How To Keep Yourself Entertained At The Airport

missed-flight-300x200Let’s face it, at one point in time in the next year you will be joining the throngs of people standing in a decade’s long line waiting for the three TSA Agents who are actually working to finish tearing apart the old lady’s handbag so you can have your naked body imaged and saved for all posterity. Once that ordeal is complete you file with the rest of the herd to your gate and then sit and wait because the airline told you to show up two hours early. Unless you are an aviation junkie–of which I am a proud member… as I type this I am listening to ATC conversations between Denver Tower and incoming and departing flights–you are will inevitably become bored to death and possibly miss your flight due to your unconscious boredom.

And then, just when you think you will be called to get into a thin, aluminum tube for a few hours, they tell you that your flight has been delayed, or worse yet, cancelled. Now what?

Unless you are in Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport with its Rijksmuseum where you canHong-Kong-Airport-golf peruse works by Rembrandt and Van Gogh, or Hong Kong International with its PGA regulation 9-hole golf course, or Singapore Changi and its two-story butterfly grotto, or Seoul Incheon where you can dress in traditional Korean garb or learn about about Korean culture at the UNESCO artifact museum, you are probably stuck in one of the other thousand airports that are dank, dull, concrete structures that reek of desperation and sadness. And then there’s La Guardia.

So, what are you supposed to do? Here are a few suggestions to make your next trip a bit more entertaining.

1. Look For Spies

get_smart-tvDespite all the cyber espionage that is going on around the world, there is still a need for boots on the ground. And these people have to get from place to place, too! Put on your Sherlock Holmes hat and stroll the concourse. Now, these people won’t be dressed in dark black trench coats with dark green Ray Bans over their eyes. Their government ids will be secreted within special pouches in their clothing. This will make it a bit more difficult to find them since they will be dressed like everyone else. However, you can spot some subtle differences between a regular traveler and a spy. Here are a few tips to help you be more successful:

  1. They’ll be more cautious about their surroundings. They may even be sitting alone.
  2. Are they exceptionally fit for someone their age? Do their hands show signs of fighting recently?
  3. Do they look too much like a tourist? It’s one thing to try to fit into your surroundings, but another to do so to the point of standing out.
  4. Are they traveling light? Most spies will have equipment waiting for them at their op-site.

Once you found the spy, what should you do?

Your civic duty, of course!

You should follow them. Follow them into Starbucks. Follow them into the bathroom. Sit behind them at the gate area. Make sure they know that you, a simple schmuck, were able to blow their cover.

2. Sit and listen to the shoeshine guys

These will be the cheeriest, happiest people you will see in an airport since the government did away with meeting your family at the gate. They greet every person who sidles up to their wooden and leather station with a hearty “Hello!” or “Glad to see you!” They take silence or grunts from the businessmen who plop themselves down on the seat and hide themselves behind a newspaper or magazine with the same innocent happiness a child has when you put desert in front of them.

And then the shoeshine guy goes about spit-shining and polishing expensive leather shoes scuffed from inconsiderate suitcases and narrow aircraft aisles and tells a story. Most of the time it falls on deaf ears as the men sitting on the worn leather seats fade into their own world. But the shoes, they listen. They hear a story about the time when the shoeshine guy was on patrol near Dak To and his unit stumbled upon a group of North Vietnamese soldiers withdrawing across the border. Those shoes hear about how his daughter is getting ready for prom and how the he doesn’t trust the boyfriend as far as he can throw him. But daddy’s girl is growing up and his wife says he needs to trust her. He can’t imagine letting her go away to college, and then walking her down the aisle. He tells them about his cousin in New Orleans who plays in a little jazz group and how Katrina nearly wiped out the club. But, he says with a boast, jazz survives anything. Every shoe gets a story whether the owner wants one or not.

Be the shoe.

3. Social deviance

Society has a set of norms that we all follow. Most are ones that we can live with. For example, don’t pick your nose then shake someone’s hand. The group-held “norms” help shape the society in which we live. We see them everyday from the handshake at the end clip_image001_thumbof a sports match to the thank you cards you write after you receive gifts. These are the unspoken guidelines that help society move from day to day and give us, the peasants, an understanding of how we should behave in certain environments. Airports have their own strict set of social norms and that makes them the best place to be a little deviant. Now, be careful with deviance. Criminal behavior is considered deviant and we wouldn’t want you doing anything that prevents you from getting to grandma’s house. Well, maybe in some cases. So, here are a few suggestions for deviating from the norm in the airport:

  1. Walk an imaginary pet through the concourse.
  2. Go into the restroom, put all your clothing on backwards, return to the concourse and walk backwards going against the flow of pedestrian traffic, and, if possible, use the “wrong” moving sidewalk.
  3. Watch the airport television and laugh at your own show or cheer as though your favorite sports team just scored.
  4. Follow something incredibly amazing (though completely imaginary) along the ceiling.
  5. Strike up a conversation with the person in the bathroom stall next to you.
  6. Be polite. Say “hi” to people. Wish strangers a wonderful trip. Be excited for them. Stand at the gate area and welcome people to the airport, and if it is your hometown to your wonderful city and state.

Just as a side note, one of the biggest social norms Americans have are their personal space bubbles. I don’t suggest testing these invisible boundaries lest you find yourself in a small, white room with a flickering fluorescent light and two security agents with gloves on their hands telling you to lean over and relax.

4. Play hide and seek

Though it might seem like the endless rows of uncomfortable leather-like chairs would make for a rousing game of duck, duck, goose! people these days just don’t like being pat on the head like we did when we were children. While it may seem that hide and seek would belong under the social deviance section, this version of the game is not so much deviant as it is slight of hand.

The trick here is to get people to notice you. No. You shouldn’t jump up and down and shout that you have a bomb or that you see little gremlins on the wings of the airplane. Remember those gloved agents? The goal here is to be subtle. Casually stroll the boarding area; feign looking for a nice seat to stack your mountain of carry-on luggage upon. Make eye contact with a few people. Get them to follow you with their eyes. Get into their mind. They probably won’t follow you for long, but if you’ve done your job you’ve piqued their interest and they’ll look for you again. Once you have the attention of one, two, and, if you are real good, dozens your goal is to then disappear from sight. I would suggest finding a few hiding places before you begin. Make sure that you will be able to see the “seekers” from hiding place. Once out of sight, watch as they sit in a confused wonderment, maybe even a slight panic, as you mysteriously vanish from the waiting area.

5. Ruin someone else’s flight

Maneuvering into your seat these days is like trying to get your hips into a toddler’s swing on the playground. And really, airlines haven’t changed the seat all that much from the 1970s. They were 18 inches then, 17 inches now. What’s changed is our waist size and that dastardly thing called seat-pitch–the distance from any one spot on the seat in front of you to that exact spot on your seat. In the ’70s that distance was an average of 35 inches. In today’s modern coach, that distance has shrunk to 31 inches. Don’t think that four inches matters? The average seat-pitch in a stadium style theatre is 37.5 inches. Plenty of room to cross your legs. But this isn’t about seat-pitch or our growing butt sizes.

This is about they way people travel.

Option 1: You can earn the title of Mr./Mrs. Dastardly Evil.

They are everywhere in the airport. The wedding party heading out to a hedonistic bachelor/ette party, most likely in Las Vegas. The Spring Break group heading to Mexico or Florida or Texas. The buddies heading out for a weekend golf trip. And what do all these groups have in common? They are looking to party. Help them get started. Buy them round after round at the pub. Ply them with liquor. Odds are they will either…

  1. Be down right annoying during the entire flight, or
  2. Cause the flight to be delayed or, if the flight makes it out onto the taxiways, have to return to the gate. The is the evil part in all this is that you are messing with over one hundred other travel itineraries, and that is only for that flight. You are also impacting the people at the next airport and so on.

Option 2: Be the optimist

For some reason we love to hate everything. “Oh, you believe the opposite of me? Well, you are wrong and I hate you.” We champion mediocrity–see the Kardashians, Miley Cyrus, et all–and then grouse that mediocrity surrounds us. We demand cheap products, but sue because of defects and complain because “we deserve caviar for chicken egg prices.” We are, each and everyone of us, precious in our own worlds. We tear down those who have succeeded where we have failed, but we don’t look to see what we could do to be successful. And these are your fellow travelers.

Nothing ruins a sour mood better than an overly positive person. When the person lugging a mattress-sized carry-on launches into a tirade with the gate agent because they have to gate check the infernal beast, quietly offer to carry their haul down the jetway to the aircraft for them. When the person sitting next to sourly accepts the tiny bag of peanuts and sip-sized soda, politely remind them that a third of the population of the Sudan is facing starvation right now and would gladly accept the food presented them. Remind them that their personal desire to fly the cheapest fare possible has made this situation possible. When they turn around and throw “But the CEO is a greedy, corporate slug.” Nod knowingly and remind them they could have driven. When they say they won’t support the oil and gas monstrosity, give them the option of walking instead. Be positive and find solutions to their litany of issues, because the days of flying with happy people who dress up for the occasion are long gone. Find joy in the dreariness of the airport. Relish in child-like excitement of flight as though it was the first time you were going to soar above our great nation.

6. Build a fort

Nearly every child in America has had the opportunity to build their own little fort out of furniture and sheets. Imagine the creations you can think of while sitting bored at the airport. Claim a few rows of unused seats and start building. You can use your rolling carry-ons as sliding doors, coats can be used as “tent” covers, and your remaining carry-ons can be stacked up to serve as your throne.

7. Have fun with your phone

There are a couple of things you can do here.

Option 1: Set up your own hotspot wifi. If your phone allows for a wifi hotspot (tether) create a wifi for the people in your waiting area. Give it some creative name. I’ve included a few for you here:

  • NSAEavesdropper.exe
  • TouristsGoHome
  • IP freely
  • Don’t Get On That Plane
  • Unsecured Virus Infected WiFi
  • Get Your Own WiFi
  • Amish LANd

Option 2: Take your phone and stand near the windows that overlook the ramp area. Begin an intense phone conversation with no one. If you are a guy, you could say things like: “But it was supposed to be his baby!” or “No! She thinks I’m going on a business trip, I promise!” If you are a girl, you could say things like: “Oh my God! Seriously, how much wax could they possibly need!” or “It was so sad. He thought it was a billy club, but it was more like a toothpick.”

So, next time you find yourself in one of the world’s most depressing airports, remember, there are always things you can do to keep yourself entertained.

Happy flying!

Released Taliban Will Become Drone Targets

cia-drone-killing-program-in-pakistan-winding-down-1401354264-6536Washington D.C.–Hoping to counter quick criticism of the Afghans for Bergdahl trade, a senior officer with the CIA’s Drone program leaked information that these Afghanis would become targets for the U.S. Drone operations. Remaining anonymous because he wasn’t officially allowed to speak to the operational plans, the agent said, “We’ve had nearly twelve years to sneak tracking devices into the rear ends of these Afghanis. We know that they will quickly return to their previous networks. Our hope if that once they reach Qatar, they will reach out to high level terrorists.” When asked if the President would still continue the drone attacks in the face of mounting criticism from civil rights groups, to Americans, to Amnesty International which has said that some of the attacks could amount to war crimes, the agent said, “The President doesn’t care what we do. We have carte blanche to wage war as we see fit. Plausible deniability if the modus operandi of this Administration; it is why the President is always out fundraising.” The CIA agent also stated that the Administration wouldn’t rule out using the drones in Qatar “if that leads to the most kills.”

Why Football (not Futbol) Is America’s Sport


As the World Cup in Brazil nears, talk in the U.S. once again roils over whether or not Futbol (soccer) should even be considered a real sport or not. There are plenty of comments on various websites–including the hallowed ESPN and Sports Illustrated–from Americans who are quick to chastise soccer as not being a “real” sport or as being boring.

Here’s a couple examples from comments to articles regarding the 2014 World Cup:

I don’t know how anyone can sit and watch something like soccer. Oh wow we won 1 to 0. Don’t even consider soccer a sport.(Source: AOL)


A beautiful game? There’s nothing beautiful about watching guys kick a ball out of bounds every five seconds for three hours just to have the game end 0-0. (Source: CNN)


World Map Based on Most Popular Sport

World Map Based on Most Popular Sport

So, what is “America’s Sport?” The world loves soccer. That’s fine. India and Pakistan love cricket. That’s wonderful. Australia has their version of football. Table tennis is big in China. But what sport truly defines America? Many poets have opined that baseball is America’s pastime. Walt Whitman said of baseball, “”[I]t’s our game; that’s the chief fact in connection with it: America’s game; it1433_2 has the snap, go, fling of the American atmosphere; it belongs as much to our institutions, fits into them as significantly as our Constitution’s laws; is just as important in the sum total of our historic life.” And then, of course, you have James Earl Jones’ monologue from Field of Dreams: “The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past….”

There was probably a time when Whitman’s ideal of baseball in harmony with America’s “snap, go, fling” but that has faded. Whitman’s America of the late 1800s was a dynamic time where people believed that if they worked hard they’d go far in life. Over time, America has wavered from that ethos of work. And that’s why American football is truly America’s sport.

Here’s why:

1. Work less get paid more

The average soccer player will run nearly seven miles in a match and play for ninety minutes, whereas the average football player will run less than a mile and play maybe six minutes a game (the average amount of time the ball is in play during an NFL game is eleven minutes, but players only play either offense or defense which cuts the time in half). It would appear in this case that soccer players “work” harder than football players. That’s not quite in our ethos as Americans. According to a Pew Research poll conducted in 2012, 45% of Americans who identified themselves as “lower class” do not believe that hard work will increase their chances of success in life (the numbers for “middle” class and “upper” class with this belief are 29% and 27% respectively). What is more striking is that 39% of 18-29 year olds identify themselves as “lower class”. Over a third of Americans who should be bombarding the workforce with hard workers, yet they don’t see hard work as an option. (As an aside, 77% of these 18-29 year olds have “some college” or less for an education. You might see where their pessimism comes in… why work hard in a menial job?). That means that nearly half of Americans identify with these football players. They hardly “work” but still make good money. And, as absurd as this may seem, there are thirty-five states where being on some form of welfare pays better than obtaining a minimum wage job. Why would a mother in Pennsylvania making $29,000 a year with two children want to get a better job? Including her welfare benefits she will bring in a combined income of nearly $58,000. If she works a little harder an earns a $1000 raise, she will lose out on nearly $30,000 in welfare aid. (Source: Townhall)

And before comments come through about the rigors of being an NFL player (practice, being away from home, etc.) I am simply looking at the time they clock for their work. They are exceptionally part-time employees and still make over $500,000 a year. This is the new America: Work the bare-minimum and reap massive rewards.

2. Crass consumerism

If you had any doubts about American consumerism, just look to the iPhone. A new version comes out each year and millions are sold primarily to customers who already have a perfectly working phone. Society says “spend!” and we do. Fortunately for us i3OtXskAmericans, football caters to our need for want and stuff. In an average football game there are just over sixty minutes of commercials. Think about that for a second. There is as much time for commercials as there is for the actual game clock–four fifteen-minute quarters. That’s 120 commercials. Allow that half of those commercials are repeats and that means were are watching advertisements for sixty products and television shows. That’s why we can’t watch soccer–forty-five minute halves with no commercial interruptions. How in the world would we know what we are missing?

3. Health doesn’t matter

sports7Recently, FLOTUS Michelle Obama came out and defended her school lunch programs against critics (Read here from HuffingtonPost). As well she should. We are a big country, and I don’t just mean in land mass. We are big people. According to the CDC, 67% of all Americans over 20 are overweight–this number includes those who are obese. Just over a third of Americans–35%–are obese. But we really don’t do anything about it. 8 out of 10 Americans would agree that exercise has a positive impact on a long, healthy life, but only 28% of us actually do something about it. When we watch television, we are bombarded by body types that are unattainable without a knife, a vacuum, and Photoshop. Football makes us feel better about ourselves. We watch three-hundred pound linemen huff and puff for six minutes and we immediately feel better about our own weight issues. Who wants to watch twenty-two skinny men run around on a field for ninety minutes? No, give us a collection of overweight men that we can identify with. And that they earn millions being overweight makes it even better.

4. Short-term memory

Huh? Just a refresher, we are talking here about futbol. Or was that football? I don’t remember. Hamburgers!

In the days before computers, before encyclopedias, before massive libraries, mankind had to remember things. No. Seriously. We had to remember stupid things like our Social Security number, phone numbers, and the dates of our spouse’s birth and our anniversary.  Today, we have no need to commit these things to memory. Psychologists call this the “google effect”. We don’t need to memorize things anymore. Facebook will remind us of birthdays. Our computers will auto fill phone numbers and addresses. We don’t even need to worry about how to spell since our phones will ask, “Did you mean yaddayadda?” when it doesn’t recognize our crude attempts at spelling words. I can just look it up. We are willing to accept that the things we might need to remember are stored for us in a large server farm in Utah. And so we’ve developed painfully bad memories. Thankfully, football, again, assists us with this. Even with eleven minutes of actual game play, the networks have made sure that we don’t even need to pay attention to that. We’ve got 17 minutes of replays for those times when you couldn’t quite grasp the last four seconds of play. Striking that there is more airtime for replays then the game is actually played. And then, because we can’t be asked to focus on anything for too long, we can indulge in over an hour of men standing around. Football caters to our lazy brains.


Language and today

One aspect of living in the middle isn’t just that I wallow in the misery of each side of the political aisle, but also is love listening to the language that these people spew from their mouths.

Here is this today’s phrase: Failure is not an option.

There was a time when the idea of failure wasn’t an issue. There was not some social phobia surrounding the idea of defeat.

For all you word sleuths, just a quick recap–No, “Failure is not an option” was not really said by Gene Kranz during the Apollo 13 mission. When interviewed for the movie, Kranz remarked that when something bad happens, mission control looks at all the options and failure was just not one of them. The script writers left the meeting with the tagline for the movie, and the rest is history.

Some of the greatest people in our collective history accepted failure. They admitted that it would happen. They counted on it, if only to improve them.

I always tried to turn every disaster into opportunity.

John D. Rockefeller


Failure is simply the opportunity to try again, this time more intelligently.

Henry Ford


I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

Thomas Edison

As a historian, one of my favorite failures is Abraham Lincoln.

Much has been written about his failures prior to his ascension to the presidency. (Abraham Lincoln Library’s suggested books) He failed in business and on multiple attempts at political office.

My favorite failure of Lincoln’s was his inability to manage his army during the Civil War.

He ran through seven generals before he found the one who would end the war.

I like to think that when Lincoln said,

My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure

He was speaking of one of his generals–the quote above is attributed to Lincoln, but when it was said is unknown.

One thing that he did say was

If General McClellan isn’t going to use his army, I’d like to borrow it for a time

In his own snide way, Lincoln was both admitting his own failure and McClellan’s.

no-failure-zone2We’ve come a long way from the time when men like Lincoln and Edison relished in the world of failure.

There once was a time when “failure is not an option” meant that a person would fail, learn, and succeed. Today, the phrase has been altered. The words remained the same. The speaking of it hasn’t changed. But, the nuance chose a different tone.

Looking around at the society we now live in, failure is not an option means that no one is allowed to fail.

  1. Education: The new norm is that no one student is given a zero for anything. Didn’t do the work? Fine, we’ll give you a fifty percent. No one is allowed to fail. Kids with minimal skills are passed on to the next grade, where, of course, they will not fail–conversely, they will not learn, either.
  2. Real Estate: Right now, the American government is busy bailing out everyone who was dumb, ignorant, or just plain greedy enough to get swept up by the “flipping” houses hobby of the late nineties. Didn’t have the income for a four-hundred-thousand dollar house? Underwater? That’s okay. The government won’t let you fail!
  3. GM, et al: Too Big To Fail.
  4. Government: I don’t care what side of the political aisle you sit on, I’m going to call a spade a frickin’ spade–The government is failing us. But, no one can be a failure. So, we put up with them.
  5. Parenting: Like it or not, we are an enabling society. One of the huge pitfalls in this new parenting–where parents are their children’s friends–is that we shelter the little darlings from failure. Everyone gets a trophy. Everyone gets a blue ribbon. There is no more first place. Everyone gets to be on the team; everyone plays varsity. If something goes “wrong” in our children’s lives, parents come to the rescue.

As the adults in this world bicker about how to improve the future, we neglect the fact that we are damning it.

Somewhere in our collective past, we changed the meaning.

Failure is not an option.

I’d like to think it is.