All airport personnel know the inherent hassle of air travel, but one airport decided to install designated locations to alleviate some of that stress: recombobulation areas.
Before you go scouring your lexicons, no, “recombobulation” is not in the dictionary. The word was invented by Barry Bateman, former airport director at General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, and its definition is fairly intuitive, the opposite of discombobulation. Per Bateman’s suggestion, a sign for a “Recombobulation Area” was hung up after the security checkpoint in one of the terminals in 2008. The goal was to add a bit of humor to the stressful security process.
“He understood that traveling can be stressful and the signs are intended to put a smile on people’s faces,” Harold Mester, the airport’s public relations manager, told OnMilwaukee.
But for a made-up word, it serves a much-needed purpose. Every terminal in Mitchell International now includes a designated Recombobulation Area, complete with benches and chairs for passengers to put on their shoes, gather their belongings, and yes, recombobulate.
Despite the word not being among those recently added to the dictionary, the signs have been fully accepted by the TSA due to their overwhelmingly positive response. Even the grammar enthusiasts approve. In 2009, “recombobulation” was named the American Dialect Society’s most creative word of the year.
So far, no other airports have followed suit with their own recombobulation areas, but doing so would be in their best interest. As airports try to take full advantage of the digital age with robots that escort passengers to their gates and multi-billion dollar renovations, they may find that the simple things—a joke and a helpful gesture—carry the most meaning in their industry, as they do in life.