Terminal Time

The phrase, “Terminal Time” has a dire sound, but as the photo below should make clear, this post is not about terminal illness. It’s about terminal, as in airports; not the end of life, but the end of patience.

Neon passageway, O'Hare Airport, 2013 by Nicola. CC By 2.0

Neon passageway, O’Hare Airport, 2013 by Nicola. CC By 2.0

The subject comes from the WordPress Daily Prompt for June 10, You’re at the airport, your flight is delayed for more than six hours, and none of your electronic devices are working. How do you pass the time?

Like millions of others, I’ve been there on several occasions. I think I was still in my teens the first time I got snowed in at O’Hare. Since Chicago’s airport has been the scene of my most dramatic delays, let’s imagine what we can do there to pass the time in an unwired kind of way.

1) Buy a paperback. This almost goes without saying, but since most airport bookstores don’t carry Moby Dick, here is a chance to indulge our guilty pleasures, whatever they may be. No one blames you for reading trash when you’re stuck at O’Hare.

2) Walk or ride the escalator through the neon passageways. If you’re with a companion, one of you can say, “Whoa, dude!” and the other can reply, “Psycedelic!”

3) Eat something. O’Hare has a huge variety, from cinnabuns, to Big Macs, to build-your-own-salads. Go to a bar if it suits you, but before you dip into the beer nuts, remember the opening scene of Contagion, with Gwenneth Paltrow doing just that.

4) Work a puzzle. Mary and I spent a happy hour doing that on the ground in Philadelphia last summer. She is crossword fan, with much experience and several dictionaries. I know lots of nerd expressions and assorted trivia, so we compliment each other.

5) People watch #1: Spot an interesting character and work out the plot of your next (or first) novel.

6) People watch #2: Figure which of your fellow travelers are aliens, as in Men In Black extra-terrestrials. Like the woman I saw with a dog in a pink tutu. This is true! She was talking to the dog, who looked absolutely miserable, while everyone tried to look away. I’m sure the dog came from a more intelligent planet than its owner.

7) Walk around. What a concept! You’ll feel better, and if you decide to be brisk, you can even get in some aerobics to work off those pizza slices.

8) Practice meditation. It’s a challenge to stay focused when you’re tired, annoyed and distracted, but that makes it interesting for brief periods of time.

9) Buy a notebook and write your next blog post longhand. Soon enough you’ll get your smartphone recharged.

10) If you’re gregarious, strike up a conversation. I’ve mentioned a few opening line suggestions like,  “Snow sucks, huh?”  Or, “Psychedelic!”  Or, “That poor dog. I hate tutus!”

You get the idea, and I’m sure you can add many more of your own. Maybe this post will help someone during the summer travel season. Now all I have to do is hope the lords of karma are kind, and I won’t have to eat my own cooking anytime soon!

4 thoughts on “Terminal Time

  1. 1. Sketch the architecture — perhaps add design improvements
    2. Offer to draw charicatures of other passengers for money — you don’t have to be any good, but get your money up-front
    3. Place a hat or other receptacle in front of you, put in a couple of coins, sit on your case and start drumming rhythmically — someone will either pay you to stop or offer to take you to a private room under escort
    4. With a friend practise your ball-passing skills (a small bag will do) while dodging around other passengers — everyone likes admiring such skills and will join in enthusiastically
    5. Stand by the arrivals gate with a large sign labelled with the name of a celebrity currently in the news and see how many onlookers you can amass craning their necks to see said celeb — then quietly sneak away and see how long the resulting crowd stands expectantly (this could become a recognised competitive sport)

    I have plenty more suggestions like these…


  2. I may be late to the party, but I am so glad I got around to reading this one. First, while you and Mary may compliment each other while doing crosswords, more than likely you really complement each other as well. I love your list. I love calmgrove’s list. I love hearing about the episode of Married…with Children, which I never watched, but maybe I should have. My daughter and I would often people watch and make up our own life stories for the interesting ones. We could probably be sued for the things we think up. I always have real books with me where ever I go, so I don’t have to pay for trashy books. The ones I take with me are pretty trashy already, so I’m not being a snob here. I just carry disposable books — the kind I know I’ll never read again and am willing to leave behind. (Greg Iles top my list of travel books, but all have murder and mayhem in common.) I always have a notebook and mechanical pencils, but honestly don’t do I lot of writing in those situations, but now and again it happens. Thanks for a fun post.


    • Well, when I was studying psychology, there was one woman from North Carolina, who would sit out on the porch after lunch, reading romance novels with bodice-ripper covers. Of course most of us were trying to be sophisticated and some of the other women would question her tastes, but she’d grin, and in her southern drawl say, “I Luvvvv my trashy novels!” I always hear her when I use that phrase…


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