Sunday, November 16, 2008

cell phone waiting lots

Of all of the activities of humans, none overwhelms our natural logistical facilities as much as picking up someone from the airport. Everyone everwhere has a deep, instinctual desire to arrive at the gate the very second the awaited passenger steps out to the curb. Unfortunately, for most of human history, this has been a futile, vain pursuit.

Until the blessed invention of blessed cell phones and the doubly blessed internet.

Now, instead of digging through dozens of old phone books to find the white pages, and then sludge through airline customer service hell trying to figure out when a plane is landing, you can check the blessed internet. Even better, your friend can call you upon arrival, and further help you time your arrival.

Though this part of the airport pickup process has been improved dramatically through amazing human intervention, there are other parts which still suffer.

Take the gate staging area, for example. Rarely in life will you ever be privy to such a raucous sight. Cars everywhere, honking, yelling, darting, signaling, not-signaling, and the natural inescapable evolutionary reaction which causes everybody to park their car right outside of the luggage carousel, and in front of several angry signs condemning said practice.

Having seen this sort of mayhem, most airports now employ thugs to parole the streets, waving unsettlingly-hairy arms and yelling loudly to move along should you slow down to below 5 mph, and condemning you to circling that cursed circle one more time.

After a few years of widespread cell phone use, a few individuals in airport planning committees realized that one could realign incentives, and easily remove this congestion. This idea is widely known as the cell phone waiting lot.

The concept is this: create a parking lot close to the gate where people may wait in peace, instead of orbiting the airport (zoom around the outer edge...approach the luggage area...slow Bob there...look...strain...AAAAA!!!! don't crash!!!! okay...look... SIR I HAVE A SHOTGUN TRAINED AT YOUR HEAD. MOVE ALONG OR DIE SUCKA.)

This idea has the potential to single-handedly eliminate society of all its woes. Unfortunately, too often this celestial concept gets bogged down in implementation.

The other day I was picking up a buddy from the San Francisco airport. As I approached, having perfectly timed my arrival to coincide with the moment he exited the double doors, he called to tell me the airline had lost one of his bags, and he needed more time to sort out the situation.

"Ha!" I thought, "no worries, I'll just go to the cell phone waiting lot!"

I orbited the airport once, then followed the signs. And followed the signs. And followed the signs. I was determined to find the lot or die trying. I got on a major highway, took several turns, passed by Pluto, and ended up miles away in a lot with a few drug dealers, three ducks, and a lot of barbed wire.

I'm not really kidding. Check it out.

In any event, SFO needs to move this lot away from nowhere and stick it close to the airport. By the time I arrived, my friend had already resolved the situation, and was waiting for me on the curb. It's a sad day when it takes me longer to get to the cell phone waiting lot than it takes to navigate airline beaurocracy. A sad day indeed.


Julie said...

I really like the one at SLC. I really hate the system at MSP because not only do you have to drive around a hundred times but when you start the loop again you have to cross 5 lanes of usually busy traffic in a short amount of time to stay on the right path. any cell phone lot, no matter the distance, is better than none. anyway, I thought you didn't mind parking at distances.

chris said...

gah, I've been caught with guile. you're right, I don't usually mind parking at distances, but I think there's a point where it becomes ridiculous. I think I peak at about one hundred yards, and from then on out I become increasingly belligerent about parking farther.

MommaMcCarthy said...

oh man, the extra loop is the WORST. you pass by the bag claim, no friend. you speed away knowing that they'll call you now that you've left, trying to make it back as soon as possible. finally, 7 minutes later you're reapproaching the terminals. no call. you go as SLOW as carly possible to increase the probability that they will call you before you have to make your way around another annoying loop. repeat paragraph.

thank goodness gas prices have gone down.

PS sorry for the infinite loop. i hope i didn't crash your brain.