Holiday Travel Joys

How to kill time when the power goes out at your airport

December 18, 2017
Waiting for a night flight in airport
SamuelBrownNGWaiting for a night flight in airport

This weekend, the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport descended into hopeless chaos — well, more hopeless chaos than usual — when a power failure disrupted the busiest airport on planet Earth, stranding travelers on planes, forcing cancellations and leaving thousands of people sitting cross-legged on gross carpet next to outlets for no reason whatsoever. (The failure screwed over more than a thousand flights, higher than Atlanta’s usual number of daily delays, which is 980.)

Being the pre-Christmas week, there’s a decent chance that you or one of your loved ones will be trapped in an airport in the next seven days, which is bad, since we now know that the galaxy’s major air hub can go offline because someone kicked a surge protector or something. If you do find yourself stuck, entertain yourself by looking around and finding the following people and events. It’s like Where’s Waldo, except not as fun and you’re probably eating a $24 Burger King breakfast while playing it:

Everyone Boarding All at Once! American airports are places where people collectively absorb the tension of strict schedules, forced interaction and food courts and deal with the subsequent stress by turning, to some degree, into cows. Well, that's not entirely true. If a cow heard the phrase, "Now boarding Section 1 only" and full well knew that he was a citizen of Section 2, the cow would absolutely not motor to the gate in the apparent belief that the plane would be airborne in the next 15 seconds. We have all been to airports enough to realize that in the time between boarding call and actual takeoff you could probably get in a regulation NBA game, and yet people, primarily those in oversized print clothing, sweat and panic and waddle to the gate as though it leads to the last spaceship leaving the planet before it's incinerated by the Death Star. It’s actually super-fun to watch! (And yes I know they’re doing that because they need to claim overhead compartment space. That’s a separate special stupid.)

Someone’s Medical Problems! In much the same way you are never more than six feet from a spider, one of which is probably crawling up your pant leg right now, you are, in airports, never more than eight feet from someone barking reports into her phone about the deteriorating back-pain situation of one of her acquaintances. Is there a reason no one ever shouts anything good into a cell phone at an airport? Something like “My donation to the museum cleared today!” or “I'm going to be singing at the orphanage at 2 p.m.!” Maybe people just tweet that stuff.

Jake Tapper at 600 Decibels! I am not sure what focus group ventured into an American airport and decided the shrieking background noise wasn’t quite insistent enough, but every airport in the country jacks its gate-TV CNN up to levels enough to alter the orbit of the Earth, so we can all enjoy being late in an uncontrollable situation while also being subjected to all the abject horrors of the day’s news. (Also, they hang the TVs 18 feet in the ceiling so you can’t mess with the volume, turn the volume or light them on fire. Also, they never turn them off — ALL THE TVs stay on, even when you’re trying to sleep overnight on the filthy grime-floor of JFK, just in case you were wondering.)

Someone Playing a Piano in the Middle of the Terminal! This is … well actually lovely and pleasant, when did we start doing this? It’s quite soothing. Where the hell was this guy during that overnight at JFK? If you stand real close to the other side, you can almost hear it over the Jake Tapper.

Amazing Loudspeaker Names! This is a true story: I was once at an airport that issued a call for someone named Fantastico. I listened twice to make sure it was real, and it was. Fantastico. Which actually made the trip entirely worthwhile, as long as Fantastico wasn’t being detained. I spent like 30 minutes looking for this Fantastico. Where was this magical hero? Could I even see him? Did Fantastico fly on an airplane made of unicorn wings and dark wood paneling? I never found Fantastico, and in the months since I’ve come to hope it was the airport staff f**king with everybody, because it’s the best thing that’s happened to me on a flight delay in years.

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