#ColgateProblems: Panic! at the Airport

Amy Balmuth

Those of us Colgate students not from the Eastern seaboard have the unbridled pleasure of experiencing the Syracuse Airport. You may have doughy bagels, fresh seafood and Tom Brady, but only a select few are honored with the trials and tribulations of domestic travel. 

For those not well-acquainted with Syracuse Airport (and the hour-long drive that precedes it!), you’re not missing much. I’m writing on location, and I can assure you the average age is 65 and the food offerings are limited to a medieval-themed alehouse (though why anyone would want to culinarily relive a historical period where they mainly ate barley is very hard to understand).

Despite being a dedicated follower of security regulations and adhering to the requisite 30 minutes to spare, all it takes is a little emergency to rattle me. Freshman year, I was calmly sitting at my gate, eating cheetos while thinking about sushi, when the fire alarm started going off. Confusion ensued, considering there’s not really a place to escape from fire once you’re cleared by security. The alarm shortly stopped ringing, and people returned to talking loudly on their cell phones, licking the cheeto dust from their fingers, staring into empty space, etc.

Bizarre as this incident was, it’s hardly unique in my experiences at Syracuse Airport. While I don’t identify as panicky, people close to me might say otherwise. In the 1800s, they didn’t say fire in a crowded theater–  today, we don’t say bomb in an airport (but its possible presence is constantly implied through heavy security!). Traveling home last spring, in the wake of a tumultuous holiday season in terms of terrorism and travel, Syracuse did me dirty once more. I had just gone through security when the loud speaker boldly announced: A SECURITY THREAT HAS BEEN BREACHED! ALERT! ALERT! A SECURITY THREAT HAS BEEN BREACHED. For the average person this was quite alarming, let alone for a human being who expels far too much energy thinking about her own demise. I was busy indulging in a couple worst case scenarios when I realized I was still at the front of the line at Dunkin’ Donuts. The woman working there was looking expectantly for my $2.89, which I handed over with shaking hands. I turned around to find a wide-eyed, doughy-faced, middle-aged woman looking at me for answers. She was looking at me like a kindergartener looks at her mom on the first day of school, with equal parts desire for answers and fear of them. She didn’t ask me a question, but I shrieked back to her “I don’t know!!!” and proceeded to engage in a game of eyeball tennis with the Dunkin’ clerk and this terrified mom-type. The three of us were paralyzed, with what was 75 percent confusion, 20 percent fear and 5 percent pre-caffeine jitters.

After a tension-filled couple minutes, the security breach alarm still blaring, the blithe Dunkin’ clerk said “it’s been doing this all day, we don’t really know why.” I was reassured by her words until I was outraged that the airport establishment was fine with the fact that there may or may not be a security threat of some dimension. I indulged in a few more hypotheticals (was it the Dunkin’ clerk sabotaging the security system for a day off? Perhaps the terrified middle-aged woman’s performance was all a show, and she was the threat? Maybe that shifty-eyed child knew something I didn’t?) and then forced myself to calm down. I walked to the gate, where the usual sort of crowd was sitting incongruously at ease. I wanted to publicly freak out at my fellow travelers, arouse in them the same sort of panic I had felt at the satellite Dunkin’, but the veteran passenger in me didn’t allow it. Instead, I stress-ate cheetos at gate seven, muttering to myself  how “this wouldn’t happen at O’hare!” and plotting a future #ColgateProblems.