Saturday, August 11, 2007

More Stories of the Airport

I wrote this yesterday while traveling, though it wasn't for a "gig." Again, I make no claims about how interesting this is. I had some time to kill, so I wrote:

The last time I did this, I was trying to get out of rural Mississippi, having an (apparently) inappropriate chuckle over the nasal deficiencies of large camo-clad Southerner. Big fun, you know? Make the best of a situation. Lemons into lemonade, frowns upside down, etc. Like that.

If I got even the least bit of sympathy last time, that’s not likely to happen here.

This time, I’m in Salt Lake City, proud home to what I believe is the looniest of all religions (sorry, can’t help but speaking the big quiet truth and all), returning from a 4-day trip with the male types from my wife’s family. Earlier this year, my wife went on a trip with her mom, sister, and sister-in-laws. They did a spa thing, complete with all that weirdness that dudes never understand – bathing in wet dirt and getting their feet mangled with scrapey rocks and such – and generally had a big time.

So my father-in-law, a big believer in equality and tit-for-tat and things of that nature, offered to take me and Staci’s two knothead brothers on a trip. What better destination than the Mormom-packed deserts of Utah? Nah, just kidding. We went to Lake Tahoe, CA. But SL City is our layover, and we got delayed on the way back home.

It was weird timing, honestly. Keith has been mixing my project while I'm gone, and the control freak in me is a little frantic and anxious about not being there, looking over his shoulder, messing with him while he works, saying "i can't hear the drums on the left side" and him saying "that's because you're nearly deaf in your left ear" (see fact#5). It's probably for the best that I left town.

The trip was, of course, amazing. I won’t bore you with the details, but it involved stuff like kayaking, hiking, laying around by the pool, a viewing of The Bourne Butt-Kickamatum, and various consumption (in biblically supportable moderation, of course) of delicious food and beverages. In short, I lived like a rich guy for nearly a whole week.

Just to remind us that regular life ain’t all hi-jinks and umbrella drinks, God has us delayed here for about 5 hours. If you haven’t been to a big-city airport in a while, you may not know that they’re basically designed for situations just like this. Most major airports are better than the mall in Lufkin, TX. I should know. I once got stranded there for about 4 hours, waiting for my wife to come thru town and pick me up. Long story, but it wasn’t pretty. Needless to say that I came out of that experience with a bad haircut and a top score on (at least) Galaga and Area 51. I mean, I owned the arcade in that place. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if there weren’t still some RSK’s perched atop several of those high score screens (Todd, check it and let me know). Hey, lemons into lemonade, you know? You make the best of it.

Plus, I’m an animal on the Galaga.

I’m getting off-track. I was trying to tell you that it’s not that bad being stuck in an airport. For some reason, this has me thinking about the fall, when I’ll be spending a good bit of time in airports and, likely, getting delayed from time to time.

Which, again, isn’t really all that bad. I mean, you’d always prefer to get where you’re going, but if you must be stranded, airports are okay (and, to be fair, so are mall arcades in East Texas). Most of them make you pay for internet, which I’m not about to do, but aside from that, there’s plenty to entertain you. I’m pretty sure CNN pays somebody, because there are always big TV’s up high on the walls giving you their version of the news. And there are all kinds of stores and restaurants and time-killing diversions.

And this is where I get to the very unimportant point of this particular entry.

I have several favorites. Not every airport has all of these things, but this can serve as my way of lobbying to that end.

Here are my top 10 favorite time-killers in the major airports of the world, in no particular order:

1) Starbucks: come on, I know it’s cooler to hate the big corporation, but I need my fix. I NEED IT!

2) Cinnabon: holy moley, what is in these things? There are very few people who I wouldn’t gladly karate chop in the throat to get my hands on an icing-covered treat from this place.

3) Brookstone/Sharper Image: don’t care which one. I always find a way to get some kind of free robotic massage kind of thing when I go in these stores. I have never bought a single thing at any one of them, but there are no signs saying “don’t put your foot in this contraption unless you can afford to buy it.” This, kids, is called a loophole, and I boldly jump thru it like a camel thru the eye of a massive, jumbo-size needle.

4)Smoothie Bar: there are several versions, the most common (as far as I can tell) being a place called The Grove. I’m no health nut, but sometimes, during a long day of travel, fruit-pretending-to-be-a-milkshake is the only way to purge the nasty travel sheen that stains the core of the sojourner.

5) Bookstore: I rarely buy books at these places, but when I do, it’s because I’m in desperate need. I’m pretty serious about the reading, and I’ve bought more than my share of Harlan Coben or Robert Ludlum in airport bookstores. And I’ve bought more entertainment magazines than I care to admit. I mean, if I’m jonesing for a Brangelina fix, I’d rather satisfy it in a place where nobody knows me. Don’t act like you don’t relate.

6) Bathroom: the bathrooms at airports are almost always clean, roomy, and well-lit. How many public bathrooms can boast of that? In addition, they are increasingly automated, hi-tech and (as much as possible) germ-conscious. Lots of hands-free devices and motion sensors and protective paper circles and whatnot. I won’t be crass (I mean, not anymore than I have been), but on a day that involves a lot of sitting and coffee consuming, a good, dependable bathroom haven is important. I’m just saying.

7) Not-nailed-down rows of connected chairs: if you’re lucky, you’ll find yourself in a spot with this little-known-about amenity. Of course you’ve sat in those welded-together chair-chains that are in every airport in the whole world, but they’re only unpleasant when they are connected to the floor by industrial bolts. When they aren’t, you can drag those suckers as far as you’re willing to, and put together a sleeping contraption of your own design. Once you’ve got it fully assembled you will, for a moment, feel as if you deserve your own Discovery Channel show. Then that moment will pass and you’ll fall into a fitful, cramp-inducing semi-sleep.

8) Arcade: these aren’t very common in airports anymore (which is dumb, because they’d get lots of my money and, therefore, a good chunk of my heart as well), but they are a treat when you can get them. I think I’ve already established that I am a 9th Level MegaWizard in the world of vintage video games. Is anybody surprised at this? I mean, nunchucks and comic books? This is the completion of my Nerd Trait Trifecta. I am not ashamed.

9) Automated Sidewalks: there are very few places where you can feel like you have superpowers (which is sad, I think). This genius of engineering is one. If you break into a full run on one of these things (which is totally easy to do because people are always running in airports), you will be momentarily transformed into a panther-quick superhero. Just be sure and slow down before you get to the end. If you step off this device at a full run, there will be consequences, and they will be ugly. Every Superman has his Kryptonite, and to Automated-Sidewalk-Man, it’s the regular, not-moving-at-all floor.

10) Starbucks: I know I already said it, but on a long layover/delay, I usually go twice. I have an addiction. I love the sweet, semi-narcotic ambrosia of the Americano, the Cappucino and, even (gasp!), the Macchiato. Say it with me. I am not ashamed.

Okay, that’s enough time wasted. Be on the lookout for more of these in coming months. There's no end to my prolificacy when I'm bored.

Also, this week I’ll update at least one more time. I’ve got more tour and CD news, but I’ve already taken too much of your time with this nonsense.

I’ll leave you with this. Next time you’re in a major airport, if you hear the sound of quarters bouncing and clashing together, and if you see a blurry, super-fast figure carrying a latte and a magazine with TomKat on the cover, you just may be in the presence of Automated Sidewalk Man. And he may be on his way to the arcade. Or he may be rushing desperately to find a clean, roomy, well-lit place. Either way, it’s best to just let him pass.

I’m just saying.


Johnny! said...

I spent several hours at SLC just prior to a 15 hour flight to Tokyo. It was hell on earth. With pretty mountains.

No airport will ever top Detroit.

Todd Wright said...

Okay...okay...yes, the Lufkin mall is bad.

My only solace is that one day you might visit the NACOGDOCHES mall. Then, Lufkin will be redeemed.

But does Lufkin really need a mall when it is the birthplace of Todd Wright? Nobody talks about the mall where Bill Clinton was born, right?

Britt Norvell said...

Nice work, Ross. I got a nice laugh picturing you hitting the regular floor at super-hero speed, latte and socially acceptable porn in hand. I think we should make a trip down to Houston Intercontinental just to have some fun on one of those some day. We could make it a ComChurch guys trip complete with tape measures, scorecards, and videocameras. And security guards, I'm sure.

And for the record, nobody talks about the mall where Bill Clinton was born because there is no mall where Bill Clinton was born. My dad was born in Hope, AR and the most entertaining thing I ever did there in my years travelling back there was to go up into my aunt's attic where her hippy son lived. There was also this not-so-great Mexican place we went every time we were there for some reason. El Matador. If you're ever in Hope check it out. The food's not great but the Punch and the Matador mural are spectacular.

Todd Wright said...

Thanks, Britt. That was...enlightening.

Alex Burdine said...

I have a Ross King related airport story:

On layover in IAH on the way to a Ross King gig in PA, (where he's huge, apparently) I struck up a conversation with a nice gentlemen who was returning from Spring break (all 6 weeks of it). He was working for the fine establishment called "Girls gone wild" and in the course of conversation asked me what I did. I responded with "I play guitar and bass for a contemporary Christian probably heard of him: Ross King" (I added the last part)

As we were parting ways, he said, "well (with loads of akward silence), do you want a hat?"

I left with hat in hand and my self-esteem intact, sans nudity.

King Family said...
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King Family said...
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King Family said...

What Ross failed to mention about the Lufkin mall episode, is that since he had previously been at a ComChurch men's retreat, he had his "luggage" with him. He carried a black duffle bag around the mall for 4 hours looking like some kind of creep. The security guard kept lurking behind him all day. I mean if it had just been an innocent looking back-pack, that would have been fine. But no, it was a creepy, serial killer, "I make home-made bombs" kind of bag. Very funny!

And one more thing...
As a mother, I have to add #11 to the airport list, although I would list this as #2.
An indoor playground.
Can I get an amen?
Anyone who has ever traveled with toddlers has to agree with me that this is the greatest find in an airport. How else are these children supposed to release all that pent-up hyper-activity inside them? Once when we were traveling to Wisconsin, we had a lay-over that had this giant Snoopy playground in the terminal. It was amazing. Now I compare all airports to this standard and sadly, most fall short.

King Family said...
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rk said...

there are so many reasons to love my wife in the above "posts." First, she comments twice in a row because she thinks my blog is funny, and because she still thinks blogs are new-fangled and exciting. How did someone so happy and cheery end up with a grouch like me?

Second, she realizes there's a typo in her first post, so she deletes both of them and reposts them as one post, which turns out to be a more concise, organized and tidy method anyway ("Concise, Organized and Tidy" would go on here tombstone if she had her way).

Third, she accidentally posts that comment twice so, despite her best attempts to be organized, tidy and concise, she's forced to leave my comments page looking (as she puts it) "messy." This makes her go to bed visibly irritated with herself.

And the cutest part about the whole thing is that she reminds people, with her posts about playgrounds in airports, that despite my efforts to pretend like a rock star, I'm really just a dad.

The duffle bag incident was pretty terrible. I think I gave that security guard the most exciting day of his career.