How To Run An Airport Waiting Room

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WARNING: this is probably the least useful article on this website, as it’s only applicable to a few hundred people worldwide. However, if only one of those (overworked, probably underpaid, definitely under appreciated) people reads this, my job is well done.

Many years ago, I went to Honduras to visit a friend. This was during my grad school years, when my frequent-flyer-mile-to-money ratio was hundreds to one. When the time came I put my ticket on miles, and routing rules made things interesting: San Francisco-New York-Miami-Tegucigalpa (pause), then San Pedro Sula, then La Ceiba. Long day.

The only way to pull it off was to arrive late-night in New York, followed by an early morning flight to Miami. I would be spending the night in JFK airport. When I landed, the American Airlines terminal was the usual disaster – hundreds of rushed people rushing every which way, mostly out. I stopped a friendly-looking janitor and asked him if there was a place I could spend the night.

“Not here,” he said. “The terminal closes at midnight and they’ll throw you out. There’s a waiting area beyond security, though.”

I made my way there, which was a tile-floored area near a snack bar with an sliding door out to the street. Chairs were set up in pods of five. People were scattered about those pods, and the woman behind the counter at the snack bar was dozing. None of this was good, but it would be a manageable spot to crash for a while if I kept my wits about me. Unfortunately, one factor made this impossible: CNN Airport.Michael-Brutsch-screenshot

Playing on several televisions, loudly.

I don’t know who CNN-the-entity has fellated  in order to get itself running nonstop in every airport waiting area in the United States, but may I humbly suggest that the sex-for-placement arrangement stop? Being in an airport is already stressful – even if you are not looking for a place to sleep on the floor. Add in the cacophony of people-yelling-at-each-other that passes for cable news, and everyone’s heart rate goes up five beats per minute. We all sweat a little more.

Turn them off. Shut them down.  In this age of iPads, tablets, e-readers, magazines, and books, it’s highly unlikely that anyone at the airport is going to be happy to passively watch inane nontertainment. If you must have screens, put on silent weather maps – that’s the only news that is absolutely important to the audience.Imagine that world – slightly quieter airports. Slightly less-stressed passengers making the gate agents just a bit less crazy.

So, airport waiting room managers of the world – if you read this…please turn ’em off.

Oh, wait – you want to know how the story ends? I hightailed it right out of that loud, weird waiting room and took the train to the International Terminal, which never closes. At the end of one of the hallways, next to a wall of windows that faced out to the tarmac, I found my holy grail: a bank of pay phones. I rolled out a camping mattress behind them, put my head on my fleece for a pillow, and slept soundly for five hours.

After all, even in 2007, nobody was going to walk that far to use a pay phone.

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