What’s the Worst Airport?
A few weeks ago, I was scanning my LinkedIn posts and various shared articles. I came across a post entitled, “Worst Airport? Is there a worse airport in which to change planes than Dallas-Ft Worth??? Vote now in comments section!!” The person posting this happens to be a senior executive, who has held several CEO positions, and sits on a few boards. I thought it was interesting that such a high-powered executive would post something so silly. Well, perhaps not so silly at all!!! The post was four days old, and it received 120 likes and almost 450 comments. Whaaaaat? That volume of activity on a LinkedIn post is like the holy grail of activity on posts, and reading through the comments was an eye opener.
Imagine you are flying from New York to LA and have to connect through Chicago. Just knowing that there are so many delays connecting in Chicago begins to raise your tension. You land at a remote runway and the taxi to the gate is almost 15 minutes. As your heart rate increases, you see that you are pulling into a gate at the far end of the H Terminal. Your connecting flight is at the far end of Terminal K (frequent flyers know the dilemma already). You are looking at a long schlep and realize you are not wearing your track shoes but your most uncomfortable pair of loafers, hence more angst. The plane pulls into Gate H 16 and the flight attendant announces there will be a brief delay because there is not a gate agent on the jetway. Adrenalin and cortisol are now coursing through your body, blood is being diverted away from your internal organs to your muscles. Finally, you can see through the window that the jetway is moving and deplaning can start soon. OMG, the people in the front of the plane are so $%&*ing slow getting their bags and moving down the aisle. Could this be any worse? Now you know you are going to miss your connection, and miss the meeting where you will demonstrate to your boss that you can close this deal, get a promotion, receive a huge bonus, and buy that new car that will impress your friends. Ok, I may have exaggerated just a bit, but some of this brings back memories, right? And isn’t this a story you will want to share with others?
The list of memories on the LinkedIn’s post about connecting at the “worst airport” was long. Some of the frequent flyers commented about how there is always bad weather at certain airports that causes delays and missed connections. Can that be true, is there always bad weather at certain airports, or does that only happen on the days you are connecting through those airports? Do certain airports have slower baggage handlers who never seem to get the last bag on your plane? When the pilot comes on the PA and mentions there will be a short delay, and we are waiting for just a few bags from connecting flights—why not just put those bags on the next flight, dude?! Or how about when the plane is stuck on the tarmac at LAX waiting for other planes to move, I am ready to die!!! The list of issues and mental traumas about connecting at the worst airports went on and on. And the list of negative travel stories to share with friends and colleagues grew and grew.
So, what is the big deal? Why did this posting attract so much attention compared to other LinkedIn posts? A few days later, the same executive posted that he and a colleague were speaking on growth, strategy and innovation at an upcoming conference—-wow! The response from the peanut gallery was a whopping 16 likes, after 20 hours on the net. It was so clear that LinkedIn users were totally willing to engage on a negative topic, yet showed little interest in information that might just enhance the very businesses that support their families. Why is that? We all just love to share negative experiences. Our brains are easily attracted to the negative and our desire to complain about something. And just the fact that so many people were willing to share a comment about their experiences regarding the worst airport tells us something about human nature.
So, think about your own travel experiences, from connecting flights to other things that bring up negative and fearful emotions and feelings. Humans like to bond over the negative. There were almost 450 strangers who bonded over bad travel experiences. We experience the same negative bonding at work when discussing with a colleague the weaknesses in your company, or a how you can’t believe that Rick got a promotion over Debbie. It seems that negative thoughts and experiences bring us together, while a positive situation like growth, strategy and innovation did little to stimulate readers on LinkedIn to connect and share their stories.
While it can be fun to share the negative, overall it does not serve us. You have a choice when sitting in your seat (most likely a middle seat) to either stress out or be calm. Yes, we all face delays like broken jetways, slow passengers, or a line of thunder storms, but how critical are these things to our happiness and joy in day to day life? These issues are simply moments in time that only mean something because you have made up a story in your head as to how bad this situation is. And perhaps you might take a moment to think to yourself, just how bad is this? In reality, whether it is about connecting at an airport, a situation at work, or a bad neighbor, most likely it is not that bad at all. You can simply ignore the story, and tell yourself something else. The funny thing is that your mind will believe whatever you tell yourself, and your body will respond accordingly. You can be calm and relaxed or get your heart pumping like a race horse, and we all know that is not good for us.
Later today, I think I will post on LinkedIn, “What is your favorite airport to make connections?” I can’t wait to see the comments from fellow travelers! Oh my, let me tell you about the best shopping experience, my favorite food court, most convenient charging stations, or the most amazing place to get your shoes shined. Well, I won’t hold my breath for any comments, because users probably won’t be motivated to share positive experiences. But, as my sister tells me, I am always optimistic!