Texan lives in airports to keep flying

September 30, 2009 12:30:30 PM PDT
If you see a man asleep in an airport wearing a Hula Hut or Salt Lick T-shirt, try not to wake him. You might not want to get too close, either, because Brendan Ross, 29, of Round Rock is probably going to need a shower. Dubbed the "terminal man," he is spending the night on chairs and carpets inside airports across the country while he spends 30 straight days flying on JetBlue flights.

Ross posted an ad on Craigslist on Aug. 17 asking that someone buy him a $599 pass to fly on JetBlue for a month. In the ad, he offered to sleep in airports. Two days later Wired magazine, based in San Francisco, took him up on his offer and is also providing him $30 per day to spend on airport food, said Chuck Squatriglia, the editor of the magazine's blog about transportation.

"I think most people would consider this idea hell on earth, but he's actually gung ho about it," said Squatriglia. "I've been kind of surprised by how willing he is to do this. It just seemed crazy enough that it could be a lot of fun and something our readers would enjoy following."

Ross is a former youth minister at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Austin who owns his own chicken suit but said he would never wear it on a plane. Before graduating with a degree in political science from Trinity University in San Antonio, he spent two years as a missionary in Venezuela for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he said.

Waiting for security clearance to begin his job as an air traffic controller in the Seattle area gives him time to take 70 JetBlue flights in one month if he never leaves the airports, he said. It's too expensive to spend the night at hotels, and the purpose of writing a blog for the magazine is to focus on aviation, he said.

"It's supposed to be some kind of an experiment as opposed to sending me around on vacation," he said.

He began his journeys last week by flying from Austin to Long Beach, Calif., to Oakland, where he spent the night in a chair in the baggage claim area.

"I know this is kind of crazy, but it always makes for good stories later," said Ross in a phone interview last week . "The idea is to act as if you were just a regular traveler and you were stranded for 30 days."

Ross said he only needs about six hours of sleep a night, and he plans to stay clean by bathing from sinks in airport restrooms and taking the occasional shower in airports that have them. "I've got industrial strength deodorant because I don't want to make anybody uncomfortable."

Ross has also packed detergent so that he can wash his clothes in airport sinks.

He won't have much to scrub. His wardrobe for the entire month consists of three shirts, a pair of blue jeans, a pair of shorts, a jacket and a couple of changes of underwear. He is toting along, in a backpack and a flight bag, an extra pair of contact lenses, glasses, deodorant, a toothbrush, earplugs, an eye mask and a camera. He also has a laptop and an iPhone so he can access Twitter and blog about his experience at www.wired.com/autopia.

His wife, Annabelle Ross, who just graduated with a degree in biochemistry from Southwestern University in Georgetown, said she was excited about her husband's journey.

"Neither one of us gets stressed out very easily," she said. "He loves airports and airplanes and anything to do with aviation."

Brendan Ross said he plans to avoid hamburgers and alcohol and will compete in a run in Baltimore that is inside the airport's boundaries.

He's carrying one book, "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim" by David Sedaris. And he's planning to enjoy airport life, he said.

"People act so differently in airports," he said. "It can be a trip just to watch them."

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