It’s Not Just in the Third World…

The darkened terminal D at IAH

The darkened terminal D at IAH

I was stunned when I arrived at the airport in Houston to find that a power outage had shut down part of my terminal, check in station, and security check point. Why? I was in America!

A lot of times I forget things can go wrong in developed societies too. Things go wrong in SA so often that I usually end up wondering if anything ever goes right. Things always work out in the end, but it can still be really frustrating when power is knocked out in my village for a day or two, water stops flowing from the tap, or transport plans fail spectacularly. I guess I end up putting the reliability of the developed world up on a pedestal, partially because looking forward to living in said reliable world helps me handle the chaos of today.

Imagine my surprise when I walked into Houston’s Bush Int’l Airport to find out that a power outage had affected part of the airport, and nobody knew why or when it would be fixed. These things happen in America too. The area where I was supposed to check in was affected, so officials told me I could sit and wait or get in line. I chose to get in line because it was short and there was a large group of people sitting already. I stood there waiting for quite awhile, maybe 20-30 minutes, then the officials came over and lead us to another check in area partway down the terminal. Efficiency! Of course, our security check point was shut down, so I had to walk ALLLL over to go to another terminal’s check point. When I was a little bit lost, I went up to the info desk and the guy knew exactly where I needed to go. Efficiency! Security went fast, and though I felt like the odd man out with the only Qatar Airways board pass around (remember I was at the front of the check in line), everyone knew where I needed to go and didn’t give me a second glance. Efficiency! Then I headed to my gate, which appeared to be the only one in the terminal that had electricity. The shops were all dark and employees were guarding the stock and waiting for the lights to come back on. Efficiency!

Get the idea? Even though there was a serious problem at the airport, the staff obviously had been trained on what to do, and had possibly had drills to make sure it went smoothly for passengers. Of course, there was about an hour and a half delay because of backups with flights (and they chose to make us board the plane and wait on the plane for that time-not happy). I love South Africa, but I can’t imagine what would happen if this situation had happened at OR Tambo Int’l Airport.

Basic services can fail in developed countries as well, and cause major inconveniences and problems. I never expected that the power would be out for part of IAH airport, one of the busiest hubs in the States and a major hub of international air travel. But the handled the problem wonderfully! I am curious what caused a power outage that lasted for over 3 hours (it didn’t come on before I boarded). When I googled the incident, and article only said that “something happened”. I feel like they ought to know why power was out for 3 hours at an airport…


About Jen Lamos

Christ follower. Writer. Permaculturist. RPCV. Photographer. Gardener. Keeper of Chickens. Daughter of God.

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