Tuesday, September 14, 2004


...for the Atlanta airport.

Yesterday I was on my way back home from one of those quickie one-day business trips. Well, not really as quick as it could be. Quick is when you fly up to New York for lunch and come home the same day. This involved an overnight stay...but just one night.

I got lucky with this trip and was able to come home earlier than originally planned. Not too much earlier, as it turns out - the Atlanta airport was inexplicably shut down for part of the evening, and so we sat on the runway in Cincinnati for the better part of an hour. One of the perils of riding the Great Flying Bus.

Of course, on arriving at ATL, we end up at Gate B30 - almost all the way at the end of the concourse, dammit - but I guess it could have been worse. Could have been D36. Or E anything.

So: walk from near-end of concourse to center, schlepping heavy briefcase and garment bag. Ride escalator down. Take choo-choo to Baggage Claim. Ride escalator up.

And this is one loooong escalator ride. A full two stories. People with vertigo need not apply.

And as I’m riding, I’m looking up at the sign that tells you which airlines are in the South Terminal and which ones are in the North Terminal. And that's when it really hits me: Our airport has a really long name.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.”

Geez, that’s fourteen syllables. Almost enough to write a freakin’ haiku:
Welcome to Hartsfield-
Jackson Atlanta Inter
national Airport.
This incarnation of the Atlanta airport was built in 1980 and was named after William B. Hartsfield, one of Atlanta’s great civic leaders. His clear vision and leadership as mayor during the years of the civil rights struggle helped set the tone for Atlanta, which gained the reputation of being the “city too busy to hate.” Hartsfield served as mayor for 23 years. Naming the airport after him was a way to honor that vision and leadership, as well as to recognize his contributions to what was then a nascent aviation industry.

Enter Maynard Jackson. Jackson, elected in 1973, was the first African-American mayor of Atlanta - of any major Southern city, for that matter - and was the driving force behind the construction of the airport that would be named for Hartsfield. In addition to championing affirmative action, his policy of “joint venture,” in which white- and minority-owned firms were brought together, was credited with creating over two dozen new African-American millionaires. Inclusion was his watchword, and under his tenure as mayor, the city prospered and grew. When he died last year, the community cast about for an appropriate way to honor him.

But how? That was a difficult and (unfortunately) divisive question. Renaming the airport for Jackson was one option, one that was championed by many of the city’s African-American leaders. But to have done so would have been dismissive of William Hartsfield. And to simply name a new terminal after Jackson seemed, well, inadequate for someone who had had such an impact on the city’s fortunes, someone so charismatic.

Eventually it fell to Mayor Shirley Franklin to resolve the impasse. She did so by using the time-honored method of splitting the baby: Henceforth, the airport would be named for both Hartsfield and Jackson. Thus we have the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the War and Peace of airport names.

That’s quite a mouthful. So what I’m looking for is a shorter version that is better suited for everyday use. A nickname.

One that occurred to me was “Har-Jack,” but that sounds uncomfortably close to a word that might create problems for you. Say it too close to the TSA folks and you might find yourself whisked off for a few hours of cavity searches and intensive, nosy questions.

So what else is there? Ho-Jo? Hey Jay? There’s gotta be something we can use. Suggestions, anyone?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I always called it Oy-Vay Atlanta Int'l Airport...
Barbra S.