Sunday, February 28, 2010

An Open Letter to the Orlando International Airport (MCO)

Dear Orlando International Airport (MCO),

I have never made it any secret that while I occasionally use you it's purely for utilitarian reasons, and that although we have our brief crossings, my heart really belongs to Portland International Airport (PDX).  I appreciate the little things you do to be more like PDX (this free wireless I am using right now, for instance), but in the end PDX is my preference.

I know this hurts your feelings and that you wonder why we can never be knit together in our hearts.  So I would like to share my experience today as a clear, concrete example of how our relationship deteriorates every time we try.

It starts like this... here I am, an expert traveler (according to your own definition -- we've never disagreed about that) and here you are, a solid, decent airport... maybe you're made up a little more than I would like, but it's not as if you're Las Vegas McCarran airport (LAS).  I mean, you're made up but you're not completely artificial.

Then, when I walk up to security, it all starts to fall apart.  Seeing the longer lines, I decide to go through the "expert traveler" line.  But when you see me with my wife and infant daughter, it's like some sort of jealousy sets in.  You tell me, no strollers in the expert traveler line, and I accept that.  You tell me, I have to go through the family line, and I say, no, that's slow, I don't want to go through that line.

And then the lying starts.  You tell me it will be faster.  You tell me the line is shorter.  You tell me you will help me with my things.  You tell me that I "have to" use that line.

So I take my wife and infant daughter around the corner, where I see a sign that it is for "families, inexperienced and first time travelers."  It's too late to go back now, though, and I think you are laughing at me.  So I stand there with the families who have never collapsed their strollers before, the man in the metal suit of armor, the guy who can't figure out why you won't let him take his Big Gulp through the line and is determined to chug it instead of throwing it away.  I watch as you empty out pocket knives and full water balloons and firecrackers from the bags of those in front of me, and as you remind people to take off their shoes and jackets, over and over, and meanwhile, here I am, humiliated like a high schooler forced to repeat kindergarten.  Because you know I'm better than that, and it's so clear that you've sent me into this line just to embarrass me.

I find myself thinking about what it's like in PDX when I go through the expert traveler line with my wife and infant daughter.  Just a week ago we were in that line, and I remember how we whipped out the quart sized bag with the formula and baby food in it, and how we managed to neatly get all our sweaters into one bin and our shoes onto the conveyor belt and how, with one hand and a smooth, practiced motion the stroller folded down and slid into the X-ray machine.  I remember how the security personnel nodded and smiled and one of them said, "You've done this before" and I knew that this was a moment they would treasure, that at the end of the day when they went home, exhausted, and one of their loved ones said "How was your day?" they would answer, "Long and difficult but there was this one bright moment where this expert traveler put all his stuff into the X-ray machine in such a smooth and practiced way that we all wanted to stop and stare but that would have only slowed him down, and it would have been disrespectful to slow a man like that down."  And then maybe they think for a moment, if only I had asked him for his autograph, and then they will find a 3x5 card in their pocket that night as they get ready for bed and it will be my autograph, which I slipped into their pocket during security.

And that is, at last, the plain truth of it all.  You treat me like some inexperienced traveler and PDX treats me with respect and even awe. I wouldn't tell you all this unless I cared about you, at least a little.

Cordially,

Matt