American Airport Problems
Updated: Apr 4, 2020
The time is ticking before I head off on my biggest adventure yet. A year traveling abroad! But before I came up with the idea for some long term travel I had one final trip before me. Chicago.
As talked about in previous blogs I had grown an obsession with keeping aquariums over the past few years. I had visited one aquatics show and now it was time for another. I can thank my Instagram for the many opportunities I had within this niche world of fishkeeping. Previously in Germany I was saved from a rather decrepit hostel by some of my earliest Instagram supporters and now I was about to be brought further into this underground world due to my supporters.
My Instagram was called @aquariumjosh. It was ultimately my baby, something I was truly proud of as it took me a couple of years of daily posting, networking and generally clawing my way ever upwards on the platform. Although in hindsight there were many negative aspects to thinking about the community or follower count all the time and how a post performed could actually have an impact on my mood for the day. This is due to the amount of passion I felt for my page and what I put out. However I still think (even although the page has now been deleted) that having this account brought me more benefits than grief. One of these perks was the community I had. A network of fellow fish enthusiasts willing to jump on board with my projects, comment and engage on matters of the fish world. Through it I met many like-minded people who I could chat with and some have turned into lifelong friends. The person who is responsible for this next story is Ryan who currently owns the largest aquarium Instagram account in the world. For us fish immortals it’s a pretty big deal!
I began speaking to him early on when I started out on Instagram, hoping for advice and encouragement. The nature of our relationship was purely business, I would seek advice and he would occasionally shout me out on his page. But as time progressed he took interest in my projects, my consistently mad plans and from this we became good friends. Over time we would talk about the aquatics news or events taking place and I had discovered a show called Aquashella. One of my early youtube idols was a young guy named George who was running this new show. A combination of aquariums, music and uv artwork. I was hooked immediately. After chatting with Ryan I soon discovered that they knew each other and Ryan was going to attend the show to promote it. Without another moments notice I asked about getting tickets, I said that I would definitely be attending and it would be our chance to meet face to face. Ryan sorted me out with some tickets and I was set to go with a sense of having friends in high places. Everything was going well, wait where was the show again? It’s in Chicago.
So before I knew it or given any thought I began busily preparing to go on a trip to America. Somewhere I had only been when I was in primary school and don’t have any memories of. As with all my trips up to this point I hadn’t given it much thought or preplanning but enthusiastic as always I booked my flights ready to head to America! Me and Ryan had been working on the idea of a clothing brand for some time so with me in my bag I carried a few sets of clothes, a second hand camera I bought especially for the trip and some newly printed fish t-shirts. One for each of us, our Instagram account names spread across the back of the shoulders. I nervously headed to the airport and before I had enough time for my fear of planes to kick in we were off. First stop Philadelphia.
I took the first flight to Philadelphia and was only here to get a connecting flight but even just the airport alone had a significant effect on me. I arrived to a technology centre, everywhere the restaurants, cafés and shops around the airports had ipads in every corner. With some time to kill and with my flight delayed by 2 hours I headed to a restaurant to grab a bite to eat. To my surprise I was directed to a long bench of ipads, here I took a seat next to a few others and looked through the screen in front of me. It had the entire menu where I could order what I wanted, call for an assistant or play games. I honestly was a little disappointed, it seemed so disconnected from the hospitality industry we all love. I looked at the assistant button and shook my head before heading over to find someone working there. I couldn’t find anyone but the guy that sat me down so I headed to him to ask for some recommendations. He took me back to my chair, pointed at a recommended section on the ipad and asked me to please order from it. My heart sank, I wanted a recommendation from real people, I wanted this opportunity to chat to someone and learn about Philadelphia. It was time to change my tactics.
I grabbed my bag and sat in front of the kitchen, it was entirely open so the chef’s could see me while they worked. From here I asked again for some recommendations and received a much better result. It would appear that they have never had someone chat to them before and became very excited. One chef was proud to tell me of a dish he had conjured up himself and that was all the convincing I needed. I let him prepare this mystery dish as we talked and as time progressed other staff began taking interest in our conversation allowing me to get to know everybody! This is much better I thought to myself and really how I pictured most Americans. Friendly, kind and within them a strange love for accents, especially a British one. I found this to be true for the rest of my trip but I’ll talk more on this later.
I finished my delicious food, whatever it was. Thanked everyone and left to see how my plane was getting on. 2 hours still to go untill we start boarding, I think I’ll explore some more. Now I still don’t know a great deal about America or it’s culture but based on many films I have expectations of how some places will look. If I was to think of an American bar within one of the big cities it would give me a thought close to that of the hard rock café. An old setting with wooden design completed with lots of posters, artefacts and neon signs. Keeping that image in mind, that is exactly the kind of bar I discovered while wandering around the airport and with the sight of this place I headed straight to it. In I strode confidentially, the strange airport times making the bar almost empty.
I sat myself at the end of the bar and the barman warmly approached me. He reminded me of a friend of mine Steve back in England, they were almost identical. Together we chatted, both our accents stereotypical of our home country. Here I drank rum for a few hours while I asked many questions of American culture, almost disheartened when the bar started to pick up a few new patrons. After around 3 hours I checked my phone and realised I must have missed my flight! I double checked the time with my new American friend and he confirmed it. Telling me that they have no announcements within here. I quickly packed my things paying for my drinks almost at the same time and as I sprinted out the door. I then had to nip back to give him a tip. I almost forgot the most important American tradition, about the only part of the culture I knew to be true.
Headstrong I worked my way through the airport maze being convinced I had missed my flight. I arrived panting to my gate, a large gathering crowd had formed in front of it. After asking a stranger what was going on I soon discovered that the plane had been delayed. Again. By 3 hours and the gate had also changed. Before I tell you the rest of this part of the story I just wanted to let you know that I was flying with American airlines. For those making regular trips abroad you might know of their renown. The group stood around growing anxious, the tension in the room almost palpable. Within the centre beneath the looming delayed sign stood the check in desk without an attendant. Another half an hour passed and I grew increasingly worried. Not due to the flight being further delayed but from watching the others that surrounded me.
In England we tend to try and be overly polite, charming at times it can become rather annoying as we refuse to acknowledge something bad happening in the hopes of appearing collected and unperturbed. In an American airport it is however the other extreme. Large men built like rugby players began to act irrationally, their anger over the delayed flight seemed to directly wound their pride. Beside them they towered over tiny wives desperately trying holding them back grabbing onto them. A few people within the crowd started shouting for someone to come to the front of the desk in a movie perfect American accent. I couldn’t help but find the whole thing funny so chuckled silently away to myself in the corner. Maybe I too wanted to be the rational looking Englishman? Nevertheless I remained unmoved by the continuing delays, what can we do about it I thought to myself. If I had the ‘pleasure’ of flying with American airlines before I maybe wouldn’t have felt so calm.
A woman arrived at the front desk sheepishly, her wide eyes looked around the room as she stood all alone. I looked at her terrified on her behalf, it was time for her to be ripped apart like a carcass. The commotion began, the frustrated crowd had someone to blow their steam off at and so it began. There was shouting, screaming, crying, a guy was taken away by security for trying to push the lamb who sat behind the check in desk. I had never experienced this, it was like a headmaster watching over a food fight and realising it was best to let the kids get it out their system. After a good hour passed and a man came to the desk, picked up the tannoy and told everyone to go to a different gate.
We headed off on a long walk to the other side of the airport around 20 minutes and sat down. Another announcement “Could passengers for the A350 flight to Chicago please return to gate 46.” So we headed back again, many passengers wheeling their carry ons behind them. Once we got there we were told to go back to the gate we had just left and so it continued 3 more times. It was like payback for upsetting the airport staff! We wondered aimlessness around the airport going to different gates at 3am in the morning before enough was enough. We gathered round and the crowd began going berserk again, within 5 minutes of watching the mass getting heated a staff came out and told us the plane was here.
The reason for the flight being delayed? The toilets were broken and so they asked us if we would be happy to fly without them. After this long there was no debate, we all got on the plane after relieving ourselves in the mens room and finally we were ready to depart. Everyone seemed relaxed and began laughing about the whole event. We took off into the air towards Chicago. I grabbed onto the sides of my seat preparing myself for the death I’m convinced will come for me every time I go on an aircraft. But death had not come for me yet and on we went through a lighting storm, oh I really hate planes…
Next week I will continue my Chicago blog and talk about what happened after I land!