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Vermont Part 4: 14 Reasons why LaGuardia Is Hella Better Than JFK

When we left me on the long, long, log, long LONG road to Vermont, I had just landed at JFK airport in New York City. I had never been before. I always go to LaGuardia. And truthfully? I have become bored of the story, having told it to my mother, Karen, Lydia, Sara, Jill etc etc at a volume I can only described as “125-decibel-enraged” on the phone. So, instead of retelling it, I am going to screw with the form to entertain myself. Here I present to you the titular list…

14 Reasons why LaGuardia Is Hella Better Than JFK

Inside the WOWZA bar. I could live there.

1) When you land at LaGuardia, you see it’s express food mart carries all four kinds of Zingerman’s candy bars. I have never found them ANYWHERE else, although I hear Star Provisions on Howell Mill Road in Atlanta has them.

Granted, when you go to buy one, the counter person looks at you like you are an idiot and says, “That costs five dollars. Do you still want it?” and when you say, “YES OF COURSE I WOULD PAY DOUBLE THAT, PLEASE REMIT CANDY,” they look at you like you are insane because you can get a Twix for a buck, and you know they have never tasted one of these babies. “Have one of these instead of five Twixes,” you want to say. “You can cut it into five little squares and make it last because it is so perfect.”

(My New Year’s Resolution is to not waste calories or my mouth on eating crappy chocolate. )

2) When you land at JFK, you see people who have been living there for three days, trapped by snow. They do not smell good. Some are sprawled on the floor near the Starbucks, sleeping with their heads stuffed inside their puffy coats. Some have gone completely feral, lurking in a hunch in the corners, gnawing things that might be a stale S’Barro crust, but might also be the rib bone of a former travelling companion. Everyone is grumpy.

3) At LaGuardia, if you are going to catch a different flight, you get off the plane and go get the other flight. If you are not sure about gates or times, someone will tell you. Sometimes? They smile as they tell you, and they say things like, “Thanks for flying with us! Have a great trip!”

4) At JFK, your connecting flight is cancelled. All Delta flights are cancelled. You are herded onto a stand-up bus with a BUNCH of French people who have no idea what is happening either and who can only ask, over and over again, in French…something. I don’t speak French. But based on the terrifyingly grim face made by the employee driving us, you suspect the French are asking, plaintively, “Are you dragging us away to kill us?” He does not answer.

The bus lurches across an ACTIVE RUNWAY (Bumper sticker: We break for PLANES! Because God knows they do not break for US. Hey! Let’s drive in front of some!) while you cling screaming to a pole, and the bus eventually deposits you at an empty, dun colored hallway where no one tells you why you have been taken here or what to do next. There are no Delta or airport employees at all, actually, except the standing-up bus driver, who immediately screeches away to rustle up another load of Frenchmen.

5) Airports are the one place I feel it is not immoral to eat things from chain restaurants. I often get those Southwest Eggrolls I like at LaGuardia’s Chili’s Too.

6) At JFK, in the strange empty buff colored hallway where the bus has deposited you, you walk and walk and lose the Frenchmen, who are standing in LINE in front of a counter that has NO ONE BEHIND IT.

EVENTUALLY you find more hallways and people, so you dig up a JFK employee and tell him your travel agent has called and you NOW have a seat on a Jet Blue flight and you need to go find that, and so he kindly ushers you through a door, ostensibly to HELP you, but you realize he has put you outside of the security area, and you will have to go back through either the Porn Scanner or have a quasi-sexual encounter with, yes, ANOTHER grim faced female TSA employee who looks about as thrilled to be grappling around in your crotch as she might be if someone asked her to put her hand in a heap of freshly extracted human teeth. You are JUST as excited as she is by this procedure, and you are a little sorry you do NOT have any naturally occurring deadly weapons secreted in your hoo-ha, just to give her something to find there, because no matter how long she digs around in your pants she is NOT going to recover her lost dignity. Or yours.

Your dignity is at LaGuardia, probably. Alas, you can’t have that thrilling encounter yet because you are at the number TWO terminal. You need to get to the FIVE terminal to make your Jet Blue Flight.

7) This one time? At LaGuardia? I met Hulk Hogan and we had drinks and discussed all the parallels my beloved mentor in grad school, Dr. Natalie Crohn Schmitt, found between medieval religious cycle plays and the characters and storylines that played out in the heyday of the WWF. Or, you know, I thought about one of Dr. Schmitt’s articles on that subject while I pretended to text Karen and surreptitiously snapped a blurry picture of him with my cell phone. One of those.

Either way, it was at LaGuardia. NOT JFK.

8 ) This one time? AT JFK? I met an airport employee, and every time I asked him for directions to the number FIVE terminal, he would begin to speak and turn his back completely me on me and point in a direction, so that I could not hear anything he was saying. When I said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t hear you when you turn your back on me to point. I see the way you are pointing. Can you just tell me what you are saying while facing me?” He rolled his eyes impatiently and turned his back to repeat his completely unintelligible directions in an ANGRY voice while pointing emphatically.

9) LaGuardia is SMALL. I know where everything is there. To navigate LaGuardia, you walk on your feet from the place you are to the place you want to be.

10) JFK is HUGE, and eventually you will learn that to go from Terminal 2 to terminal 5, you have to take a thing called an AIRTRAIN that doesn’t work.

HOW YOU LEARN THIS:
When you say: How can I get from terminal 2 to terminal 5?

The airport employees say: You take the airtrain.

So you say: Okay, where is the airtrain?

They say: It isn’t running.

So then you say: SO how do I get to terminal 5?

They say: Well you should have had your taxi drop you there because now you can’t get there.

Actual Road I walked down seeking terminal five, or possibly Mount Doom in Mordor

You say: Well, but I was not in a taxi. I was INSIDE terminal 2 and an airport employee helpfully put me out here as if I were a wet dog trying to scratch myself against his pricey horsehair sofa. SO! Since I am here NOW, how can I get to terminal 5?

They say: Well, you can’t get there from here.

You say: That’s insane. Of course I can. These buildings are located in time and space here at this airport. I need to find terminal FIVE. Not Brigadoon. There must be a way there.

They say: Not really.

You know, YOU KNOW, That. Is. Crazy. There MUST be a way. SO you see a door leading to some NATURE of the snowy variety, and you stagger OUT of the airport into what you suspect is Queens and begin stomping up a road with Taxis and other vehicles angrily fighting for room on it.

You trudge in the snow on the side of the road wearing your wet, freezing MBT athletic shoes, and you wish—quite bitterly—that your hawt new snow boots were not in your luggage that you realize DELTA still has here at JFK and you have no idea how Jet Blue or Vermont will ever get it. You stomp on and on and you find TERMINAL THREE, which seems hopeful.

Actual Mayan drawing of the line at JFK. The line looks smug.

You keep going and going and going, and ignore the WRONG WAY SIGNS. EVENTUALLY you stagger into Terminal Five, and you stand in a line that seems to have, like Ouroboros, swallowed its own tail and to wind its way all the way around the earth with no end and no beginning. EVENTUALLY, having been chosen AGAIN for extra screening, you get your Being Felt Up By A Wand over with and get inside the correct terminal, and DASH through the crowds of feral cannibals to your gate with 24 minutes to spare only to see your flight has been delayed by 2 hours.

11) At LaGuardia, when you are stranded, they cancel your flight and you get a Taxi and go to your friend Karen’s house and call in for take out from the good Indian place and watch all the HBO programming you never get to see on demand.

12) At JFK, they just keep pushing the flight back a couple of hours, EVEN THOUGH EVERY OTHER FLIGHT EXCPET FOR TWO HAVE BEEN CANCELLED. There is nothing to do but find your fellow stranded VCFA faculty and students and begin drinking. Everyone is leaving the airport to go to hotels because ALL THE FLIGHTS ARE CANCELLED, but not yours.

The waiter wants to get in the pants of the girl behind the bar and also he has many important phone calls to make, so even though you order the NEXT cocktail the second he brings the first one, it takes over an hour and you getting up TWICE to go dig him out of the bartender’s cleavage before a second drink will wend its frosty way to you. You will drink in absent-waiter fueled fits and starts for close to ten hours as your flight gets pushed back and pushed back and pushed back.

They cancel it after midnight.

13) LaGuardia is a fun word to say. LaGuardia LaGuardia LaGuardia!

14) JFK… isn’t.

At this point you wash your hands of JFK, you rustle up a Taxi, you head to the closest Best Western style inn, and you sleep off your meager and hard won cups of soothing alcohol while wearing all your only clothes, having scrubbed at your teeth with a hotel toothbrush, so in the morning you can rent a car and DRIVE to Vermont which you should have done in the first place, which you will always do, actually, before you will ever set foot in the Bowels of Hell, AKA JFK, again.

When you fly home? You go through LaGuardia, and even though they are fresh out of WOWZA! the best of all the Zingerman’s candy bars, you forgive them, you forgive them, you forgive them. You eat a Ca$hew Cow, and you forgive them.

You go home.

19 comments to Vermont Part 4: 14 Reasons why LaGuardia Is Hella Better Than JFK

  • Aimee

    Ew. JFK sounds like LAX. I **hate** LAX with a white-hot passion. Bleargh.

    I’m not sure how you manage to make travel hell so damn funny, but you do it every time. Perhaps it is because you are so pretty?

  • diane

    I was in six different airports in eight days back in November. I wasn’t looking forward to Hartsfield, but it was the Minneapolis airport that put me over the edge. Minnesota niceness? Not so much.

    Off to see if Zingerman’s has an on-line outlet…

  • You have just made me go order one of each of the 4 flavors of Zingerman’s candy bars online because they apparently do not have a single store that sells them in all of Virginia ARE YOU HAPPY NOW? I hope so because I am :) They will be here in a week!

    I have only ever flown through JFK one time (okay, twice if you count both the going and the coming on the same trip), and I had zero problems, but it is apparently one of the most hated airports of all time for most people. My personal most hated airports are Newark and Philadelphia as I have never evereverevereverever had a postitive or even neutral experience in either one. But now I know to try to go through LaGuardia if ever I have to fly through NY again. So thanks for that!

  • Kim

    WOW! You most certainly did use up all the good travel karma on that first leg of your trip. But thank goodness for the good chocolate on the way home. And, now, you can enjoy your lovely snowboots in your own Georgia snow, which miserably is keeping me and my small ones stuck in the house.

  • Jill W.

    SOOOO going to order some of those candy bars. They sound yummy!

    Sorry you had such a bad experience.

  • JFK is the Devil’s Airport, and the endless, labyrinthine corridors to nowhere don’t help. LaGuardia is superior in every way. Except that the best airline from Vancouver to NYC doesn’t go there and only goes to JFK. That is its only flaw.

  • Haley

    I have been through many, many airports because I went on research trips as a poor college student and had to get flights with multiple layovers because they were cheap. In all my many, many experiences, the Atlanta airport is by far the most organized and easiest to navigate. Nobody ever believes me when I tell them this, but it is true; there is one security line and a simple internal train system that takes you to every single terminal. Philadelphia is the worst, unless they have renovated or something. When I was there, basically all of the boards with flight info were out and I had no idea where to go because there were no signs. It was not helpful. Heathrow is the most shopping-friendly. It is basically a mall with an airport attached. Amsterdam has the tightest security in the universe, even before that bomber went through. I was stranded there in a snowstorm and was randomly asked for my passport and ticket at least three times while walking around, and they won’t let you buy anything except on the day of your flight, which isn’t really a problem except when you are there for a day and a half in a snowstorm and need to buy Dutch Christmas ornaments for your mother. They make you go through two levels of security there so you think you are done with the first one and go and buy all of the bottles water necessary to sustain you for your trip, but then you have to throw it all away when you get to the gate and have to go through more security.

  • I flew into LaGuardia from Raleigh-Durham and while I wandered about looking for the correct baggage carousel, I came to a sign that said something to the effect of “Do not accept unsolicited offers of transportation.” As I was digesting this bit of wisdom, a man walks up, stands next to said “CAUTION” sign that is very large and printed with GIANT letters and offers me a ride that I was NOT LOOKING FOR! It was rather comical and the man probably wondered why I laughed in his face like that.

  • Kathy

    *wince* What a horrible experience!

  • I was one of those smelly, feral people at JFK. But in Terminal 4, so I probably didn’t snatch at you with y overgrown claws or anything.

  • Brigitte

    I don’t like flying, but I find the airports just as terrifying (if not more so) than the actual planes.

  • Huh. Didn’t know Zang bars would work as currency out of state. I’ll take a crate with me when I go to Phoenix in April. (I, lucky girl that I am, live in Zingerman’s land and have SEEN the blessed stainless steel counter top where said candy bars are hand formed. I even pass them up at the grocery, because I know they’ll be there next time.)

  • edj

    I HATE JFK WITH A WHITE HOT PASSION AND LOTS OF SCREAMING CAPITAL LETTERS! Ahem, calming down now, where’s my martini when I need it? I have had many bad experiences there when flying from Africa (clue: they hate people flying in from Africa, and suspect you of many wrongs, and always tag you for extra time spent with them). At one point, the only way to go between two terminals was to go outside with all your luggage, 10 pieces of it between 5 of us, and laden carts, and toddler twins, and cross busy new york streets streaming with traffic and cursing drivers and all.
    So glad you made it safely through!

  • I’m on the fence here, Joshilyn, because I totally hate that someone as pretty and cute-butted as your fantastic self gets into these HORRIFIC situations, but on the other hand, I yearn for life to deposit COMIC GOLD into your lap so I can read about it here.

    Then again, I enjoy reading about The Chirruping Chipmunk From Hell just as much as I revel in JFK: The Airport From Hell…and I suspect you enjoy being at home MUCH more than ferally airport roaming!!!

  • Mit

    I think someone secretly wants all of us who travel to become feral animals.

    And Haus – you might want to re-think chocolate in Az. in April. One year my lovely mother mailed me an Easter mug w/chocolate. When it reached me it was chocolate soup with tin-foil croutons.

    So I chastised her – and then flew home with chocolate in my carry-on luggage. AKA known as the chocolate smeared computer bag. *le sigh* Just walking from the terminal to my car was too much. :(

    Joss – yikes. Remind me I’ll always MEET you somewhere and fly as your companion! So glad you made it home for Sno-a-thon 2011.

  • Michelle-who-is-Shelley

    That story was worth the wait. I especially loved the image of the Frenchmen standing in line at a counter with nobody behind it.

    I also firmly agree that if you are going to eat chocolate, eat the good stuff. For me it is “Milka” chocolate from Switzerland or Germany (it is sold in the “international foods” section of my grocery store).

  • rams

    So I’m reading this and thinking “Huh, Zingerman’s. Funny that a New York candymaker would have the same name as that Ann Arbor, Michigan bakery. Huh.” So finally I go to their website.

    Two hour drive. Except that they carry them downtown here — seven minutes if the traffic’s bad.

    I’d better hate these, or you are in such trouble.

  • Miss Shell

    My husband attended grad school in Ann Arbor, MI, and introduced me to the wonder that is Zinngerman’s. The last time we visited, I forced him to stop by so that we could buy lots of yummy things to bring home with us. I then demonstrated ungodly will power by not eating all of said goodies before we got home. Have you ever traveled six hours with the mouthwatering smell of fresh baked bread wafting up from the back seat of your car? Torture! If you like the candy bars, you should definitely order a loaf of their Chocolate Cherry bread. It is pricey, but most certainly worth it.