,

Kristina Wong

Category: uck you

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