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.