While traveling from Florida to New York City two days ago, I found myself mid-journey sitting in the airport at Charlotte, North Carolina, nibbling on a sandwich and observing life around me. There is always so much to observe in airports and many a time have I amused myself for hours in between flights simply by doing nothing else but wandering around and watching my fellow human beings.
And during the 2 hours I spent at Charlotte’s airport, there certainly was no shortage of things to observe and think about, some of which I wish to share with you below.
I love Caribbean accents. Is there any other type of accent that sounds so laid-back and soothing? Even when they’re upset, such as the four women from Barbados sitting next to me whose flight home had just been canceled, people from the Caribbean often sound as if they’re still loving every minute of life. And it’s all thanks to that beautifully melodic accent. (When compared to the New Yorker sitting on the other side of me who was complaining loudly because our flight to NYC was delayed by 15 minutes, I couldn’t help but think that our world would be a significantly more relaxed place if we all learned how to speak English like Jamaicans.)
Of course, no matter what one’s accent may be, I’ll still never understand…
Why do men talk on their mobile phones while urinating in a public restroom? I don’t get it and it just seems nasty and wrong. Urinating and telephone conversations don’t mix, especially when both are being done in public. And usually, just as was the case the other day, I only see such behavior while using the restrooms in airports.
Speaking of public men’s restrooms, working inside of one, such as the attendants who constantly clean the restrooms at Charlotte’s airport while handing out paper towels and wishing every single person a safe journey, has to be one of the most unpleasant jobs on the planet. I probably tip these people more than any other service worker I come across as I simply can’t imagine having to spend 8 hours every single day stuck inside a public restroom.
And while I don’t tip the airline check-in staff…
Being overly kind to such airline personnel certainly does have benefits, especially if it’s 6:30am and every other passenger around you seems to be a bit grumpy. Usually I’d be grumpy at 6:30am as well but for some reason, on this day, I was in a chipper mood. And after cracking a couple of jokes with the woman at the check-in counter, I found myself with a free exit row seat for both of my flights. Not only that but she let me in on a US Airways secret…all exit row seats become available (without the extra fee) 45 minutes before departure. All one needs to do to land one of those seats is to ask at the gate.
However, there is one type of seat that is even better than the exit row…
Rocking chairs! Placing rocking chairs inside of an airport terminal building is simply an excellent idea. Everyone loves rocking chairs (right?) and it’s much more enjoyable to spend time between flights slowly rocking back and forth in a large, naturally-lit open space than it is to sit on an uncomfortable, thinly cushioned bench at a dark and dreary departure gate.
And whoever thought of having rocking chairs inside the Charlotte airport is probably the same person that decided to…
Place a piano that passengers can play in that very same open space. Another brilliant idea. I certainly wouldn’t mind being stuck for days at an airport that has rocking chairs and a public piano. Of course, it does help when there is someone there who knows how to play the piano. As soon as children climb onto the piano bench and start pounding their fists onto the keys, it’s not such a pleasant or relaxing experience any more.
Do you know what else is not a very pleasant experience?
Let’s just say that the Department of Homeland Security does not appreciate it when passengers attempt to enter the airport security checkpoints from the exits. After my first flight had landed in Charlotte, I began the walk to the next terminal building from where my second flight would depart. But somehow, and perhaps it was a result of my fascination with the rocking chairs that I came upon, I entered into some sort of trance where I wasn’t paying any attention at all to where I was walking. I only snapped out of that trance when a TSA officer started yelling at me. I looked up and realized that I had wandered into the security checkpoint area by accident. I hadn’t made it to the metal detectors but I was only a few feet from where passengers collect their belongings after passing through the x-ray machine. After yelling at me to stop, the Officer just threw his hands in the air in disbelief and I chose to quickly turn away and jog away from there.
Incredibly, as I jogged away, I was still moving quite slow in comparison to…
Every single person whose flights had just arrived in Charlotte. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed this but people walk super fast when they get off an airplane. It’s as if the momentum from flying through the air at 500 miles per hour continues once passengers are allowed out of their seats at the gate. I watched several airplanes pull up to their gates and every single time, a few minutes later, 200 passengers burst out of the jetway at hyper-speed and blasted through the terminal building like blazing comets. My guess is that they maintained this daredevil pace until they reached the luggage carousel, where they then probably got upset at having to wait 15 minutes for their luggage.
At least they were dressed comfortably while standing there waiting because…
The only time wearing sweatpants is considered perfectly acceptable these days seems to be while traveling. I remember when I used to wear my favorite blue sweatpants to school (I know, I know…but it was a good 20 years ago) and now you hardly see sweatpants anywhere. But if you’re like me and you crave a little sweatpants nostalgia every now and then, just make your way to the airport and you’ll be reliving those fond childhood memories in no time at all.
And that concludes the summary of the thoughts that went through my mind while in the Charlotte airport. Do you have any other interesting airport observations to share?
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I’m proud to call the Charlotte airport my home base for travel. The piano is nice, but most of the times that I have noticed it is when an employee plays it. What a job, play piano all day in that huge, sunlight room! After having read this post, I can’t wait to come home and sit in those rockers!
Ha, this is the first time I have visited your site and I stumbled upon this article. As I was flying back from Ecuador this summer after spending a few months there, I was in the Charlotte airport for a few hours with a delay. I wrote in my travel journal observations that are practically identical to yours… from the kind bathroom attendant to the humor in seeing adults run in airports. I love airports.
Hey Bridget – That’s too funny that you made those same observations! The running adults always make me laugh and I’m happy to know I’m not the only one who has noticed how absurd it looks 🙂
And thank you for visiting the site!
I really enjoyed the Charlotte airport the last time we made it through there on the way to Spain. The rocking chairs definitely made my day.
My parents do inappropriate yoga and jazzercise with each other to try and embarrass us kids, how is that for interesting?
Hey Leah – Um…I’d say that definitely counts as interesting! Perhaps it’s such embarrassing moments that make many people want to travel on their own when they get older 🙂
The sweatpants comment – clearly you’ve never come across PeopleofWalmart.com – people do where their sweatpants (and other assorted “goodies”) in public on an alarmingly frequent basis…
What to do in an airport…I’m too pre-occupied with having to pee every 20 or 30 minutes to do that much, really (I don’t know what it is about airports, but my bladder seems to go insane EVERY time).
Going round the duty free and playing James Bond is fun – aka trying on all the expensive aftershaves & colognes whilst trying to evade dirty looks from the staff or, even worse, evading an approach from them.
Hey Tom – No, I had not seen that website before. Thanks for sharing as I now have plenty to entertain me 🙂
I love Amsterdam airport and whilst they have an authentic part of the Reijksmuseum, masterpieces included and any kind of massage you can dream of, rocking chairs and pianos are missing. What a brilliant idea. As, like you, I love people watching, I spend time in the casion, not to gamble but just to watch. And about the Caribbean accent: you know that the most common phrase is: soon come!! Don’t you just love it?
Hey Inka – Casinos are indeed a great spot for people watching and it can be quite comic when you see how people tend to react when given a chance (remote chance) to possibly win some money! And yes, everything about the Caribbean accent is just wonderful. I heard some more today while here in NYC and again, it left a smile on my face.
It also seems to be perfectly acceptable to wear sweatpants to Walmart while stocking up on sodas, candy bars and potato chips.
Hey Don – Haha…actually, I saw that a few times in the Walmart in Mexico as well!
Three or four years ago I got stuck in Charlotte for a while. I don’t remember a piano, nor rocking chairs, but what I do remember is how pleasant everything seemed after all the upheaval in the other airports I’d passed through on that trip, and I do remember thinking I wished all airports were like that!
Hey Linda – I think the rocking chairs are relatively new as I can only remember seeing them as of last year. But it really is such a nice airport overall like you said. It’s laid-back, well organized and well designed. Unfortunately, most airports are quite the opposite.
The rocking chairs in the Charlotte airport always make me smile. I have never sat in one though. Probably because I’m running to make my connecting flight.
Hey Stephanie – The rocking chairs are quite popular any way and I had to wait for a little while for one to open up. But I’m sure running past them is almost as nice 🙂
If only they could put rocking chairs on the plane…
Hey Jasmine – Now that’s an idea I’d love to see tested out. Care to start a nomads airline with me?
Love the rocking chairs too! PHL has them as well. Such great stories come out of observing people at the airport. Here is one of my big questions…https://bit.ly/oWiDzu
@simply three cents: I did not know the rocking chair idea had expanded to other airports…that’s good news for passengers! And I have no answer to your question either…I’ve never brought a full size pillow with me anywhere 🙂
After deplaning, people come out fast, presumably because being inside in a metal-tube for any length of time is grounds for having a brisk walk about. 🙂
Intermediate-length layovers are great for sitting back and watching people go by in a terminal. Having flown through DFW Dallas-Fort Worth (too much), I especially like Terminal D for some observation time …
Thanks for your post and observations!
@fotoeins: It’s always nice when you have your particular and familiar airport people watching spot! I have one in a few airports now and it certainly makes those layovers much more bearable.
Airports are great people watching spots! When I dated my wife, we would sometimes go to JFK to people watch. It was one of my cheap dates when parking (60s) did not cost an arm and a leg!
@krantcents: That might possibly be the best date idea I’ve ever heard of! I’m sure those dates were never boring at all!
I love finding the staff cafeteria at an airport. It’s generally much more relaxed, and the food is of course much, much cheaper. I’ve been to the one in Mumbai and the one in Mallorca, and now I mean to go find the cafeteria every time I have enough time on my hands to do so!
Also, I love it when the staff at the airport give you great tips on which terminal has the best sofas to spend your overnight layover in, or how to run across the road to the supermarket so you can stock up on food for your overnight wait 🙂
Hey Rose – Now that’s a unique idea…I would never have thought to seek out those cafeterias. And you must be flying to some nice airports if you’re able to find sofas to sleep in. Every time I’ve slept in an airport I’ve ended up on the floor!
I highly recommend the airport in Zurich 🙂
This is the most brilliant invention made! Why don’t we have rocking chairs at LAX? I’m going to Australia soon and look forward to the airport there- well, of course the land too. Thanks for sharing!
Hey Rebekka – I know, it’s such a simple ideas these rocking chairs that they should immediately be placed in every airport in the country!
Interesting. I have always loved airports for some reason. I don’t mind being super early at them too. I do not enjoy everything overpriced but I do enjoy just watching the people and observing their reactions.
And a major DITTO on the Caribbean accent. It’s not just they SOUND relaxed but they REALLY are, no matter what!
Hey Eileen – That’s a good point, they usually are quite relaxed no matter what is going on. I wish we could all be like that!