To the Port Authority, a recommendation.
In response to requests to find ways the Port Authority can maximize its financial potential at existing airport facilities, this provides results from our focus group survey of test subjects who responded to an ad to “Run the Gauntlet” at JFK Airport.
To entice volunteers, we portrayed it as a “Fear Factor” type experience, with the possibility of fame for those who reached goal. There was also the promise of a free one-year membership to the Auto Club, including all member discounts.
Test subjects were required to drive an obstacle course from an airport terminal to Kennedy’s long-term parking lot, find a parking space, find their way back to the terminal on the train, and then, upon their return to New York, navigate their way back to their cars and out of the airport while dragging two suitcases.
Some variations were arbitrarily imposed on the subjects: rain, sleet, darkness, screaming children were among the additional challenges. There were no permanent directional signs inside the train station; at times a friendly-looking life-size cardboard lady would be placed on one end of the train platform with a sign advising which train to take, but her appearance was intermittent at best, creating confusion and adding to the excitement of the “obstacle course.”
Static factors were the road and signage conditions on the drive to the parking lot: sudden forks in the road, no accompanying sign (or an indecipherable one), arbitrarily changing sign colors and sizes, blockage of key signage by light poles, trees, and other signs, fellow drivers under similar stress exhibiting erratic driving and screaming in foreign languages, exorbitant parking lot prices, an invariable lack of parking spaces. The trains have automatic doors, and we limited transitions on and off the trains to ten seconds, regardless of the number of travelers.
We experienced a 30% attrition of volunteers, despite the promises of fame and media coverage. One volunteer had to be hospitalized (a mental hospital). One abandoned the project, saying she could not explain when her children asked “Mommy, why are you crying?” Four participants suffered vehicular accidents and could not complete the survey. One female participant got her handbag stuck in the closing train doors; we could not locate her for her debriefing interview after that.
Overall, it was a successful study, and we are now pleased to offer these results to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, along with our bill.
Suggested ways the Port Authority can utilize the existing facilities at JFK Long Term Parking, developed through the trials of a group of test subjects and accumulated during their debriefing interviews.
- Medical Research. For the benefit of people who suffer from anxiety-related disorders – give test groups anxiety medication or placebo and send them solo on a trip to JFK long-term parking. Hook them up with heart & blood pressure monitors. Test results under different conditions: daytime, dark, rain/sleet/snow, squalling kids in the back seat.
- Charge admission. Send thrillseekers to the parking lot. Arrange for scavenger-hunt type rewards for finding their way. Better yet, set up little moving carts with one-way visibility a la Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Have the cart swing back and forth before plunging on in a new direction (is it the right direction?). Have utility vans honking, flashing lights and zooming by. Near misses with other lost thrillseekers. Why make the trip to Disneyland?
- Human Resources. Cull out those pesky job applicants with a JFK Long-Term Parking Lot Test. Instead of word-association games, send those persistent potential employees on a trip to JFK. If they make it, you can hire them, but most likely they won’t come back so you won’t even have to bother with a form rejection letter.
- Fitness: The thrill of JFK Long-Term Parking provides an excellent cardiovascular workout.
- Criminal Justice. Sentence traffic violators to a trip to JFK Long Term Parking. Make them pick up garbage on the way.
- Taxi Cab Drivers. Before licensing, have them run the gauntlet at JFK Long Term Parking. See if they can still change a $20 bill afterwards.
- Pre-nuptial test: If you can make it through Long-Term Parking with your potential spouse without a blow-out, then you can go ahead and get married.
- Ophthalmology. Can the patient see the signs? What color are they now? How big are they now? Can he see which arrow corresponds to the direction desired? Can he see them through the light posts? Did he see that one back there?
- Psychiatry. Ask: What does this sign look like to you? What do these colors mean to you? Are they getting bigger and smaller or are you?
- Stalkers. Tell them to meet you at Long-Term Parking. You’ll never see them again.