Somewhere about 35,000 feet over the Gulf of Alaska Thursday, I earned MVP status on Alaska Air. Which is the first time I've ever done that. I guess flying from Anchorage to Orlando and back, flying from Anchorage to Chicago and back, flying from Anchorage to Honolulu and back and then to Portland in about 7 months is enough to get you some serious miles racked up. So all the nice benefits that brings me aside, it also means that I've spent a lot of time in airports this past year as well as going into and out of them.
I'll tell you right now, SeaTac is winning my favorite airport award. If I had such an award, of course. Why? Free wifi, decent restaurants (even if overpriced, all airport restaurants are overpriced), a place I can get a pedicure and manicure, and the fact that their TSA types haven't yet patted me down.
On that last criteria? I'm not kidding. I get patted down. A LOT. If I were the paranoid type, I'd decide that the main reason this is happening is because if TSA agents pick an occasional strawberry blonde out of the lineup for her "long flowing skirts" they can claim they aren't racial profiling individuals who come from cultures with higher modesty standards than apparently most of the US follows. And it's not that I'm really objecting to the pat-down as I'd like my flight not to be interrupted for security issues. What I'm objecting to is the thought that I might be the beard in this situation: I don't like being used so somebody can claim they're not behaving badly.
I'd also like to know what the exact length or tightness the skirt needs to be before you cross the TSA modesty line: my fave ankle-length dark green mermaid-cut skirt has gotten me patted down twice at at Anchorage, but not at San Diego, Anchorage, or Kona. My calf-length grey jersey full skirt has gotten me patted down at Portland but not Anchorage. And my hot pink lower calf-length circle skirt has gotten me patted down at Ft. Wayne but not O'Hare. But I suppose I'd be mad if they made some sort of arbitrary rule about the skirt must be 3" above the ankle and at full extension the hem must be less than 36" in circumference or some insanity like that.
At any rate, for the aforementioned reasons, SeaTac is coming in first. Portland would have been a close tie, except for the TSA pat-down which, I note, was the first time I've not had the offer of some privacy for the event, but was also done with me blocking the detector and holding up an already elongated line of people trying to get through so nobody would walk off with their bags that were already through the xray machine and awaiting retrieval. Not even the presence of a Powell's branch store that carried used as well as new books and a snack shop that carried my favoritest ever obscure line of red licorice was enough to mitigate that TSA rudeness.
Losing? At the moment, no clear answer there. I'm rather annoyed with O'Hare and Honolulu as I am a left coast girl and the thought of a major airport where people get stuck on layovers for goodly periods of time forcing people to pay for wifi access tends to make me a little crazy. Really, if Ft. Wayne, IN can manage to provide WiFi for users, the bigger airports should be able to figure it out. And no size arguments there, because SeaTac has it figured out too. Most of the Kona waiting areas are outside (what do those people do in a downpour?) so maybe that's their reason for not having wifi, but it's still kind of annoying. Honolulu is doing rather badly in the contest: I haven't gone through security there, but between the for-pay wifi and what seemed like an interminable march from the main terminal to the one where the inter-island flights are hosted accompanied by a strange lack of directional signs to guide you, not so much. And Anchorage's wifi isn't enough to make up for the TSA dislike of my favorite--and extraordinarily comfortable for traveling--skirt.
So, there you have it. My completely arbitrary and random evaluations of airports. Ironically enough, now that I've hit MVP status I've pretty much had it for traveling. Here's hoping I get some energy back and somebody decides they really do need to bring me to Bellingham, Atlanta, DC, Seattle and other places to teach my archives job-seeking workshop next year. To educate people on this issue, I'll even tolerate a clumsy pat-down. Now, that's dedication to my topic.