Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Five Things About San Francisco: #4 San Francisco's Airport is Messed Up

I've flown in and out of San Francisco Airport 30-40 times now and I've gotten to know the airport pretty well. Once in a while, I've flown into Oakland too, but that's only if someone has told me that the world will end unless I fly JetBlue, because I hate JetBlue and flying into Oakland is a huge pain. Actually before I delve into the mess that must have been designed by a moron on crack at SFO, I'll talk a little about Oakland. The thing about Oakland is that everything looks like it's in a sketchy neighborhood, with rusted metal, dilapidated houseds, and industrial warehouses as far as the eye can see. It looks pretty uninviting. The low hanging clouds casting a grey shadow over everything doesn't help. How does this city (if you can call it that) have a professional baseball team? I've even heard the stadium sucks (the SF Giants stadium, on the other hand, is beautiful and kicks ass). It looks like a morgue and the players posters are like smiley face stickers stuck on a coffin.

At least SFO is in a semi-nice area down on the peninsula. It's near the town of Millbrae which has about a million Chinese dim sum places along with hordes of tour buses of Chinese tourists who seem to come to San Francisco to just eat their own food in a different country. Maybe it's an Asian thing. I know my parents usually like to only eat Korean food whenever we travel and we scour the entire town wherever we are for a temple to bulgogi and kimchi. Anyhow, traveling into SFO is like going through the labyrinth from Greek mythology. You have no idea where you're going. Signs to the same place are pointing in opposite directions, and if you ask, you'll probably get the wrong directions. And you have to walk what seems like miles past dangerous obstacles to get anywhere.

As soon as you land, the adventure starts. As you taxi on the runway, you realize that the pilot landed with about 6 inches left on the runway. After that, there's a gorge that makes the Grand Canyon look like a stream. I can only imagine what the pilot is thinking when he takes off. He's probably praying that he has enough momentum to lift off before the runway disappears.

Then you deplane and enter San Francisco Airport where I'm sure people go missing every day. I think the main problem is that SFO has been upgrading it's structure probably since the Wright Brothers. In fact, if SFO had offered its facility to the Wright Brothers, they probably would have laughed. After you deplane, you walk. Then you walk some more. And then some more. And then you walk and walk and walk. Sometimes you take an escalator, maybe even an elevator. You look out the window and you realize that you can still see your plane because you've returned to the exact same place you started from after walking for three hours. One time I somehow found myself in the parking garage, trying to get to baggage claim. And I swore I followed all the signs. Then one time, I was trying to get to the BART station, but found myself in some obscure place where I feared for my life after wandering around for hours and hours, and getting on countless escalators and elevators singing, "Climb Every Mountain" and going up, down, inside, outside, and up and down a couple more times. (Ok, so I'm exaggerating a little.) San Francisco Airport, at least, seems to have no shortage of signage, but it would help if the damn signs were right.

Getting out of SFO is more of the same, except I have to deal with the United ticket desk and the security lines. Now I have never had any problems with any individual ticket agents at the United desks. But my problem is that there are about 10,000 desks, but like two agents. So my status as a Premier Executive flyer is basically nothing more than a way for me to show all of the other passengers what a tool traveler I am. But the express lines is really a benefit that I really value and it would be nice if I could use it. Security is also a huge pain, if nothing else because the lines are always so long. I don't think any terrorist would ever try to leave through SFO because he'd kill himself first, just waiting in line.

There's that song "I Left My Heart In San Francisco." Well clearly the people who made the airport not only left their hearts there, but they left their brains there too.


GrooveTheory said...

Well, as you know ... I love SF. Therefore, it's only natural that I feel very comfortable with SFO. But, the first time I went there, I remember telling my friend sitting next to me that, the plane is landing, but I don't see the runway. I see ... water. My heart did skip a beat until I felt the tires landed on solid ground. I think I was even holding my breath ... HAHA!

But seriously? I think Newark airport is confusing. I never really thought of SFO as that, but I guess we all have different ways of dealing with things.

TCho said...

Lol. I think Newark is so civilized. just three terminals....so easy. ;-) Too bad you have to go to Newark for it. haha.


Aaron Weber said...

I've never had trouble at SFO-- take the tram right to the Muni and everything.

Oakland's stadium is a football stadium, so it looks pretty grim. On the plus side, the food and beer are cheaper than Fenway (but what isn't?).

You need an intervention, T: you've become one of those New Yorkers who thinks that the civilized world ends outside of Manhattan.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Man you bitch sooo fucking much - your blog should be called Tcho's bitches - and Aaron hit the nail on the head.

tim said...

The civilized world does end outside of Manhattan.

Ming_the_Merciless said...