I'm the Hero Sea-Tac Airport Deserves, if Not the One it Needs

by Randall Cleveland

I hate flying. I don't mean I hate the idea of flying, like the people who need to slam down two bars of Xanax and chase it with a bourbon just to keep from freaking out about the possibility of a plane crash. Despite being a pretty high-anxiety kind of guy, the (minuscule) risks of flying don't get to me. What DOES get to me, is the nonstop barrage of idiocy you're forced to deal with every time you want to fly somewhere. First there's the TSA, and while I could churn out several hundred blog posts about how stupid, ineffective, offensive, and idiotic the TSA is, we'll leave it at that. Of course to even GET to the TSA, you have to wait for the morons in front of you to figure it out, and despite 10 years of this crap I still wind up behind the guy who has no idea that his belt buckle has metal in it and is shocked, SHOCKED, that he can't put his dog through the X-Ray machine. Then there's the long, slow wait to actually BOARD the plane while people rush to be the first on board (thereby winning the right to sit the longest?).

IMGP2158-TSA Body Scanner Line
"Please be sure to leave all gels, liquids, and human dignity in the little rubber basket."

If you're an airline executive, here's a pro tip: stop charging people for checked bags and start charging them for carry-ons. A carry-on is more convenient: I don't have to deal with baggage claim, I can access my stuff right there, and I'm more likely to pay for the privilege. When you charge people to check a bag, you create a disincentive to use the space in the cargo hold and now suddenly every idiot in front of me is trying to cram a steamer trunk into the overhead bin while assuring the flight attendants, "It'll fit. It fit before." Then, surprise, the bins are full and we have to wait for the last 50 people on board to gate check their bags. Charging people for carry-ons means more people willing to pay the fee and less time waiting for people to wrangle their giant, oversized bags onboard. Don't worry about people hating you for the switcheroo: everyone already hates you...


But this isn't about any of that, I just needed to touch on it briefly to give you an idea as to where my stress level was by the time we landed at Sea-Tac Monday night at 8:30. We had spent a five day whirlwind trip trying to see everyone we could (and, in my case, dealing with horrible gnawing guilt over all the people I didn't get to see) and, as nice as it is to visit home, see my folks, and hang out with friends, it's just awesome to know you're finally going to sleep in your own bed again. So I was very anxious to finally be home and very sick of traveling by the time we were waiting at the curbside pick-up part of the airport, which is a pretty typical "two lanes for thru-traffic, two lanes for loading" set up. My wife called our ride (her dad, staying at our house for the next week or so) to see where he was and we waited.

The scene was already chaotic when we walked out. A police car sat parked diagonally across both loading lanes, effectively blocking them. There was no police officer to be seen, though. People were parked throughout the loading zones and talking on their cell phones or just absent-mindedly staring off into space. This is illegal. This is against airport etiquette. I know because there are signs roughly ever 30 feet telling you not to do this. I know because the one time I was foolish to try waiting to pick someone up an angry guy with a neon road safety badge yelled at me and threatened to tow my car. And you know what? He was right to do it. I was flouting the law and disrupting the flow of traffic. So I was feeling some righteous fury in my gut as I watched a guy park his car, get out, and walk into the airport to find his girlfriend at the baggage claim.


Chaos at the airport
"Hey bro, I should be back in like 30 minutes. Just chillax."

Where was the cop? Where was the tow truck? You can't just have the rules apply SOME of the time. That's anarchy! I was seriously considering my wife's suggestion that we just steal the dude's car when he came back out, loaded his passenger and her bags, and sped off. Suddenly our ride was here. Or rather, there. He couldn't get through to us as there were now three lanes' worth of cars parked with people just sitting there, mouths agape, staring into space. "Are you kidding me?" I heard my wife complain. I knew what I had to do. I had to take upon myself what the airport could not do. I would become the scourge of parking violators everywhere. I would be the lamest vigilante in history. My eyes fell on a gray VW Beetle; a woman sat at the steering wheel talking on her phone.

This was my moment.

I charged out into the loading lanes, "ARE YOU LOADING SOMEONE?!" She jumped as she heard the volume of my voice but didn't seem to understand my words. I was already waving her on as authoritatively as I could while hoping she wouldn't question my credentials or worse, a cop wouldn't show up and bust me under some bizarre TSA thing about making threats at an airport. She rolled down her window and set her phone down. That was more respect than I had expected.


"ARE YOU LOADING SOMEONE?!" I pushed to keep my voice loud and forceful without seeming like just a screaming, angry guy, "THIS ZONE IS FOR LOADING AND UNLOADING ONLY. NO PARKING, NO STOPPING, NO EXCEPTIONS." I had read the sign several times.

"Well she's getting off her plane now."


"But I'm on the phone with her-"

"NO PARKING, NO STOPPING, NO EXCEPTIONS. NOW MOVE IT!" She huffed and gunned her engine without putting the transmission into Drive. She slammed the stick back and pulled away, visibly flustered. My father-in-law pulled into the spot she had just vacated and we threw our bags into the bed of his truck.


Loading up
It looked cooler in my mind.

"That. Was. AWESOME." I heard him say as my wife climbed in. I was giddy with the rush of adrenaline that only comes with righteously verbally assaulting a stranger in public. I turned to survey the battlefield one last time before I hopped into the beat up pick-up truck which, in my head now, was a Blackhawk chopper airlifting me out of this mental dead zone. I couldn't resist. I turned to face the still-snarled mass of parked cars.


And with that, we were on our way home. "Wow," my wife remarked, "maybe they should pay you to do that from now on."

"Are you kidding? I'm thinking of going back and doing it for free."

Flickr photos (in order) IMGP2158-TSA Body Scanner Line by David Prasad, Chaos at the airport by tyo, and Loading up by The U.S. Army used under a Creative Commons License.