The holiday season is finally upon us, meaning over the coming weeks many of you will have time to kill in airports, doing airport-y things like eating extremely expensive stale bagels, shuffling through security like a shoeless criminal, sitting in chairs and looking at nothing in particular, doing something on your phone, or drinking too much at an awful bar and then feeling sick on your flight. But what if there was a better way to spend your time while waiting for your flight? What if you could meet someone—wait for it—at the airport?
Those were the thoughts of MeetAtTheAirport.com founder Steve Pasternack, who also runs the dating site 7orBetter.com, which is for women who want huge cocks and guys who have huge cocks, and SugarDaddie.com, one of the many online dating services aimed at men looking for
prostitutes women who will trade a hummer for fancy earrings. According to a press release I just got, “The idea for the site was born when a delayed flight left him stranded at Miami Airport: ‘I noticed a lot of people at the bar looking for something to do, and I thought it’d be great if I could get them to meet each other.’”
A website that allows you to meet people who share nothing in common with you except for physically occupying the same large unpleasant building on their way to somewhere they would rather be is obviously a great idea. But what really makes this website a nonstop flight (airport humor!) to good times is how much it hints at the “possibilities” of meeting a stranger in an airport. You know what I’m talking about.
“Share a drink with an attractive stranger in the totally safe environment of a public airport,” reads the copy on the site’s home page. “Perhaps, share a brunch or romantic dinner while waiting for your flight and explore the enticing possibilities that are presented to you. Romance, friendship, travel companion, networking… The possibilities are endless. If you’re tired of reading a magazine while waiting for your flight, don’t hesitate, register now.”
I heard about MeetAtTheAirport.com because of that aforementioned press release, which announced that thanks to holiday season airport delays, traffic was up 625 percent. A PR blast like that makes them sound desperate for any type of coverage, which makes sense, as Pasternack seems to be a firm subscriber to the “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” school of thought. A few months ago—shortly after Edward Snowden left the Moscow airport after a month-long stay—he announced that he was formally offering the whistleblower a job as the site’s spokesperson.
Despite this foolproof marketing technique, MeetAtTheAirport.com has so far struggled, because, no shit, if you want to meet someone at the airport you can just go over to them and be like, “Hey, where’re you goin’?” without the help of a website. But also—and I cannot emphasize this enough—even if the average airport person wanted to meet other airport people, and even if they wanted to use a website to do so, MeetAtTheAirport.com would not be that website, because it is awful.
When you log onto MeetAtTheAirport.com, you’re greeted by a page that seems to come from an earlier era of the internet. An era when just being online was pretty cool and exciting, when a grid of faces under a “Members From Around The World” heading would have made you think, Wow, I bet someday people will use something like this all the time! I mean, they’ll only use it when the interface improves, obviously, and they figure out a way to show only the profiles of people who I would want to interact with or are physically near me. But someday!
Other features of the site that will remind you of 2003 include this selection of “World News” stories, seemingly picked at random:
This directory of maps of airports, which is the most useful section of the site:
And this forum thread, where people are enthusiastically sharing their favorite airlines with each other:
That thread, by the way, was one of the few I found where people were actually talking to each other. Most of the other threads have only a single sad post, like this one:
Also, you know the “About Me” section that’s a mainstay of every online dating website in the world? The bit where you can write whatever you like in order to inject a little of your own personality into a largely computerized process? MeetAtTheAirport.com does not have that feature. Instead, you can check boxes to signal your interests, which range from “Coffee/Conversation” to “Weights/Machines” to “Political Interests.”
I can’t imagine anyone meeting anyone else on MeetAtTheAirport.com—not only would they have to wade through all those shitty features (or lack thereof), they’d have to be in the same airport at the same time as another MeetAtTheAirport.com user with compatible interests (and/or sexual desires), which seems astronomically unlikely.
But no matter how bad a website MeetAtTheAirport.com is—and it is a terrible, terrible website—isn’t there something ultimately hopeful about it? When we’re at the airport, surrounded by strangers, don’t we feel a tug of loneliness from them that mirrors our own loneliness? Don’t we want to meet them and see if they, too, are interested in Exploring New Places or Religion/Spiritual? Could there be someone in this very terminal, at this very moment, who is not only up for an uncomfortable, soon-to-be-regretted mutual masturbation session in a cramped airport bathroom, but also your soulmate?