Herking and jerking through airport security these days is nobody’s idea of fun. Jackets end up in tangled balls. Shoes and belts enter the X-ray, then don’t reappear. Gray bins collide, knocking laptops to the floor. The whole experience can be discombobulating.

Enter the good people at Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport. As I discovered last week, workers there have given the post-security line patch of tattered carpet and stiff benches, where passengers can lace up their shoes and dust off their MacBooks, a new name. It’s not much. But it’s not bad. Not bad at all.

11 Responses to “Emotionally intelligent signage . . . in an airport?”

  1. Tammy Redmon says:

    What a great way to nurture the weary traveler, post security scrutiny! Inserting a bit of humor and relief in the experience will make for a happier traveler for sure. I wonder how our leaders can take a glimpse of possibility from this Milwaukee Airport. Imagine what this small insertion of good will could impact their bottom-line?

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Kristin says:

    I have to respectfully disagree. From a college-educated perspective, like that of you and many of your readers, this is humorous. But I worry that it is an elitist kind of humor to use a made-up 15-letter word at the end of a difficult, invasive TSA experience. If a visitor is dyslexic, learning disabled, less educated, has less prior understanding of the root of the joke (discombobulated), or is not a fluent English speaker, does the sign do its job and clarify the purpose of the area? Or obfuscate and increase my anxiety about the TSA experience?

  3. Dan Pink says:

    @Kristin — Fair point. I can see this confusing people who don’t speak English or who don’t speak it well. Thanks for pointing that out.

  4. @Kristin — Those who don’t get it ignore it. Those who do get it enjoy it. I fail to see how one man’s joy is another man’s disadvantage.

    The more we try to mind the gap between those who have an abundance of something and those who experience a scarcity of it, the more we distance ourselves from our natural drive for mastery. Frowning upon someone who tries to get creative with the English language in a public place because it might harmlessly confuse others for a moment doesn’t level the playing field for anyone.

    Remember: it is confusion that creates our drive for clarity. If we understood everything there’d be nothing to learn in the first place.

    …And this is coming from one of those elitists with an 11th grade education and not so much as a GED to his name.

  5. Nathan says:

    those who cannot read it will use their intuition, notice that other people are rearranging their belongings and make use of the facility just as well as anyone else… they will not see the humour but will appreciate the service – no biggie.

  6. I’m curious whether there was even a sign there before and, if so, what it said.

    Me, I find this kind of unexpected, harmless levity energizing. It’s not like they were joking around with the “emergency exit” sign. 😛

  7. timmy says:

    I dont have a macbook. Can I still use the area?

  8. Kristin says:

    So just to clarify the points of others: if you don’t get the sign, you’ll just look to see what others are doing. In other words, having the sign doesn’t actually serve a purpose beyond entertaining the well-educated? It’s OK to tell a private joke as long as you’re the one who gets it? C’mon, folks. There’s a place for humor, for sure. I’m just not certain that it belongs adjoining a government-screening area. Great municipal signage should first communicate, then humor. Let’s not create a society in which “abundance” gives us the right to leave out those who have access to less.

  9. Bob says:

    Kristin Kristin Kristin,

    You really need to have a sense of humour check. I’d like to echo the eloquently written post above by Josh.

    I’d also like to add… would you rather see all signage simplified with pretty pictures and colours so children can also understand everything? It’s a joke and it’s a good one.

    As for ‘creating’ a society in which “abundance” gives us the right to leave out those who have access to less, this already exists. It’s not because the better educated are deliberately leaving out the lesser, but because that is their level of humour and of their conversation. Would you rather the House of Lords for instance were forced to speak in Cockney Rhyming Slang just to include those that understand it?

    You can’t and you won’t unify the world onto a single plain. It’s comments like yours that are inflamatory and unnecessary.


    Lor’ luv a duck! Kristin Kristin Kristin,

    You really need ter ‘ave a sense ov ‘umaaahr
    check. I’d like ter echo da eloquently written
    post above by Josh.

    I’d also like ter add… Would you rarfer see all
    signage simplified wiv pret’y dollys an’
    colaaahrs so children gok wan also tick tack man
    everything? It’s a joke an’ it’s a bee’s knees one.

    As fer ‘creating’ a socie’y in which
    “abundance” gives us da right ter slin’ your ‘ook aaaht
    those who ‘ave access ter less, dis already
    exists. It’s not because da be’er educated
    are deliberately leavin’ aaaht da lesser, but
    because what is their level ov ‘umaaahr an’ ov
    their conversashun. Would you rarfer da
    House ov Lords fer instance was forced ter
    speak in Crowley Rhymin’ Slang just ter
    include those what tick tack man it?

    You gok wan’t an’ you won’t unify da world onto
    a single plain. It’s commun’s like yours what
    are inflamatory an’ unnecessary. Know what I mean?

  10. Got a new word: discombobulate. You can also link to Lexiology Dictionary for such words which also provides contextual usages of words.


  11. That sign is one of my favorite things about flying out of the Milwaukee airport. And a non-Midwestern coworker of mine said that sign gave her a giggle, a good impression of Milwaukee, and displayed how we don’t take ourselves too seriously, which contributed to her accepting the job here. So thanks for noticing and commenting, Mr. Pink!