Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The loudness of American airports

As soon as you arrive in the United States from overseas, people are yelling at you. First, they’re telling you which queues to use depending on which passport you have. Somehow, the printed signage doesn’t suffice, though I have a hard time believing that uniformed officers quickly barking orders at people is of much use to a foreign-language speaker.

Get through that and, if you need to transfer flights, it’s right onto baggage recheck and then into a security queue were TSA agents are loudly rolling off many rules to follow. Shoes off. Jackets off. Computers out. It’s not the first time most people have done this, but screens and signs indicating what to do are not enough. I don’t know how people who aren’t American can even understand what’s said most of the time.

And then there are the televisions with the talking heads arguing with each other. And the endless “This is a security announcement…” announcements blaring over that.

Airports in Europe aren’t without their own quirks and stresses, but the first thing I appreciate when arriving in Europe on a flight from the United States is the relative difference in sound and tension. Walk off the plane. Find your way using the signage. Walk. Go through passport control without a stream of words yelled at you.

My favorite airport to arrive into from the States right now is Munich. It feels like a sanctuary. It’s almost too quiet.

I’m generalizing, of course. Every airport and every country has its own quirks. Berlin Schönefeld, for example, is an absolute chaotic disaster for a northern European airport. But, the next time you go between countries, listen.

Notice the difference. Enjoy the difference.