Dear Reader,

Things can get overwhelming pretty quickly. Have you ever been to the JFK airport? I swear to you it is just a busy as the New York City itself. So many people, so many noises from the thrum of machinery to the cackles and shouts from the masses. I am traveling today from Boston to Moscow to participate in a short program (more on that here). I am writing now from a restaurant called “Local” in Terminal 1, waiting for my flight to depart. To get here I had to take the Air Train from Terminal 4, where I landed and go through security all over again. While this is pretty standard airport protocol, the atmosphere at JFK made this an ordeal.

For one, the signage (or lack thereof) at JFK can be confusing. When I landed, I had to walk pretty far until I saw a flight status board listing upcoming departures. When I confronted the board, I did not see my connecting flight to Moscow. This didn’t surprise me, because I was pretty sure that my connection would leave from another terminal, however, I could not find out how to leave terminal 4. Finally, I asked someone at a help desk, and she directed me by telling me to go to a certain point, go down the escalator and ask another guard for directions…. If only we had better signs! At least I was not running to make a connection or else I would have been very frustrated.

JFK Terminal 4, NYC, NY, fall 2019

After taking the AirTrain, I finally made it to Terminal 1 and the TSA agents were pretty testy. By the start of the line to the security checkpoint stood 2 agents. Rather than directing people where to go, it seemed that their main purpose was to tell people to not stand by the line, rather move towards the walls. In loud voices they would say “You can’t stand here, move back!” I feel that this outburst could have been warranted had there been a sign that said, “no standing,” but, of course, there was no such sign, this is JFK.

In the line for security, I was standing behind a group of Chinese citizens (I saw their passports). The lady TSA agent had no mercy on these gentlemen. The agent repeatedly and aggressively raised her voice at a man telling him to remove everything from his pockets and raise his hands. The man clearly did not understand what she was saying and her loud tone forceful gestures made the man almost freeze, which upset the agent further as the man was not following her orders.

I feel bad for TSA agents, I can’t imagine that they enjoy saying the same things over and over all day to uninterested people. I’m pro-employment, however I wonder what it would be like if the security process were all automated. Would it be more efficient? Would traveler satisfaction improve? Is it really worth it to have angry people doing these jobs? I’m not trying to be judgmental; I just imagine that people who enjoy their jobs generally do better at it. I wonder what percentage of TSA agents at JFK are “very satisfied” with their daily routines. Perhaps too little.

This whole process from touch down to passing through security took almost 90 minutes!! I am now nervous for my return flight home in which my layover is only 2 hours long (and I will have to go through customs).

Like NYC, I find JFK to be a big, unfriendly beast. Perhaps it is just too big for its own good. Either way, Dear Reader, I’m glad that my stop here is just a part of the journey rather than the destination.

The next time I blog it will be from Russia! Do skoro vstrechi! Until we meet soon!



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