Nina In New York: Sweet Home JFK
A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.
By Nina Pajak
Sometimes, after traveling a far distance, there really is no place like home. It’s such a great feeling to walk in the door, drop your bags, wash all the airplane germs off and curl up on the couch in your oldest, grossest sweats.
Of course, before this can happen, you have to deplane (silliest word ever, by the way) at the charming arrival terminal at charming JFK International Airport.
Sure, other cities have depressing airports, but ours could go toe-to-toe with any one of them. Some of our departures terminals are actually pretty spiffy now, and it’s great to start off a trip on the right foot. But I’d argue that the time when you really need to be welcomed properly is when you stumble off a seven-hour flight exhausted, greasy, dehydrated, and for some reason suddenly racing 300 strangers who are all running to be the first one in the Customs line.
I do love how people get off planes in NYC. When you land in Pittsburgh or St. Louis and that seatbelt light turns off, nobody makes a move. Except for me, of course. Everyone else sits politely in their seats, patiently waiting until the people in front of them get out into the aisles to get their bags before they follow suit in an orderly fashion.
Here, when that light dings, it’s on. Everyone stands up at once regardless of their seat, all pushing and rustling and reaching over one another to grab their luggage and get a good spot in the aisle so they can be 42nd off the plane instead of 49th. It actually makes me want to move slower. My competitive instincts often kick in backwards. Hey, you can’t lose if you’re not playing, right?
Anyway, back to the airport. It’s nasty. It’s old. It’s drab and eerily lit. The bathrooms are an atrocity. But hot dog, do those people move fast. We got through passport control in less time than it took the French Customs officer to sloooooowly look up from her desk and give us a reluctant, “Oui?”
I guess if you’re going to design your passenger reception the same way you design your prison waiting rooms, speed is of the essence. We’re not there to enjoy ourselves or feel comfortable in our surroundings. We’re there to get out. And that’s exactly about the only thing you can do when you land at JFK.
Okay, so I take it all back. It’s perfect. Don’t ever change. Not ever, not even in fifty years. Not even the carpeting. No—especially not the carpeting.
Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.
Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.
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