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Airports Do Have Certain Downsides

June 5th, 2022 by dk

I wrote last week about some of the ways that air travel  has improved since the pandemic slowed everything to a crawl. Everything I wrote was true, but it wasn’t the whole truth. The rosy picture I painted omitted a few thorns. Here are some of the prickly details I felt in my own personal downside.

You know it’s been a long time since you traveled when your suitcase zippers have all rusted in place. Did I store damp overcoats in the same closet? There’s no time for ruminating, and no time for switching suitcases. My travel clothes will smell like WD-40, but it  couldn’t be helped. (Vinegar works better, I learned too late.)

Once inside the airport, I begin reviewing my mental checklist: boarding pass, picture ID, empty pockets, and an important notion — a TSA agent may be having a bad day. Nothing about this has changed, except me. I’m not enjoying the adrenaline rush as much as I used to. Am I getting old or just feeling rusty, like those zippers?

Even in our cozy little airport, the freneticism and sensory overload envelopes me. I feel like I should hurry, just to fit in, even though I have plenty of time. I wonder who ever stops to look at those window displays? I have time, but I don’t take it. Once I get to the  seating area, I spread out and don’t want to lose my space to anyone else. So I sit.

I should have spent that time practicing typing on my phone, something I rarely do. Here comes the biggest change I noticed since two years ago and it won’t be limited to airports. Smart phones were first a luxury and then a convenience. Now they’re becoming a requirement.

Airlines and airports now assume you have a phone and you can use it. All in-flight entertainment will be shown on your screen, but only if you download their app before boarding. A local public library will lend you an e-book to read. Just scan the poster’s QR code to “get started.” (If you’re over 60, those two words are a warning.)

As we’re boarding for the Virgin Islands, gate attendants announce they accept only digital boarding passes, and that the QR code must be green. Color-coded QR? Mine is the wrong color! I have to fill out an extensive web form — on my phone — while the intercom lady counts down my missed flight fate.

I can’t complete the form quickly enough. Now what? “You have to get a COVID test. All the details are on this poster.” But the poster has no details, except the word “Details” followed by a QR code. I line up for the test. No attendant, but another QR code, another form to fill out, producing another QR code that the first human I see scans with a smile.

They text me my test results 30 minutes later. I rebook my flight for tomorrow. Now I need a hotel room. That involves another app and another brief form. I call the hotel for its shuttle, which arrives 55 minutes later. I might have hailed an Uber instead, had I known the wait time and if my typing thumbs weren’t begging for a break.

The hotel has no menus for local restaurants, but there’s a QR code that promises updated dining information. The Gideon Bible in the drawer is still old-school, but I wonder for how much longer.

I’ve been home for over a week now, but I’m still getting reminders that I didn’t properly complete one form on my phone. To resume my application, click here. I fear more QR codes await me. Let’s not “get started.”


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday and Sunday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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