Putting the Flyer in Radio Flyer™

The Eugene Airport will fall just shy of a million passengers served in 2016. If the Ducks had landed in a warm-weather football bowl game, that boost may have taken EUG into that prized seventh digit. It won’t happen this year, but as the football team has been saying since Halloween, there’s always next year.

Anyone who spends a lot of time in airports can tell you what a treasure we have on our northwest outskirts. If you know what you’re doing, you can avoid the industrial stretches of Highway 99, so that visitors get a more bucolic first impression of our area. (Willie Taggart, if you haven’t learned these back roads to steer recruits and their families through farmland, call me.)

The airport will take its next quantum leap when they get a nibble on the bait of an adjoining conference hotel. That hasn’t happened yet, but there’s always next year. In the meantime, we should appreciate what we have. Which is a wonderfully well designed, compact, accessible airport.

I don’t know who to thank for the two-story gate structure. If there’s a better escalator-centric design for any structure in the world, I’d be happy to know about it. That single innovation prevents the plague that visits every other airport I can think of — sprawl.

Most airports spread themselves out so generously, a typical passenger may have to walk the length of a 747’s runway to get from the ticket counter to their departure gate. Connecting flights in any of these airports require passengers to walk so far they should be awarded a half-marathon T-shirt.

Between any two points, there’s nothing in between except thousands of people watching you and wondering whether you’ll make it, wherever and whatever “it” may be. And then when you arrive, assuming you have any spare time, you become one of the geometrically impossible middle people, watching others hurrying to their endpoints, wondering whether they will make it, wherever and whatever “it” may be.

It’s as if we’re all living inside a spirograph of dashes between endpoints. Each of us draws the straightest line we can, but we know it must somehow be less or different than that. It would add some comfort if we knew that our curves and others’ combined into some sort of picture that delights somebody somewhere.

Alas, we can’t be sure of that. Meantime, I have a backup plan to propose.

We should color our ubiquitous rollerbags red, and paint black circles on the sides. We then should add a long metal bar with a handle at the end, that can be tucked into the bag when hoisting it into the overhead compartment.

Do you see where I’m going with this? If not, you’ll be like the thousands who will be watching you tow this red roller through airports.

I’d recommend emblazoning these red bags with a Radio Flyer™ logo, except for the copyright infringement. This is in fact what we’re all doing. Beneath our parading self-importance, we’re silently amazed that we can carry so much stuff — so much important stuff! — around with us. That quiet comfort that we have everything we need traces itself back to our third-grade selves.

We’re all pulling our wagons to feel important. And for those moments when we’re unsure, that stuff in the wagon puts the importance back. Those scary fourth-graders have nothing on us!

Nobody says a word to anybody they don’t know in an airport. Yet it’s the safest social setting most people ever inhabit. Between gate and terminal, it’s a lock-down. Nobody got in without being screened for identity and weapons. Nobody can get out without passing another security checkpoint.

Everybody’s safe — or trapped. Either way, we should have an easier time talking to one another. An airport terminal is really a stuck elevator without the claustrophobia. Red wagon rollerbags could be the joke that gets people talking to strangers.

Many of us remember the awe we felt the first time we flew. Radio Flyer™ flying could invite us and others back to that childlike wonder.

==

Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs