Jim Abbott on Travel
Postcards from Florida
March 24, 2012
My father worked for the airlines in Miami for more than 30 years, in the golden age of air travel on iconic fleets such as Eastern, Pan American and TWA.
So it's impossible for me to take a flight in the bargain-fare, post 9-11 era without thinking about my old man, who died a little more than 10 years ago. We always dressed in Sunday go-to-meeting attire to get on an airplane, so I'd love to see his reaction to the passengers in cut-off jeans, flip-flops and go-to-the-gym fashions.
But airports are still prime people-watching territory and, goodness knows, there's plenty of time to sit and watch.
I recently went to New Orleans for a work assignment, so I had a chance to soak up the atmosphere at the airports in Orlando and the Big Easy. Compared with the utilitarian vibe at Louis Armstrong International Airport, OIA is plush and well-organized — a Cadillac of people-moving institutional architecture. My check-in moved along steadily, even though I initially stood in the wrong line.
You can't control people, though, and I wish the clerk at the counter hadn't admonished me by saying, "You need to go stand in that long line over there." Certainly, there's a better way to tell me that.
The line at security? Also long, but ultimately efficient, even though I haven't learned how to gracefully remove my shoes, belt, wallet and phones, keys and loose change without holding up the party behind me. I'll practice in front of a mirror at home before my next trip.
The flight? On time and pleasant, despite the presence of a high-school baseball team returning from a tournament at Walt Disney World's Wide World of Sports. I had managed to dodge the cumbersome, noisy entourage at check-in, only to find them at my gate, then in the rows all around me in the aircraft.
I can manage fine without reliving my days of chaperoning school field trips. "Where's Smitty?" one kid shouted up the aisle. I don't know if he made it, but judging from the team's travel skills, they might not win many games.
In New Orleans, I ran into another bad communicator at the rental-car counter, whose directions to the cars left me and two other dudes wandering aimlessly.
My conclusion: Air travel would run a lot more smoothly without people to gum it up. For my part, I'm going to start practicing on my belt and shoe removal skills now.
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