Over the last few weeks I’ve highlighted some of the many reasons I love working at the airport. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of these involve airplanes and everything that goes into getting them up in the air and safely back down again. However, in the interest of full disclosure I feel compelled to point out that working at the airport isn’t all sunshine and skittles. There are certain things about it that are decidedly un-fun.
The Shuttle in the Morning
As much as I enjoy plane spotting from the employee lot, I have to admit that riding a shuttle every day is no picnic. The process of getting into the lot, finding a place to park, waiting on the shuttle, riding to the terminal and then walking to my desk adds a good 15 minutes to my morning that I didn’t have to worry about back in the days when I parked in a lot right outside my office building. I’ve mastered the art of staying in my car and making the dash for the shuttle at the last possible minute, but even so I’m still subjected to the cold and wet. Because the airport is a 24/7 operation, the employee lot is never completely empty, which means it isn’t possible to fully plow it. This means there are always icy/snowy spots, so I have to dash carefully. Just to get into the lot I depend on an electronic tag to open the gate. If the tag doesn’t work I have to drive all the way around to long term parking, and catch THAT shuttle instead. This has happened to me more than once and let me tell you – it sucks. Plus it adds yet another 5 minutes to my commute.
The Shuttle in the Evening
The shuttle ride in the morning is about five minutes. The shuttle ride in the evening is about ten minutes because the traffic flow requires the shuttle to make a loop around to get back to the lot. There are almost always more cars picking up and dropping off passengers in the evening which means crossing the street to get to the shuttle pick-up location can be an adventure. There’s a cross walk and there are supposed to be security guards watching it, but all too often crossing the street ends up feeling like a real-life game of frogger, only a lot less fun.
The Ugly Hallway
For an avgeek like myself, the airport is replete with large windows offering scenic views of the apron, the ATC Tower, and the runways. However, before I get to any of those lovely large windows I must first walk down one of the gloomiest hallways ever to exist outside a maximum security prison. It’s long, narrow, windowless, dark and dingy. It is more or less impossible to walk down that hallway without feeling majorly discouraged by the time you get to the end. I’ve started a campaign to get someone (anyone!) to paint murals on the walls to try to brighten things up a little. I’ll let you know how it goes.
In an effort to operate efficiently and offer the greatest amount of comfort and convenience to travelers, most airports have some form of construction going on at any given time. My airport is in the midst of a very large terminal modernization project. As a result half the place is torn apart. They do a great job of maintaining pedestrian flow and taking care of passengers but I’m a bit tired of the endless jackhammering that seems to be going on over my head.
At an airport, security is absolutely critical. Having to badge my way into and out of various locations is to be expected and is completely fine with me. I don’t want troublemakers to get into secure areas – I work in those areas! I’m more than happy to put up with the extra hassle of having my badge on me at all times. However, if you aren’t paying attention and attempt to go through a door without badging you’ll set off all kinds of alarms. You can guess how I know this. Yeah, that’ll wake you up first thing on a Monday.
OK, I actually don’t mind people. What I do mind, however, is too much togetherness. It starts the moment I get on the shuttle and doesn’t stop until I get off again after quitting time. And by togetherness, I mean TOGETHERNESS. There have been times when the shuttle has been standing room only and we’re essentially sitting on each other’s laps. The one bright side to this is that I do learn some interesting things from my fellow passengers. For example, I recently got to listen to two United pilots attempt to figure out how their vacation scheduling system works. You know a system is too complicated when it totally confuses two seasoned pilots whose jobs require them to be able to deal efficiently with complex systems! Guess there won’t be any vacation for them this year. But hey, look on the bright side – it means they get to have even more crowded shuttle rides with me!