Disappointment in Terminals Creates ‘Terminal Illness’

Jonathan Willett

This is my official surrender to the system, my white flag to man’s pursuit of air born mass transit. From now on, I will be a zombie in the TSA security line as much as the next person, I will pay $5 for that bottled water, and I will dress as though I have been bed-ridden with the flu for a week. Spending five hours of my life trapped in Chicago’s O’Hare airport, the FAA, and American behavior in general have taken all the fight out of me.

My father, who was anxious to get me to the airport on time for my 6 a.m. flight, yanked me out of drunken slumber at four. Still a little groggy, we pulled up at the airport at 4:45 a.m., and I watched my father’s taillights disappear just as my phone told me my flight had been delayed two hours. No breakfast places were open yet inside the airport, so I curled up at my gate and fell asleep, almost missing the final boarding call.

Once inside, I found, to my shock, that I had no one sitting next to me and I promptly stretched out and fell asleep again. Then suddenly, in the middle of the flight, with no provocation or turbulence, I experienced something I have never actually witnessed in the first person before.

I used a barf bag.

Not in front of anyone mind you, alone in the bathroom. But still, I have never even imagined using that bag for its intended purpose, and there I was. I tried to be as quiet and conscientious as possible, but it was unpleasant. However, after I finished, I went back to my seat and gradually fell back asleep as the flight attendant gave me a cup of ice.

I awoke staring at the sprawling collection of stores, flight gates, and people swarming around me in an ever-increasing horde of rancid populace intent on quenching the thirst of their own desires. A crowd of “gimme-gimme” and “outta my way” paved the sad three-fourths mile trudge to my connecting flight’s gate. Not entirely helping the matter was that half this distance was covered under the most terrible nightclub level, rainbow neon lighting, barely illuminating the moving sidewalk, so tripping is the standard, not the exception.

And then, at the top of the escalator, in all his horrific glory, stood the one man with the ability suck the last shred of hope for our species out of me, as well as send me retching for the bathroom.

Standing at a very modest 5-foot-6-inches, and weighing in at 275 pounds, with stomach exposed from underneath a too small T-shirt, of course, was the stereotypical “American Who Should Not Be Allowed To Fly.” It really is true what Patton Oswalt said, that nowadays flying is basically the equivalent of strapping wings and rocket boosters to a Greyhound Bus, and then launching it off a ramp.

My AWSNBATF was dressed in dark blue stained sweatpants with the cuff at the bottom, so you could see a little skin between the white socks and light blue crocs he was wearing. I covered the T-shirt (of course it was dirty and smelly), and here’s the best part; His carry-on luggage was a kitchen garbage bag, the white plastic kind, which he shifted from hand to hand as he tried to scarf down half a pizza at nine in the morning.

I will end this gripe session with one final note about people who have to spend more than 45 minutes or so in O’Hare, don’t abuse the power outlets. I know that sharing is a long gone concept, but for some reason, instead of having outlets at the gate like every other airport, Chicago decided that cramming six people together is way more effective.

That’s right, the communal outlets are like six open phone booths right next to each other, nowhere near most of the major airline gates. The thought process behind this design must be so that people can quickly charge up their phones or iPads between flights. Unfortunately, the death of human courtesy has killed off yet another seemingly logical idea. People instead plug in their laptops and loudly Skype, or worse, they eat the sloppy airport meals with their headphones on, loudly smacking and chomping throughout the newest iTunes download.

Like I said, this simply killed my desire to rebel against the American flight system, not the need we have to travel this way. I will continue to fly if I must, but I no longer have any illusions about us returning to the day when bathing before a flight was downright common and expected, or when it was considered a privilege to soar 30,000 ft. in the air. Airline etiquette is dead. Modern American behavior killed it and buried it out back, go look for yourself.