Going Somewhere? Expect a Big Change at the Airport
It’s a typical late afternoon in Anchorage, Alaska. Rush hour is in full swing, Tudor Road is backed up from Lake Otis Parkway to Northern Lights Blvd, commuters from downtown are lucky to make it the mile or two to 36th in an hour, and UAA’s many full-time employed night students are starting to trickle onto campus for their engineering, nursing, welding, and other vocational courses. Nothing is out of the ordinary.
But at the end of International Blvd at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, conditions are far from normal. As passengers filter in and out to and from their myriad destinations, tonight they are noticing an absence, a missing presence from the familiar airport scene. What is this obvious void? Since Friday of last week, Ted Stevens International has been out of volcano men. For those of you who are unfamiliar, a volcano man is a morbidly obese man in his mid-forties (typically upwards of 700 lbs), with skin of an extraordinarily reddish to bright red hue.
Originally, the leading cargo hub of the developed Pacific Rim was allotted between eighty and ninety-five volcano men by the FAA in 2003. But over the last decade the number dwindled steadily, seeing its sharpest decline during the recession of 2008-‘09. While the majority of the state was unaffected by the recession thanks to record high oil prices, the volcano men saw several cuts in funding during that two year span, and by 2011, there was only one volcano man left. And now he too is nowhere to be seen.
The volcano man project was the brain child of former Senate Republican Arthur Darbans, who in 1995 postulated that no major airport would be complete without at least three dozen volcano men. Various measures to enact volcano man reform were shot down in both the House and Senate in the ensuing several years, but finally in 2003 a volcano man earmark was tacked onto House budget measure 296.4 and passed both congressional bodies by a narrow margin.
Just ten and a half years later, only a few of the major airports in the U.S. still have a paltry number of volcano men wallowing about their domestic terminals aimlessly. An FAA source says there are no plans to revitalize the program, especially in light of the administration being hit so hard by the federal government sequester in 2013. So sadly, don’t expect to see volcano man any time soon at Ted Stevens International.
Curry Rictor is a columnist with Hatred Network News and a contributing editor for
Bland Mediocrity Magazine.