My best airport story comes from my trip from the middle back east.
I arrived (why does that sounds so weird? It seems like it should be arrove -- like drove) at the airport and walked up to the kiosk to check in. After going through the entire process of checking in, the computer told me that it could not check me in. So I sighed and went and stood in line.
There were about 4 or 5 people in line before me and we stood there without moving forward at all for 30 minutes. Then the girl behind the desk called out that something was wrong with the computers, so thank you for being patient. That caused some grumbling, especially because now the line extended behind me and was winding down the hall.
We waited another 10 minutes, and then the girl behind the counter walked away.
She came back a few minutes later with a group of 4 people. Instead of immediately moving to man the desks and get these people through the lines, they walked down the secret employee only corridor.
They eventually came back, and an older lady took charge, inspecting the computers and the number of people in line. After a couple minutes of typing away, she grabbed the PA mike and said, "This is Airtran Airways. We have a computer problem and we are switching to manual. Airtran. Going manual."
As she is shouting this she walks over to the far wall and pushes a large red button on the wall, "Going manual NOW."
A large young black man was behind me and said, "I knew there was a red button somewhere! I was in the military. There's always a red button somewhere. Shoulda pushed that red button 30 minutes ago. All you gotta do is push the red button!"
After the red button was pushed, the four employees each took a station and started handwriting boarding passes. It was astounding.
Airport story number two comes from my connection in Atlanta, on the way back to the middle.
We arrived on schedule at 4:30 pm. My next flight didn't leave until 8:40, so I just found my gate and settled in with my book.
At around 6:00, I went and got dinner, and on my way back to my departing gate, I checked the boards again. Still the same gate, so I sat back down and read.
Around 7:30, I started getting a little nervous, because there was still no plane, and no attendant at the gate, but at 7:40 a plane pulled in. I thought great, they will unload this and load us up, no problem.
They unloaded the entire plane (which took a while) and then the attendant walked over to the gate and started typing on the computer. And you know how that goes. It's like the scene in Meet the Parents (that of course I can't find on youtube....).
After a few minutes of typing, she gets on her PA and says, "There are no more planes departing from this gate. Come see me if you have a problem."
Well, a ton of us jumped up, and everyone in line said Kansas City. She said D1.
Yes, an entirely different terminal.
So I took off running. It was rather like the scene in Home Alone, where the entire family is running through the airport. And just like that I made it as one of the last to board. Phew.
The end of airport stories. But I have been pondering something.
I spent 4 hours in the Atlanta airport just on that last trip. And one thing I noticed in all of the airports is that I was the only one reading a book.
Back in June 2003, I was on a flight, and everyone, literally every single person in the airport had Harry Potter. It had just been released a few days before, and everyone was carrying around these enormous books.
But literally, I sat in big groups of people and in every single group, I was the only person with a book. Weird.