THE AIRPORT GATE APPROACH TO REOPENING RACES
You arrive at the appropriate gate for your flight about an hour before scheduled take-off full of excitement for your impending trip with your small carry-on knapsack and laptop computer in tow. As you take a seat near the window, and as close as you can be to the flight information desk as possible without looking like the guy who will soon pester the first person in an airline uniform to walk by, you start the process of profiling the people you will be sharing the entire waiting/flight experience with, placing everyone in their Breakfast Club categories in your head. At this point, the gate is not yet full as there is still ample time before boarding will commence and all seems pretty tame and in fine order. The only source of very minor concern or stress is when someone vacates one of the coveted phone/laptop charging stations and several passengers pretend not to rush as they two-step their way to the empty power outlets.
Things remain as such until the airline ticket people arrive at the little desk near the entrance to the jetway. Instantly, the tension in the room escalates to the point where it is palpable. Passengers now resemble Pac-Man trying to find the most efficient path to where the front of the line to board the aircraft will eventually be. The very moment the airline employees fire up their computers and display the flight information on the screens above their heads (a full 45 minutes before the plane is scheduled to depart and often before there is even an aircraft attached to the building at the gate), passengers begin to line up next to the jetway. Now, most of the rest of us waiting patiently in our seats give a condescending shake of the head as we cast a superior side glance at these poor, uncivilized sheep who are incapable of being patient. We shake our heads and look knowingly at each other, wordlessly communicating our collective derision towards the herds lining up.
As the minutes tick away, many more people begin to lose an inner battle to remain superior to the crowd in line. They cannot help thinking about how quickly the overhead bins fill up on the plane and start to fret that there will be no storage real estate left if the line of people is permitted to board before them. One by one they succumb like leaves falling in Autumn. They know, as they hurry their children to grab their belongings and shoulder the many carry-ons they are aware surpass the limit allowed by the airline, that what they are doing is stupid and makes no sense. They are fully aware that they are acting irrationally and in an uncivilized fashion, but they just cannot help themselves. They simply must get in line.
You continue to sit there in bitter judgement, shaking your head and sighing at the betrayal of common sense that is occurring en masse right before your eyes. You even click your tongue against your cheek audibly in complete disapproval all the while wrestling with the terrifying thought that perhaps today is the day the airline will abandon its policy of boarding the aircraft in an orderly fashion by sections clearly indicated on the boarding card of every passenger with a letter of the alphabet assigned to each zone. This process has been carefully studied and planned in such a way as to avoid the very scene that is unfolding before you nevertheless.
Finally, with a full 30 minutes to go before boarding is scheduled to begin, and despite the reassuring announcements by the airline crew that it is futile to be in line at the moment as they will be boarding by ZONE, the queue is now 9000 mindless vacationers long, snaking its way back through the duty-free plaza and almost all the way to the TSA security checkpoint.
I am the guy who waits. It isn’t easy, I assure you. It is very similar to trying to pee while running in a close race. The mind control uses up all capacity for any other conscious thought to occur. I feel the same way right now as I surf through all of the social media platforms reading all of the desperate triathletes leaping to sign up for races that have yet to be cancelled. They post with blind hope that their goal race will surely still happen (knowing, in moments of secret honesty, that these races probably should not occur). “Of course it will”, they type. “Why wouldn’t it? There are only three cases of COVID in <place location of race here>”.
Everyone needs to settle down and accept that 2020 will likely not happen in the world of large scale triathlon. Go train. Enjoy swimming, biking, running because you enjoy it. Race yourself if you have to. I get that you’re dying to race for real, I am too. But, we need to remember that people are dying for real by the hundreds out there. Rejoice in the fact that you can still ride your bike and lace up your running shoes. Celebrate your health because there are may people who are not that fortunate.
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