Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Tuesday Morning in Seatac Airport: Waddling Towards Fatness...er, Fitness

I’m headed to Alaska. Thanks to arguably the worst travel arranging program ever created--GovTrip--I have 3 hours to kill before my flight to Fairbanks. Three hours. There’s a flight at least every hour from Portland to Seattle, so there really isn’t any reason to have more than a 1 hour layover, unless you happen to have to use GovTrip to book your travel. Guaranteed to find you the least convenient connection at a premium price. Brought to you by a defense contractor. Who buys anything from a defense contractor if you have a choice? Expedia? Sidestep? No way.

Three hours to kill. Years ago, a boss of mine, Ralph, taught me that you can get some pretty good exercise in an airport. Ralph had had a heart valve replacement—they stuck a pig valve in there (Ralph always called it porcine instead of pig, but we always thought he looked a little pink around the snout after the operation…) Anyway, he used to park his bag at the gate in Pittsburgh and hoof it around the airport at a good pace. It was before the days of BlackBerrys and cell phones, so he used the layovers to get his daily waddle in. It was also before the days of nutso security so you could just leave your bag at the gate.

I have always remembered that, and I try to do it myself when I have time. Like when GovTrip--have I mentioned GovTrip--gives me 3 hours in Seattle. So today I took off on what I call the Program Manager’s Pack Test. The “Pack Test” is given to wildland firefighters to make sure they are in reasonable shape at the beginning of the fire season. You have to walk 3 miles carrying a 45 pound pack in 45 minutes. The Program Manager’s Pack Test is to waddle to every gate in concourses A, B, C, and D at Seatac in 30 minutes or less, carrying my 15 pound briefcase, and do it without experiencing chest pains.

Airports are set up to encourage waddling towards fatness, not fitness. There’s someplace to eat at every turn. If you are more than 50 feet from someplace to eat, there’s a sign telling you which way to go to get something to eat, drink, or buy. Often there are concentrations of places to gain weight called “Food Courts”.

Food courts contribute to making every airport in the nation smell the same. Oh sure, every once in a while a place like the BBQ joint in the Memphis airport contributes a little something different, but not often. Pretty much they smell like fast-food-burger-pizza-Chinese-sushi-friedfish-coffee-icecream-pretzel-bagel-booze-beer. The all look the same too except for the city name on the t-shirts.

I waddled from C2L where my flight from Portland arrived, 2 hours before I needed to arrive, thanks to GovTrip--have I mentioned GovTrip?--down to the main thoroughfare and turned left, which I believe is north, and headed for the end of the D concourse, passing on an optional trip to N gates, but that takes a train ride. I watched a lot of people watching TV and eating. You can’t escape the cacophony of “TV News” in airports now. Of course, it’s not a real news program, like the Daily Show, but Fox News with their Fair and Balanced coverage of how ObamaCare is the height of Socialism-with-a-capital-S and how it will destroy not only the country, but the rest of the FREE WORLD, defined as countries that don’t have universal health care…wait, I think that rules out any other members of the FREE WORLD…and it will cause EVERY SINGLE DEMOCRAT to lose in the fall, most likely to some illiterate wearing a string mop on his or her head who belongs to the Tea Party and had absolutely no idea what’s in the new health care plan. "Keep your damned government hands off my Medicare!" I'm pretty sure the Alaska flag was at half-staff over this.

I waddle back to Fat City—the food court—and then head for the B and A gates. I do pass some nice artwork along the way, like this mosaic of a western red-cedar on a pillar. Seatac has the requisite art installations which almost no one looks at while they are headed for food. There are no signs to point travelers to the art.

I waddle past VirginAmerica, a version of the famous Virgin Atlantic. Interesting concept for an airline--focus on new customers and forget about repeat business. At least I’m assuming you can only be a Virgin flyer once…

I continue to waddle, past the Africa Lounge which features ceiling fans and some tiger-striped decorative accents. I check out the menu--yep, it screams “Africa” to me…Click on it to make it large enough to read.

Finally, I make it back to the C gates, passing ice cream, cocktails, more bagels and baked goods, three or four coffee joints, and some pizza. I look at my watch. Thirty-one minutes. Technically, I’ve failed the Program Manager’s Pack Test. Damn, it was stopping for all the pictures. I guess I’ll just have to try again. I’m pretty sure GovTrip--have I mentioned GovTrip?--has built that into my trip home.

1 comment:

Elisabeth said...

That menu from the African Lounge is priceless. Only in America!
(Dare we offend the tastesbuds by having perhaps one item that is actually African? )