Thursday, 22 September 2011

airport fun

I've spent some time in airports the last few days - about 3 hours in the Toronto airport, and about 3 hours in the Chicago airport. For lack of a better hobby while waiting, I looked at the people sitting around me in the waiting room area. This is what I saw, in order of people sitting in that long row: knitting, looking at iphone, working on computer, talking on cell phone, checking Blackberry, sitting and staring, working on computer, talking!, talking!, doing something on ipad, reading book, looking around, reading newspaper, something on ipad, talking on cell phone, checking Blackberry. 

I also had time to do some comparing of the two airports. Who knew that waiting in airports could be so much fun! Here's what I noticed:

Toronto: free wireless internet
Chicago: not free - $6.95 per hour

Toronto: free wireless internet, automatic flush
Chicago: automatic flush, plastic that comes around and re-covers the seat every time you wave your hand over the back of the toilet 

Chicago airport toilet

Toronto airport toilet
Which would you rather have - a super clean plastic-wrapped toilet, or free wifi in the bathroom?


Toronto: nothing obvious
Chicago: Every 10 minutes or so, there was an announcement that went like this, "To minimize the spread of germs, cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Wash your hands with soap and water frequently after you cough or sneeze." 


Toronto: walked right through a metal-detector-type-doorway, kept all my clothes on
Chicago: walked into an x-ray booth, held hands above head for 7 seconds, asked to take watch and belt and shirt off (so that I was just wearing a tank top, which I had underneath the shirt), felt up by security agent. And I wondered: what did they see on that x-ray? Wasn't it pretty apparent that I wasn't a threat? I don’t know why you don’t just get your own change room where you strip down in front of an x-ray machine while some security agent is watching just to make absolutely sure that you’re not hiding anything. That would feel equally invasive. And just as safe. I just get annoyed with something’s that supposed to improve security but instead it just makes you feel invaded and worried. But maybe that’s just me. I want my plane ride to be safe. It just makes me wonder if there are other means to the same end. Kind of reminds me of grade school, where the whole class was given a detention and had to stay in for recess when just 2 people were talking. Communal punishment for the crimes of a few.

It made me think about what makes me feel safe. 

Safe: home, Derek, walking in the woods (even at night, as long as I know the woods), sleeping in a tent, going to sleep in my bed, holding my kids’ hands, walking in the door after a long drive, Disney World (I know – pathetic.), singing songs, being at church, being with family, the smell of fresh baking, sitting in a car even when I don't have my seatbelt on, being in front of a group of children

Not safe: small and rattly planes, airport security, driving on snowy or icy roads, being around someone who is too loud or too drunk, when I’m very lost like on some back alley in Buffalo, guns, catcalls in a language I can’t understand, walking alone as a woman in Casablanca, the smell of alcohol breath mixed with cigarette breath, driving by myself in a city I don't know, biking in India, driving in Morocco in the mountains, seeing soldiers or anyone in uniform, hospitals, maggots

Better catch my plane now.


  1. Very creative post Rebecca. I was wondering how those fancy plastic seat covers worked? I cannot believe the security! Crazy. Safe Travels, Rebecca. What were you doing in Chicago?

  2. Thanks Shauna! The seat covers: you wave your hand over that green light on the top of the toilet, then automatically this plastic cover starts shifting around so that you have a brand new Saran Wrap seat. Not the most comfortable to sit on, but maybe it cuts down on cleaning costs? I had to wonder where all that plastic goes after one bum has used it. I was in Chicago for a Gather Round writers conference from Monday to yesterday.

  3. Groovy seat covers! Oh, and I would SO choose seat covers over wifi in the toilet. Your comments about safety remind me of when I flew in and out of Washington a few years ago and every five minutes, there was a reminder that we were at yellow alert. I'm not a nervous traveler but it was really unsettling, to say the least. Plus, it wasn't new. Not like groovy toilet seat covers anyhow. (Hey, it just occurred to me that you might have frightened your neighbors in the next toilet stall if they heard/saw you taking photos. Yellow alert!!)

  4. yes, I can imagine that would have been unsettling, Susan. It's like saying, "Just to remind you, you're not safe, you know. Watch out for anyone who might look a little bit suspicious." Thanks. Great way to raise everyone's fear level as they enter a big vehicle that takes them through the sky.

    Yes, those seat covers were quite something. And a tip for taking pictures in the bathroom: I made sure I did my photo capturing when the toilets nearby were flushing loudly. :)

  5. Hm, it does get a bit interesting when you observe the actions of an airport as a whole. They're interesting places, often bustling with life and people. There can be several small differences from airport to airport, but the best thing to hope for is that things are comfortably on schedule, no?