Airport Madness


Airport Madness

Will we ever return to normal again? Who’s to say that we were ever normal anyway? When we expect a nation, governed by flawed people (both sides of the aisle), to be blameless and perfect, who then are the fools? 

I am of the understanding that this world will always be a place of chaos, and chaos is the norm. No race, creed, color, size, shape, or culture can claim that, over the history of civilization, that their clan was blameless in the woes of the world. We have all participated in the chaos. Our ancestors were not blameless and therefore we cannot sit in the judgement seat.

In a twisted kind of way, I am finding some comfort in the chaos and I’m quite surprised that I am. I don’t know what it speaks about me personally, but I do know that while we do everything in our power to avoid it, chaos is inevitable. Learning to embrace and live in it is freeing and will add much joy to your life. 

No better industry today mirrors the chaos of the world as does the airline industry. In our world, parking revenues dropped by 95 percent literally overnight at airports. Uber drivers were rendered obsolete and airline travel all but evaporated. Parking reserves were spent in attempts to keep people employed, unplanned and early retirements were initiated, and fear wreaked havoc on the entire industry. In a business that was used to Ups and Downs (pun intentional), it was scary times. 

Historically, I do most of my writing on airplanes. I find the time sequestered in a seat with inches of legroom a place where writing allows me an escape into a different realm, a world where full cans of ginger-ale actually exist and there are no arm rest battles taking place. The headphones help, as well, and while I often engage with a next-door neighbor, sometimes I just need some space.

My go to airline is Southwest. Their companion fare is unmatched in the industry and their two free bags fit my narrative well since I always carry a separate case for one of my parking garage lighting fixtures. By the time I add $40 for the first checked bag, $50 for the second, and extra for an aisle seat on an opposing airline, no-one can beat Southwest without the add-ons. Full refunds, no charge changes and A-List skip the line are a life saver. The other day in San Diego, from my hotel valet stand, I drove to the airport, returned a rental car, transferred to Terminal 1, checked bags, cleared TSA, and arrive at my gate all in 35 minutes. A Guinness World Record! 

While I experienced great success on my return home flight from San Diego, just days earlier, the sky was falling down on Southwest. My flight to San Diego was cancelled and not rebooked. I lost the first day of my business trip for no particular reason at all. It does seem that today, no matter how diligent you are, flights are changed arbitrarily and for no apparent cause. 

I suppose it’s the new normal. Spirit had the same issue days later. Southwest handles it professionally, most of the time. They normally offer you vouchers, but if you write them from their website, remain calm, and tell of your woes, they will normally add a little more incentive for your inconvenience. 

From 32,000 feet, the world still looks the same today as it did yesterday. From the window seat, the mountains of Colorado are still magnificent and pure white. The Nevada deserts are still barren and look impossible to survive in, yet an occasional green spot with a little town and a huge array of photovoltaic panels reflect back at the aircraft. Then you land at the airport, and you see Starbucks closed at 9 AM because of no staff. Then you hear a message over and over again proclaiming the magic number of a six-foot distance as a safe marker, which is hilarious considering the cigar tube you are waiting to enter where even 6 inches would be a dream. You see near 100 percent compliance on wearing masks throughout the airport, reminding you that things are not normal at ground level. Or are they?

Some people think I am nuts for traveling on business as much as I do. On the contrary, I think they are nuts for putting their lives on hold. Face to face is where trust is established, and business is made. Zoom is fine, but there is no handshake or hug when it’s over. There is no lunch where we can talk about other more important things like lacrosse or how to deal with a kid who won’t obey their mom or dad. People work with people they know, trust and would do life with, even more so in this chaotic life.

My mother-in-law is 96 years old and living in an assisted living apartment. She is relatively independent and in surprisingly good health. One of her neighbors is a delightful woman who dresses up every day for dinner with her family. She puts on makeup, earrings, jewelry, beautiful clothes, the whole nine yards. Recently while visiting my mother-in-law, she came into the room to say hello. She was coveting a scarf that was for sale on a nearby chair and proclaimed that it was her birthday, and her family was coming to take her out to celebrate. 

Immediately I purchased the scarf and gave it to her as a gift for her birthday. More than likely, it wasn’t really her birthday. She said the same thing the day before and likely will say the same the day after. Her family never came for her, in fact, they haven’t in years. She repeats this routine daily in perpetual hope of her desired outcome, to be wanted by her family. 

It can be heartbreaking, but something about her is wonderful. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome is the definition of insanity or, in her case, it’s the definition of hope and optimism, a perpetual flame like the one adorning JFKs gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery. I should be so lucky as her, to dress daily with the expectation of the arrival of my hopes and dreams. The reality of today’s hardships doesn’t register or have an impact on this woman. One can easily argue that she has lost it. I think in a world like today, we should all agree to learn from someone like her.

Times are tough and scary for the world today. In all sincerity. If you are one who is affected by fear and anxiety, please feel free to reach out to me and let’s do this one together. It’s easier together. Fear adds nothing, it only steals. As I travel the country during the rest of this year, I look forward to seeing many of your smiling faces at conferences and trade shows. You can find me at the Southwest baggage claim.

Happy Flying.

Article contributed by:
Jeff Pinyot
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