Monday, February 9, 2009

The F Stands for Failure

You speak, but no one can hear you.

You hunger, but there is nothing to satisfy your desire.

The cold, hard loneliness surrounds you, and you wrap your arms around your body so that you retain at least some sort of control over your faculties.

But it’s useless. There’s no ambiguity that you’re there: the eighth circle of Hell.

To the ordinary laymen in casual conversation, this is called “Terminal F at the Philadelphia International Airport”.

Now, I may not be a very balanced source, because I’ve only flown into Philadelphia about half a dozen times. But, four of those trips were in the last year or so, so I feel that my experiences still carry some weight. And, I might add right up front – I have very little experience with the other terminals there, so I’m not going to bother talking about them. This is all about Terminal F.

“Well gosh,” you might start to ask. “What makes Terminal F so bad? What makes it so much worse than Terminals A through E?”

I was hoping you’d ask that.

There are a multitude of sins that Terminal F commits, some of which are created simply by the function it serves. See, the only airline that Terminal F serves is US Airways Express, which means that all of the traffic arriving at (or departing from) Terminal F is from relatively short distances/flights. Basically, the Northeast.

Living in that region, I know that every time I fly into Philadelphia I can be sure that I’m going to arrive or depart from Terminal F.

In some ways, this is extremely convenient. After all, you can get used to a certain terminal – its layout, restaurants (more on that in a moment), and general feel. In another sense, it’s extremely maddening because you know you’re going to have to go to another terminal to catch your next flight. This wouldn’t be so bad in and of itself, except for the fact that when you cast your gaze from Terminal F toward the rest of the airport, you see this:

Yes, it’s so far removed that not even the laws of perspective apply.

What you should quickly realize in this factual rendition [Flash link] is that it’s virtually impossible to walk to the other terminals, and it’s actually impossible if you want to avoid going through Security again. So, in order to transfer to and from Terminal F, you must take the bus. Leaving Terminal F on the bus is a relatively easy affair (I suppose they feel at least some compassion for the poor, lost souls who are stranded there). But, taking the bus from Terminals A-E over to F will result in 1) A long line of people crowded in a small, cold, windy stairwell, 2) cramped space on the bus itself, 3) Waiting for at least ten minutes in the aforementioned stairwell.

The normal person, when faced with such obstacles, would think, “Well, I’ll just walk over.” Ah, but recall - about a half-mile walk, with a security checkpoint somewhere in between. There’s not even one of the fancy “moving walkways” that connect all the other terminals together – you’ve got to hoof it all the way.

So, the distance is considerable, the shuttle bus miserable, and the fact that you (I) always have to interact with Terminal F makes it a foreboding experience.

Let’s say that you next feel the pangs of hunger. Most likely, you will sigh when you discover that although Terminals A-E have some amazing restaurants, Terminal F is decidedly more limited.

  • A Sbarro.
  • A Chinese place.
  • A small sports bar.
  • A new Au Bon Pain.
  • 3 “newsstand”s of the sort that sell wilted deli sandwiches for $6.95.

Let’s look at the list of restaurants at just Terminals B & C, shall we?

I assure you that A, D, and E have even more, and this list is out of date (I saw a sign for Chik-Fil-A, which would’ve been awesome to have. Alas, it was Sunday, and in Terminal E, I think.). The food options are not only depressing and inadequate, but really in poor taste when you consider what the other terminals get access to without the need for bus transportation.

In Terminal F, you also have to suffer through the mundane idiots that lose all hope and become monosyllabic mouth-breathers. I sat next to one recently and, I swear on all that is holy and good in this world that I am not exaggerating (by much), his entire vocabulary consisted of “Mmm”, “H’yah”, “Awesome”, and “Man…”. It was dispiriting to know that he’s enrolled at Cornell.

At any rate, in case it hasn’t been abundantly clear to you yet: Terminal F gets the shaft by the Philadelphia International Airport, and it’s a rough place to have to spend several hours. Of course it’s not on the same scale as hell,… but it’s bad. The sad thing is that they built Terminal F 8 years ago. 8 freaking years ago. …and it still doesn’t have any decent restaurants! And you still can’t get there by walking! And it’s still cold!


But it’s all good, ‘cause if I’m there, it means I’m either on my way to somewhere fun and interesting, or on my way back home to somewhere safe and comforting.

So I guess it’s not all bad.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Responding to Authority

So, I got a ticket recently.

It happened a few Thursdays ago, when I headed back to church at about 9:45pm or so to double-check that a) the oven in the kitchen was turned off and b) the pizza that had been in the oven wouldn’t be a dried bit of crusty debris when I got there on Sunday morning. It wasn’t really in any danger of catching on fire, per se, but it’s better to be safe than sorry – right? Well, it turns out that the oven had been turned off (thanks Martin!), and I took the pizza out and shoved it in the freezer to save for another week.

On my way there, though, I got stopped by the police. (I almost just capitalized both “the” and “police”, to emphasize their importance, but then I realized it could be taken to mean that I was stopped by the 70s & 80s pop band. Sadly, they aren’t the ones who pulled me over.) Honestly, it really wasn’t that big of a deal. A few days beforehand (3?, 5?) I had noticed that one of my headlights was out. I mentally resolved to have it replaced when I got my car inspected this month, but didn’t worry about it again until I saw the red and blue flashing lights in my rear-view mirror that night.

I started to laugh, actually, as I pulled off to the side of the road. You’ve got to be kidding me, I thought. There’s no way I get pulled over for the headlight that’s been out for, like, three days. But, I hadn’t been speeding or anything, and so I knew that that was the reason. So I turned the engine off, rolled down my window, and turned on the interior light.

The officer that approached me was very nice, and he let me know right off the bat that, while he was going to give me a ticket, if I got the headlight replaced and got it signed off by a police officer within 30 days, the ticket fee would be waived.

You know what? That sounded like a really sweet deal to me.

I suppose you could scoff and argue and be all “What, do they have a quota or something? Why are they pulling people over just for broken headlights?” …but that’s not the issue. The issue is whether or not I was guilty, which I was; I broke the law. You’re supposed to have two, fully-functioning headlights. There are reasons for it, and while I’m sure you could argue against them, that’s the law, and I was in violation of it.

The officer was doing his job of enforcing the law, and whether I like it or not, when I got my driver’s license I agreed that I’d be in full compliance with that law. I agreed to it when I got my license, car, and insurance. But for some reason we’ve gotten really complacent in the way we treat authorities in our lives.

It’s like when I was in college. For a year, I was the RA of a “substance-free” floor. This basically meant that everyone, even 21+ year-olds, weren’t allowed to have alcohol (or cigarettes, etc.). That was the agreement you made when you signed the Residential Life contract. And yet, there were students throughout the year who violated that rule, got written up for it, and got upset for being written up. ::shrug:: What’s there to be angry at? You made the agreement when you signed on to the deal in the first place.

And so it is with all the authorities in your life, apart from your parents. Live in the U.S.? Then you have lots of freedoms, but still have to abide by national, state, and local laws (traffic or otherwise ;-) ). High school student? That’s great – you’re able to learn about a multitude of different subjects for basically free, and therefore have some rules imposed on you. College student? That’s awesome, but you still have to abide by whatever rules your college has that you agree upon when you become a student there. Work at a church or a camp? Same thing.

I bring this up because I spend more time than I should reading things online, and I’ve been consistently seeing this thread of, “Well, I disagree with this particular law, so I have the right to ignore it.” on all sorts of sites. This really bothers me (and sometimes convicts me). It bothers me because, frankly, it reeks of weaseling. And as someone who wants to live a life that honors God, that behavior- that kind of adolescent justification of “Well, uh… it’s not fair! I wanna, so I’m going to do it anyway!”- is not at all honoring to God, and it's not who I want to be. I hate to sound like it, but recently I’ve been feeling a lot like Danny Tanner or Cliff Huxtable (or any other TV dad), saying, “If you’re not going to abide by the rules of this house, then you can go find yourself another house!”

It seems harsh, but c’mon - in this country, they’re exactly right. We in the United States are gifted with the opportunities to go to school wherever we want, or travel and live wherever we want. We’re also blessed with the fact that if you don’t like the rules, you can peacefully protest and object through legislation and democratic processes. But, standing on the sidelines and saying, “It’s just wrong, man.”, and violating the rule anyway? Please. You know that’s not how society should work. It’s not the precedent set for us by God, and even when we’re in the process of breaking a law (speeding, anyone?), we feel it and know it’s wrong. I think we feel it because we know it’s hypocritical. It’s hypocrisy to agree to certain things and be protected in certain ways, but not “x”. And, if you’re really wanting to do “x”, shouldn’t you be willing to leave the comfort of whatever authority you’re under in order to do it? Hasn’t God said that He “opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble”? (James 4:6) Suck it up, throw away the pride of opposition, and be humble for a while under the authority in your life. I know it’s not popular, but whenever you’re tempted your answer should just be, “ ’x’ isn’t allowed here. And, while I may or may not agree with it, I’m under the authority of _____, and I will respect them.”

…if it turns out that I do have to pay a fine for my ticket, I’m going to do it gladly. The police force that may inconvenience me from time to time with a traffic ticket is the same police force that keeps me safe and enforces the rules that I, as a member of a democratic society, have chosen. Whining doesn’t make it any better, and acting as if the law doesn’t exist or doesn’t apply to me doesn’t make it better either. What makes it better is knowing that I’m honoring God with my decisions, and that with every decision I make, I’m learning more about Him and growing more into who He wants me to be, who I was created to be.


But that’s enough of that for now. Stay tuned soon for a post about a place in the eighth circle of Hell.