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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ramblings on Small Town Airports

Alisha McDarris

Those of us who grew up in small towns that were merely clinging to the shirtsleeves of somewhat less small towns often joke about our rural or suburban roots. We’ve never tried urban gardening on the balcony because corn grows better in the plot we tilled on the five acres behind the house. We didn’t spend every weekend sipping free wine at yet another gallery opening because there’s only one in town and the displays only change every other month. And we never had to fight an hour and a half of bumper-to-bumper traffic on Main Street just to travel 10 blocks down the road because 4 million people don’t live in our hometown.
There are certainly perks to living outside of a big city, one of which is teeny airports. This dawned on me recently as we hopped from South Florida to Dayton. Now, Dayton is a fairly large city, at least by Ohio’s standards, and West Palm Beach is certainly no Orlando, but oh what a difference 1,000 miles can make!
Heading north, we planned to arrive at Palm Beach International an hour and a half early. Normally I would think that was too far in advance for a domestic flight, but then I tend to forget how much of a trudgery it can be checking a bag, shuffling through security, and fighting the crowds of people to your gate can be at and airport of that size (and it’s not even close to the size of LAX or JFK).
There were no employees directing people at the check in desk, so everybody, including those who had already checked in online but needed to drop a bag, was just standing in line, growing more and more irritated by the minute. When somebody did show up, she just shouted to everybody to use the self check-in and began a shouting match with some irritable passangers who had been waiting in the wrong line for 10 minutes. (Sir, sir, this line is for special circumstances only! Sir!) Then we watched as security closed off one of only two lanes right in front of us as a long coil of back-pack laden travelers hunched over, waiting their turn for a cranky TSA agent to direct them to the naked scanner (that’s what I call that pointless contraption that scans your whole body as you stand uncomfortable with your hands above your head). We stood in line for 20 minutes and then rushed to put all of out tiny liquid travel containers, laptops and valuables back in our bags as we hustled in socked feet to get out of the way of all of the people piling up behind us. Of course, once you make it through security, you still have a mile and a half walk to your terminal where there aren’t nearly enough seat to comfortably hold all the people waiting to get on the plane. Blech.
Then we get to Dayton and we’re off the plane and at the baggage claim in 5 minutes because the Dayton Airport is the size of a large house. Flying out was even better. At the airport 45 minutes before takeoff we were greeted with a smile from the airline agent before we even got to the counter because there was literally no one else in line. Same with security. Whisked through in no time with no racing pulses because there was absolutely no rush to return our shoes to our feet or our bags to our backs because there were only about three of us in the area. I’m fairly certain there were more TSA agents than passengers. Again it only took five minutes to walk to our terminal (no moving sidewalks required) and we even got a whole row to ourselves on the plane!
Maybe I wouldn’t stress about flying so much if I always got to fly out of little podunk airports on the outskirts of town, but I suppose long lines and grumpy airline employees are the price to pay for the compelling need to get far away fast. But in the words of the inimitable Rolling Stones “You can’t always get what you want.”

Alisha McDarris / Author & Editor

Alisha is a freelance writer and photographer based in Austin, TX. She loves her tiny house, vegan food and experiencing the community of travel in far away places. She’s also pretty sure she’s addicted to coffee. [Portfolio]


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