I still have distant memories of going to see relatives off at the airport.
We would park in front of the entrance and go with them to the gates.
Not the airport gates. The ones on the runways.
There you would give kisses and hugs and they would walk to the plane.
Then you would go up one floor and from the terrace you could watch them go up the stairs to the plane and wait to see the take-off.
Sounds old-fashioned, doesn’t it?
Just like now.
Now our airport is a gigantic Escape Room slot machine.
Slot machines because you pay to park (the closer you get). You pay to drink water. You pay to go through the fast lane and overtake everyone else at the security checkpoint. You pay for the other fast lane to board before everyone else.
You also pay just to be there. 1 per minute at the closest parking when you accompany someone so you can only say goodbye quickly in the parking lot or, at most, accompany them to the queue at the security checkpoint.
Escape Room because before from the parking lot to the entrance of the plane was what, 100 meters?
Now you have miles and miles. You go up and down floors. You queue continuously. You use dozens of conveyor belts.
The distance in a straight line is the same, but the path you have to take is the envy of IKEA.
As in any good Escape Room you have to make many decisions. And if you make a mistake you miss your flight.
You can consider more than two hours before takeoff to start.
First decision: cab? car? Public transport only if you have some extra hours to spare.
The cab will cost you about the same as the plane ticket.
The car, it depends.
The car has more options. You can choose to leave it in the nearest and most expensive parking lot from where you will be at the airport entrance in only 5 minutes and 2 conveyor belts. If you have 20 minutes more you can opt for the long stay parking (long must be anything more than 1 day, for the price I say). In that case you exchange the 2 conveyor belts for a shuttle bus which is also fun.
Suppose you don’t have to carry heavy luggage. This can save you unpredictable time between 5 minutes and 45 minutes or more depending on the people waiting in your company.
But today it has already become an art to learn how to micro-pack everything you will need for a long weekend in 25x35x55 cm (including wheels and handles) and weighing less than 10 kg. Another fun part of a trip.
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Anyway.... let's get on with the story.
Next you arrive at the security checkpoint.
Objective: to make you feel like a terrorist in Guantanamo.
Sorry, I meant, make you feel super-safe when flying in an airplane.
First step of the security checkpoint: throw away all potentially lethal beverages. For example, water.
More decisions: Which queue will be the fastest? It’s a trap game. We all know that. Whichever one you choose, you’ll end up being held up and watching the other queues move faster.
While you wait for the queue to advance you can leave in plastic boxes everything you carry in your pockets, everything metallic, the micro-packed super-suitcase and your boots.
Here comes another fun part of the escape room: will it beep or not? will I have to open the luggage (with the difficulty of reassembling the tetris to close it)? will I have to pass the random check for dangerous substances?
Next you have to manage to find a seat while barefoot and carrying three plastic boxes to get dressed again and move on to the next step of the game.
This is the maze.
Try to get through the shelves full of liquor, souvenirs and boxes of Toblerone and dodge the payment boxes without ending up going through the security checkpoint on the opposite side.
If so, you are now arriving at the beginning of the boarding area. Try to find a marker to check that your boarding gate has not been changed since you got your boarding pass (skipping this is a typical rookie mistake) and find out whether you should go to aisle A, B, C, or Z.
Here come the trap tapes. They are tapes that make you think you will get to your destination sooner but, in reality, half of them will be under repair. And for the other half, it’s faster to walk outside than to enter the belt where you’re sure to find people blocking your way.
Empirically it has been proven, after many years of experimentation, that both options take the same time.
If you are not lost you finally arrive at the containment area, I mean, the boarding gate.
If you don’t like to gamble you will have bought the VIP access that allows you, paying a supplement, to be among the first to access the finger, enter the plane and sit in your plane before the rest of the mortals. There you will wait for the rest of the passengers to enter because you will all take off at the same time and land together.
If you prefer the full game then you can decide to do the long queue with the remaining excitement of thinking if there will be space for your suitcase near your seat or if, on the contrary, they will have to take it to the hold adding other emotions until landing time.
In short, it has turned an almost romantic experience into something innovative: a great game for all of us to enjoy.
Even if we don’t want to.
Any ideas to innovate and improve this process?
Or to make this game more entertaining, if possible?