Good-bye ‘HAL,’ hello convenience — Curt Yeomans

Curt Yeomans covers government for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.

Curt Yeomans covers government for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.

Have you ever noticed that the voice on the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport train, that carries people from one concourse to another, sounds just like the evil computer “HAL” from “2001: A Space Odyssey”?

It’s got the same, almost comforting, yet also mechanical, voice that “HAL” had in that movie. When I was a little kid, family members would call the train “HAL” when we went to the airport.

I’m going to miss “HAL” now that the airport is finally opening its new Maynard H. Jackson, Jr. International Terminal.

You see, I’ve been looking forward to the opening of this terminal for one very simple, and very practical reason: It cuts down the amount of time I, as an international traveler, will have to spend going through the airport. That will be much more convenient for me. I’ll be able to ride up to the curb at the international terminal, check in, and be at my gate in very short order.

That will be a much shorter trip than in the past, to say the very least.

Until now, if I were taking an international flight out of Atlanta, I had to go to the South Terminal (since I usually fly Delta for international flights), and then take “HAL” through five concourses to get to the concourse for international flights.

I love that “HAL” gets you through the airport quickly, but its voice makes me expect to, someday, hear it saying, “I’m sorry, Curt, but I can’t take you to that concourse.”

Now, since most of my flying is to international locales, I won’t get on “HAL” unless I am on a flight that flies out of “Concourse E.” Even then it won’t be a long train ride. I would just be getting off the train at the next concourse.

That will be a paradigm shift for me, because I have gotten so used to having to take long rides on the train to get to the existing international concourse. I’m having to scratch my brain here, but I think the train identifies the concourses as “Concourse T, as in Tango,” “Concourse A, as in Alpha,” “Concourse B, as in Bravo,” “Concourse C, as in Charlie,” “Concourse D, as in Delta,” and “Concourse E, as in Echo.”

It’s hard to forget that stuff when it’s being announced in a peaceful voice, with a hint of the maniacal hidden underneath the surface.

But, I’ll miss “HAL” for other reasons. You see, I’ve also developed a method for not falling over when “HAL” comes to a stop ( I think that maniacal “HAL” stops so fast because he secretly wants to laugh at us as we fall all over the place during stops). You see, “HAL” stops with so much forward momentum still going on that it pulls you toward the front of the train.

But, I’ve found a way to spoil “HAL’s” fun.

I brace myself by leaning on my left leg, with my left knee pointing slightly toward the back of the train and my right leg stretched out toward the front of the train. That way, when the train stops, the momentum will, at the most, pull me upright. You see, you learn these things when you do a lot of traveling.

HA HA, HAL! No amusement for you today. Now, EAT IT!

My secret, personal battle with “HAL” will now come (largely) to an end, thanks to progress. I’m sure there will be times when I get to say “Ah, Mr. ‘HAL,’ we meet again,” but it won’t be very often, and it won’t be for as long as it was in the past. That little war will now enter the annals of history, hopefully for good.

So, with all of that said, I now say good-bye to “HAL,” and hello to convenience.

Curt Yeomans covers government for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 247, or via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.