Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Way We Live Now

'Twas the season for spending time in airports over the past couple of weeks, so I've been mulling some of the oddities of air travel. Let's start with "International" airports. To go visit the female parental unit I fly into Jackson-Evers International Airport. I had always assumed that any airport that called itself an international airport had at least one direct flight to somewhere outside the U.S--whether it be a landing strip in the Bahamas or a cow pasture just across the Rio Grande from Brownsville. One Christmas my sister was waiting for me at Jackson-Evers and decided to ask a desk attendant what flights from Jackson landed in other countries. She was told, "San Juan, Puerto Rico." My sister replied,

"That's part of the U.S."

"It's not a state."

"It may not be a state, but it's still American territory."

"It's not one of the United States."

My sister decided there was nothing to be gained from pursuing this line of inquiry.

After printing my boarding pass for my return flight to Boston, I began looking around on the airport website and found a pull-down menu link called "Cities Served:"





Note all the destinations. As you can see there's no flight to San Juan. I can only assume that a) the desk attendant my sister spoke to was new on the job (as well as shaky on geography) and b) Jackson-Evers International Airport is endorsing the long-held view of many that Florida really isn't part of the United States.

But seriously: I did some research and discovered that international flights are not a requirement to be considered an international airport. The only requirement is customs-checking facilities, which, I gather, Jackson-Evers does have.

On another topic, I noticed the Threat Level was Orange. And it occurred to me to wonder if the Threat Level has ever not been Orange. No--at least not for the last three years. Of course, since no one knows what the criteria for Threat Levels are, no one is quite sure what Orange means anyway. I had once entertained the idle hope that it suggested al-Qaeda was planning to attack us with citrus fruit, but no dice. As former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge pointed out in 2005, the colors that designate Threat Levels don't mean anything: "It could be colors. It could be numbers. It could be animals."

On the upside, how much cooler would it be to walk into an airport and see this:













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