I missed the part in Dante’s Inferno in which Philadelphia Airport was mentioned
I would like to preface that what I have seen of the city of Philadelphia is pretty great – loads of museums, nice restaurants, aesthetically pleasing architecture and good public transportation – all things I can appreciate. While I know only one native Philadelphian (hi Margot!), it is worth noting that she is Awesome with a capital ‘A’, so I choose to view her as a kind of ambassador to the fair city.
That said, I recently experienced the Philadelphia Airport for the first time. I don’t know if you’ve ever had to endure any time there, but my own experience was miserable. As wonderful as the city and denizens of Philadelphia are, the airport is proportionately awful – it features characteristics from all nine rings of Hell – with heavy leanings towards the fifth circle (anger). My friend Goldie astutely noted that the airport exists solely to perpetuate every negative stereotype in existence about people from the East Coast. I agree with that and would take it the extra step further and argue that it’s other function is to fill every soul trapped within it’s revolting walls with hopeless, crushing despair.
Once inside, I was met by a series of completely arbitrary lines with no discernible order or reason. I was halfway through the first line of my journey when a Southwest Airline employee positioned herself at a midway point in the queue and started turning people away. I was told to join a completely different line on the other side of the terminal, whereupon I was encouraged to stand in front of a dilapidated, load-bearing column that completely obscured the makeshift counter where I was to check my bags. The woman behind the counter had a very relaxed approach to customer service (and to a lesser extent, airline safety procedures). During our brief interaction, she said but one word to me (she pointed at the spot where I was to leave my suitcase and mumbled, ‘here’) and failed to ask for my ID or boarding pass before lazily gesturing for me to move along. When I finally found my way to the actual security check-point line, I was met with a labyrinth of bullshit – the purpose of which seemed to primarily be to disorient and flummox everyone in it.
Once through, I made my way to the boarding gate. If you have seen 28 Days Later, you may recall the scene in which Cillian Murphy’s character is making his way through an abandoned hospital in London, one month after the city has been sacked by a zombie/RAGE-virus infestation. Philadelphia Airport is just like that that scene. The halls were littered with all kinds of garbage and every single one of us staggering around looked either like a blood-thirsty, RAGE-infected zombie or like we had just regained consciousness after suffering a month-long coma. I took a seat in an area that I believe was intended for dining and noticed a stain on the floor and joining wall that might well have been left from arterial spray.
Things did not improve when I finally arrived at my gate. After waiting in line to board the plane, we were inexplicably re-directed to a completely different gate (with more lines!) and it was here that I reached an epiphany of sorts. You see, I hate to fly. It scares the shit out of me and I avoid doing it whenever possible. As much as I generally dread getting on an airplane, I found myself almost giddy with anticipation to board this one. I couldn’t wait to be on that horrifying plane because THAT was how much I didn’t want to be inside the Philadelphia airport anymore. I had a second type of epiphany during the flight, which was the most turbulent – and therefore most terrifying – one I have ever endured. At one point the plane started jerking from side to side in addition to taking unexpected dips down and the man next to me grabbed the arm rests of his seat (this is usually my assumed position for the entire flight, by the way) and other passengers made a collective gasping sound. Normally, this would be cause for me to panic and just have a heart-attack and die on the spot to get it over with, but I actually thought to myself – quite calmly, ‘This is fine. I’m going to die in a plane crash, but at least I’m not still in that Christ-forsaken airport.’
I’m going to take a page from my sister’s book and leave this post with a video from a Bright Eyes song that my friend Amy played for me during my visit to Pennsylvania. Enjoy.