Traveling Doggy Style
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This is your pilot speaking
by Mad Dog


The good thing about flying is you get to where you're going quickly. The bad thing is you have to go to airports to do it.
      Traveling is a funny thing. Especially if you find humor in waking up at 4:15 in the morning so you can catch a 6:00 flight, known in the trade as the red-eye because your pilot got as little sleep as you did. It's easy to tell which one on the plane is the pilot. He was the only guy left in the bar last night after you went home at closing time. Besides, airplane passengers don't wear uniforms unless they're in the military, and the odds are if more than two people on your flight are wearing uniforms you're on the wrong plane and are about to be dropped over Serb held territory with a Bosnian-English dictionary and a parachute, which will be the one time you'll be glad you took the time to get flight insurance out of the vending machine at the airport instead of spending money on another T-shirt which reads "My parents went to Jamaica and all I got was this lousy T-shirt which was made and printed in China."

     The good thing about flying is you get to where you're going quickly. The bad thing is you have to go to airports to do it. I recently had the pleasure of spending time in five airports while on vacation, four of them twice, and the similarities are more startling than the differences. That's because there are so few differences.



Large airports have carts you can rent to carry your luggage called Smarte Cartes. Small airports have rusty Safeway shopping carts with wobbly wheels.
     Airports can be divided into two categories: large and small. Large airports include O'Hare, National, Atlanta and Miami. Small ones include Nassau, Teterboro and Richmond. While you may not think it's important to recognize the difference, you, as a smart consumer, should be alert. After all, you never know when someone will walk up to you in a crowded airport and ask "Donde esta bano" and you should know that they don't, in fact, want to borrow your Ban roll-on. So as a public service, here's how you can tell whether you're in a large or a small airport:

     - Large airports tend to occur in the middle of your trip; small airports are usually at the beginning and the end.

     - If you have to wait a long time for your flight you're probably in a large airport. Unless you showed up at 6:45 am for a 1:22 pm flight.

     - Large airport walkways are full of empty, beeping open-air buses that try to run you down as you break the 4-minute mile going from one end of Terminal B to the far end of Terminal Q so you can reach your connecting flight six minutes after it left. Small airports only have one departure gate.

     - Large airports have carts you can rent to carry your luggage called Smarte Cartes. Small airports have rusty Safeway shopping carts with wobbly wheels.

     - Large airports have a slew of baggage carousels so you can get your daily exercise by running from one to the other looking for the baggage from flight 666. Small airports have rusty Safeway shopping carts with wobbly wheels.

     - Your bigger airports have escalators to take from one level to the next, moving sidewalks to whisk you from one end of a terminal to the other and trams to transport you from Terminal A, which is in Dallas county, to Terminal B, which is in New Mexico. Small airports might have stairs.

     - At a large airport you have a choice of places to eat, ranging from local specialties to virtually any type of fast food you can think of. At a small airport you can buy the hot dogs Delta's flight 432 didn't get around to eating. Last Wednesday.



At large airports you'll see people from all around the world wearing colorful clothes and speaking strange, romantic languages. At small airports the people wear clothes purchased as a Blue Light Special and say "Yup" alot
.
      - Newsstands in large airports carry newspapers and magazines from around the world in a multitude of languages. In small airports they only carry newspapers with the word "Gazette" in the title.

     - Large airports have baggage rooms where you can check your bags and spend your 7-hour layover safe in the knowledge that an armed attendant is keeping a watchful eye on them. At a small airport a guy in a Beavis and Butt-head T-shirt takes your bag while you're trying to decide which newspaper with the word "Gazette"in the title you want to buy and he doesn't even give you a claim check for it.

     - At large airports you can while away the time until they find a plane with two working engines by jumping on a train, going downtown and grabbing a quick meal at one of the same fast food restaurants that were in the airport. At a small airport they hand you a wrench and a service manual and ask if you can find the carburetor.

     - At large airports you'll see people from all around the world wearing colorful clothes and speaking strange, romantic languages. At small airports the people wear clothes purchased as a Blue Light Special and say "Yup" alot.

     - And finally, gift shops in large airports carry T-shirts that say things like "My parents went to Los Angeles and all I got was this lousy T-shirt that was made and printed in China", while in small airports you'll find shirts that say "My parents went to Lodi and all I got was this lousy T-shirt that was made and printed in China".

     Now you know everything the well seasoned traveler knows about airports and you didn't have to listen to the first "B-bye" from a flight attendant to do it. Don't thank me now, wait until the next time you're sitting in Laguardia Airport with a numb butt wishing USAir gave out Frequent Frustration Miles for all the time you spent sitting around airports. Large and small.

    

1995 Mad Dog Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country. They can usually be found at airports.

 

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