Connections: Houston

“People in IAH are rude today. Passengers, anyway.”

Travel journal, 11 April 2014

After my ill-fated attempts to transfer through sexy airports like SFO and JFK, I quickly realised that the road less travelled passed through Houston. No one in the United network seemed to want to go there, and there seemed little point transferring through IAH instead of O’Hare. Once I figured this out, IAH became a staple of my standby flight experience. I spent more time in IAH than I did in some of the cities in this travelogue.

Sometimes you have to look up to see the wonders.

IAH is full of wonders. 

There are shops for the different news channels, including Fox News and CNBC. There are lollypops with scorpions embedded in them. It is possible to be slut-shamed on your way through security, a reminder that you are in an extremely conservative place, then browse NASA postcards to remind yourself that people used to strap themselves to rockets to get out. 

Connection hubs draw more than their fair share of misery. If something goes wrong at the beginning or end of your journey, it’s usually due to something that was at least somewhat in your control. When you’re hopping between planes or trains or whatever you’re having yourself, delays and distantly-placed gates can ruin your day. And if you find yourself sprinting or stuck, you’re going to see the worst in what is probably already a pretty mediocre location. There’s a certain buzz of anxiety when getting off a plane in a connection hub because almost no one hopes to exit the airport at that time. And a good few probably have a tight connection that is getting tighter while you faff around with the overhead bin blocking their way. 

With all this, people are mostly civil. Except in IAH. The staff (other than that one lady at security) were uniformly polite, the very picture of southern charm. And the passengers were holy terrors. As if they thought their rudeness would shock the people around them into getting out of the way. 

Somehow the fact that about half the people around them were not from Texas didn’t enter their mind. And no one ever moved out of the way. The only thing that changed was that everyone got slightly grumpier. 

With this as the heavily accented backdrop, it’s no wonder we need scorpions frozen in hard candy to ease the journey.