Yesterday was a true color day for anyone traveling on Southwest Airlines. A day when both the Southwest brand as a whole and its patrons were forced to decide how they would handle a “technology problem” which, more than anything else, resembled a bad end-of-days movie. I imagined this was how airports around the country erupted on 9/11. Or how they would look if the FAA endured a zombie attack. Shoot, maybe they had?
Delays and cancellations were dished regularly out to seas of people who never stopped looking at the scrolling departure screens. They wanted answers and got nothing but repeated pleas for understanding. No matter how many times a nervous voice over the intercom reminded us all that systems were down, like, totally down, folks stood with hands on hips, huffing and puffing while looking for someone with whom they could commiserate. It was a shitstorm. Neither the monitors nor the disheveled associates knew exactly what was happening, or when everything might return to normal. And as we, the ants, zipped around, submissively giving way or stomping each others’ heads, we became one thing. A single shape shifting organism with a singular purpose. To endure.
There were efforts to manage the snaking queues, but it wasn’t Disney. Not even close. The Ontario line weaved into the Portland line which blended the Seattle and LAX lines and more. Folks trying to get to Las Vegas seemed the saddest, their bedazzled bags and hats, drab and ridiculous. Chicago customers were definitely the angriest. Their spokesperson—an overly made-up woman with crazy nails and strategically torn jeans assumed the role we’d never, ever have granted her. A role that apparently gave her, and her alone, permission to complain the loudest. I wanted to tell her, oh contraire you annoying human. My sister, and her two sets of twin boys under age six, was stuck solo in Buffalo airport trying to get to Tucson. But I refrained, because that woman’s world had a population of one.
Two Japanese families needed translators and one old lady kept screaming something about her bad knee flaring up. There were more people in wheelchairs than there were workers to push them. Most ended up at the terminus of the crazy-long lines, which made me feel like a dick for using my wit and reflexes to score a pretty good spot somewhere in the middle. But really, to call my spot good was compared to what it could have been.
As my one-hour delay turned into six (and ultimately, a cancellation), I was forced to call my client and cancel my event in Tacoma scheduled for 8am this morning. An event that would have been the second gig of my new business venture. I write this memory mostly to ease my frustration hangover. To maybe reflect on how I (and we all) responded to the inconvenience of being powerless. I heard one woman say, “I just don’t get it…don’t they have a generator or something for when they lose electricity? Like when you go camping?” I heard another man say, “…but the board says we’re on-time! I don’t understand how we can’t be!” I wonder if I too have a reliance problem.
Now I’m back in the airport, feeling bloated and sleep-deprived. My flight’s scheduled to go, but we’ll see. Over the past twenty four hours, I’ve broken all my eating habits and stopped giving an overall shit. I’m not interested in chatting or making small talk with anyone. Still somewhere in my body are two slices of pumpkin bread, a bag of M&M’s and another bag of Cheeze-Its, some Mike and Ike’s, and an entire medium pizza (mushroom olive). There’s also a forty ounce can of Coors (not Coors Light), a box of Whoppers, and a grand total of eight shots of crap espresso. I am poisoned, inflamed, and beat down. I just want to go home.