Exclusion From Restrooms And The Rockford Air Show
Rockford, Illinois has an airport.
It’s one of those airports where planes fly people for vacations, such as Apple vacations. In other words, you can’t book a flight to New York or Texas or Atlanta to visit with family, attend funerals — stuff like that.
The airport used to have an air show each year. The last air show was in 2015.
My son, who served in the United States Air Force, loves jets. At the age of 6, he sat in a pilot’s seat and fell in love. He probably loves a bicycle if it could fly. When he was home in 2010, we attended the Air Show.
The event is one where you bring your own camping chair. That is pretty common in Rockford. Our entire family has folding camping chairs with their own carrying bags that you can sling over your shoulder. We used to take them to On the Waterfront, a musical, eating event, but that too was cancelled after 2012.
Rockford organizers of events seem to be out of touch with the interests of its citizens. For example, I remember attending On The Waterfront one year. The Spinners performed, and a man swaying and clapping next to me, who was dressed in overalls and a plaid shirt said, “Why can’t we hear more music like this around here?”
The next night, The Vanilla Fudge performed, and a woman doing the dance “the jerk” said it was the best $8 concert she ever attended. (I was doing the Boogaloo.)
Although Rockford is located in Northwestern Illinois, the music that overwhelms the airways, in bars, and even for karaoke, is Country-Western. On The Waterfront brought in some big names for Country and Rock artists, but soon abandoned R&B and artists of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.
The Air Show was different. There was food and souvenirs, but the best part were the jets – unless you had to use the restroom.
The other night, I was watching an interview with actresses from the movie “Hidden Figures.” “Hidden Figures” tells the true story of three African American women, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson. They were instrumental to the success of the U.S. space program in the 1960’s. Working as mathematicians at the NASA Langley Research Center in Virginia, they plotted trajectories that put astronaut John Glenn into orbit and brought him back to earth.
The women couldn’t, however, use the same bathrooms as their white colleagues. It was the Jim Crow era.
The “colored” restroom was not in the same buildings or adjacent buildings where they worked. They were on the other side of the campus. It was a 30-45 minute round trip to the restroom. Rain or shine, Black women employees made 30-45 minute round trips to the restroom. To be punctual returning, the women had to run.
That reminded me of the Rockford Air Show in 2010.
With my Air Force son leading the way, I and some in-laws went to the Air Show. After walking the perimeter buying T-shirts, souvenirs, and large drinks, we found a nice spot to put our chairs. It was suppose to be only a few minutes before show time.
Just in front of us was a fence and on the other side of the fence were Porta-toilets. So, we thought there was no reason to rush to use the restroom before the air show started. We didn’t want to miss a thing.
The show was delayed. About half an hour after it was scheduled to begin, a voice came over the PA system and announced that the show would begin in 10 minutes. Ten minutes later — no show. Another 20 minutes went by, and a plane appeared with a man who walked the wings. Then there was another delay.
We had finished our large drinks. Nature called.
We walked to the gate of the fence where security guards were standing. They asked to see our passes. Uh? We wanted to use the restroom. We were told that those Porta-toilets on that side where for members of the Mile High Club.
What is the Mile High Club? Well, it may or may not be the same as what the powers-that-be of the Rockford International Airport think. If the powers-that-be of the Rockford International Airport were true to the actual meaning of the club’s name, then they should be ashamed of providing a toilet-motel in the front of the seating area for the Air Show.
It bothered the group of us that those Porta-toilets were on the ground and not a mile high into the air as required by the Mile High Club. Okay. I won’t be vague. Here is how the Mile High Club explains itself;
“The term “Mile High Club” refers to two people engaging in sexual activity (sexual intercourse) at an altitude of no less than 5,280 ft (a mile high above the earth) in an airplane.”
When we asked where we could use the restroom, a security guard pointed and said “over there.” The other Porta-toilets were on the other side of the airport.
There were no courtesy carts, no courtesy short-buses — just our feet.
The airport covers about 4.53 miles. I think the Porta-toilets for non-Mile High Club members were about a mile from where the seating was to watch the show. We walked beyond the venders. We walked passed planes that were on display. We walked, and walked, and walked some more.
The good thing is that when we returned, the show was still delayed.
People who were not members of the Mile High Club were discriminated against, — not because of the color of their skin, but because not being a member of a sex-club made your pee-pee separate but equal.
In December 2016, Mike Dunn, Executive Director of Rockford Airport, announced that it will not host AirFest for 2017 and is suspending the airshow in future years due to recent expansions taking place at the airport.
I can’t help but wonder if the expansions would require that Porta-toilets for the average visitor be placed 2 miles from the seating area?