A compilation of random and interesting things, musings, musics, videos, and more. Brought to you by a UChicago student with a penchant for procrastination.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Let's Explore the Airport

I know that for some people flying isn't a big deal. But I have to admit that ever since I was little the airport has held a certain magical appeal for me - perhaps it was all those hours of playing "Let's Explore the Airport" with Buzzy the Knowledge Bug in elementary school ... and I kid you not, that was the actual title! But really, there is just a certain magical charm to knowing that this specialized building facilitates the hurtling of you and your possessions through high altitudes in a winged metal tube - a charming vision of flight indeed.

Well, like Buzzy, I guess I too want to share my fascination with the whole process of commercialized aviation. Having flow internationally only twice before, taking an American Airlines flight round trip between ORD and LGA was pretty exciting time for me. It's no wonder then that I arrived at the airport carrying-on my very own American Airlines t-shirt, which I had bought at Wal-Mart just the day before for it's prominent use of eagle (see Colbert Report).


Well, let me tell you, the American Airlines experience at the O'Hare International airport involved way more than just slightly disturbing cross-promotional apparel. After acquiring my boarding pass via one of those neat check-in stations and passing a the prerequisite security checkpoint the marvels of the airport were open to me! Overpriced literature, noisy food courts, and bustling travelers all called to me ... yet, something was missing ... sure the interactive weather and news display was there, but after meandering the length of the terminal, each further step reverberating the sound of my sad realization, I had to face the truth - there were simply no moving walkways in this section of the airport.

Next to escalators and self-opening doors, the moving walkway represents for me one of the marvels in modern convenience. Why exert yourself unnecessarily if technology provides a simplified solution? After all, the whole of our modern society is framed around this principle, with everything from computers to the popularized notion of an 'easy button.'

Alas then, it was with sad resignation that I returned to my boarding area, knowing that I could not in fact pay tribute my favorite ambient/electronic airport fusion inspired work (and no, I'm not referring to Brian Eno or his pretentious Music for Airports!).

Ah, Royksopp - how perfectly your mellow beats frame the irony of my plight. For all of the American Airline terminal's technological innovation: cavemen can ride the dream of the future, but I cannot!

Fortunately though, this sad state did not linger for too long (it clearly only expresses itself periodically in the form of these rants, er, posts). As the plane boarded and the prospect of flight elevated my spirits, the crowning shining pinnacle'd zenith of my aviation endeavor finally revealed itself! As the sound system crackled into life, the safety demonstration began ...

For this I salute you, flight stewards and stewardesses of the world!

Like an interpretive dance heralding the birth of creativity - the lethargic and seemingly asexual forms of the flight attendants came into motion. Prompted by colorful props and whimsical gestures the story of aviation safety came to life! The struggle for survival, for well-being and safety had never before been presented in such an enthralling fashion. With all of the excitement I finally understood the true dedication that must've been exerted by the attendants to maintain a listless and bored look on their faces. Even I, at the edge of my seat, suppressed the urge to jump and laud them with praise - masking it instead with a disinterested rifling through an in-flight magazine. This was thus, perhaps one of greatest performances of our time, each and every passenger and crew member playing the role of 'indifferent person' without even a the single hint at their deeply focused character acting. I was floored, at a loss for words - but of course, outwardly, I was just glancing over the safety brochure.

With the dazzling spectacle of this preflight ritual over, it was fun to look over what the safety instruction manual had to offer. With a radical departure from the forms common to Ikea instructional booklets or the traditional 'generic passenger' clip-art in airplane publications - the manual I held in my hands portrayed real people ... from the bygone era of what I would assume was the early 90s.

After being trapped for more than a decade on the pages of their staged emergency situations, these people had developed some amazing abilities. Not only were they able to levitate down inflated slides (as if by magic!), but the one woman in blue clearly manifests an ability to manipulate time and space itself. While she's initially depicted pushing the main in the heinous horizontally striped shirt down the slide in the middle frame, the last frame show her already off of the slide and behind the man in the heinous vertically striped shirt!

For this to have been possible, she (A) would have somehow had to get ahead of the guy she had just propelled into the air (B) and gotten on the ground (a) before he had even finished sliding (b), ergo magical powers! Note, the magical circles drawn around here are there to facilitate the effect *

I know, perhaps I'm desperate for Heroes to come back from hiatus ... but in all honesty, before anyone can say a word she'll probably have whisked off into the non-existent landscape, never to be heard from again ... except perhaps when she mysteriously turns up at another emergency landing! Coincidence? I think not. Perhaps Homeland Security should be tracking down subversive elements like her instead of just letting her parouse through our defined notions of scene continuity (Hmpf)

But for all of the inherent insanity of this image, I'm thankfully not the only one who thinks these safety manuals are weird. In fact there are some hilariously appropriate captions added to other airplane manuals via Airtoons. What's more even the Fight Club idea for a 'realistic' emergency leaflet has been realized!

Honestly, if you're going to have one satisfying experience at the airport, it's not taking the experience with such passivity or annoyance - instead enjoy it! Take advantage of the time when your flight it delayed to muse over the implications of time travel or let your mind wander towards randomness as you engage in your own rituals of bag identification or the ever skilled dance of the fallen-asleep leg. Have fun with it!

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