Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Stupid Pearson Airport Signage

I went to the airport the other night to pick up Mark, my son who lives and works in China. I prepared for the trip as if I was going in to battle. But it still went bad.
In the distant past, I worked at the airport. Since then, I have travelled hundreds of times to and from it. I am an experienced driver, having survived the rush hours of downtown London, Paris, Manhattan and, of course. T.O. But often my trips out to Pearson (I still call it Malton in my mind) leave me with murderous thoughts about the architects, engineers and signage gurus who turn signs into riddles, all of which have to be solved with limousine drivers riding your bumper.
I went to the Internet to study the plans for the garage at Terminal One because almost all my trips have been to Terminal Three and the vanished Terminal Two with a rep as one of the worst terminals in the world.
The map looks helpful but isn't. I was trying to prevent my habit of parking in the most remote corner from where my passengers emerge. So I saw I needed to go to the south elevator and then scramble. I grabbed my cell phone and a thick book, remembering that I have waited up to five hours for planes that always seem to be on the point of landing but never quite manage to do that.Driving to Terminals One and Three has been an adventure for years because the roads keep changing. And then, when you leave, you have to remember that the inside lane fisappears every 100 yards or so.
Air Canada reported that the flight from Shanghai was only two minutes late. So there I was with plenty of time driving down the road to Terminal One. There was a sign reading that if you wanted rental cars, you kept to the left, and if you wanted Arrivals and Departures, you kept right. But where in heck did you go if you wanted parking? I figured the garage also included rental car outlets so I went left, ending up in a garage with a chain of rental offices. I started driving carefully because in one rental outlet, there was a sign saying that if I backed up, my tires would be shredded.
No sign of any parking garage. I parked illegally and couldn't even find a cop to tell me I was parked illegally. So I made my way back to the enigmatic snarl of roads around the airport and managed to get back to a road leading to Terminal One This time I chose the right, to Arrivals and Departures, and some distance later found a sign for the parking garage.
Now if only the dummies had put the sign back where the first signs were, back when drivers first wanted that info.
Pulled up behind a car collecting a ticket at the garage entrance. Waited several minutes while that driver kept punching the box. Couldn't back up because a car was behind me. The driver finally succeeded. When I took my turn, I found there were two boxes and it was difficult to read anything in the dark.
At this point, the plane should have landed. So I roared through the garage. I left the car near the north elevators, since I couldn't find the south bank, noted the main number and rushed into the terminal, only to wait for 45 minutes. Even when planes are on time, you wait.
The rush came back to bite me when Mark and I couldn't find the car because I hadn't noted all the numbers in my hurry. A cold, angry search because I couldn't find any maps to help me. For the exorbitant charges for the parking (I paid $12 for under an hour) you would think there would be more help. After all, Terminal One cost more than four billion, and inside there are millions in fancy art. The airport is the most expensive one in the world for airlines to use. So there should be lots of money for extensive signage and maps.
Remember that ancient poem "'For the want of a nail, the shoe was lost." The conclusion is that the kingdom was lost because the shoe on the leader's horse was lost in the battle. You know, small actions can have large consequences. These days we call it the 'Butterfly Effect."
My problems that night, including a 15-minute search for a car in a monstrous, costly parking garage, were all triggered by one damn sign for parking that isn't in the right place.
Shouldn't all signage around giant public complexes like airports be tested by people who have no idea where they are? And they have to read any signage with jerk cabbies driving up your rear end? Since the roads in front of the terminals are monitored by cops/guards who threaten you if you pause for too many seconds, the level of anxiety is already high. And if you say the hell with it and take a cab or limousine, you run into attitude and costs that make the airport garage look like a heavenly oasis.
We need to take more trains, except one doesn't run from Shanghai.

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