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Anyone who’s traveled from General Mitchell International Airport in the past few years has most likely noticed the "Recombobulation Area" signs that hang just beyond the security checkpoints.
Originally, there was just one recombobulation sign located in Concourse C, but now there is one at all three checkpoints.
According to dictionary.com, "recombobulation" is not a word, but that didn’t matter to Barry Bateman, the former airport director who retired last year. Bateman made up the word and suggested the signage in order to add some comic relief to what can be a tense aspect of air travel.
"He understood that traveling can be stressful and the signs are intended to put a smile on people’s faces," says Harold Mester, the airport’s public relations manager.
And it’s worked. Travelers comment positively on the signs every day and many have posted "recombobulation area" photos on social media.
Although the signs are meant to get a chuckle out of travelers, there actually are designated areas under the signs with chairs for actual "recombobulating," if passengers so choose.
"Whether it’s a word or not, I think we can all agree we all feel discombobulated after going through a security checkpoint and need a minute to recombobulate, whether that means tying our shoes or putting our laptop away," says Mester.
The signs were created by Mitchell’s in-house sign team, but the TSA has been very supportive of the signs due to the amount of positive feedback.
Mester says Mitchell airport works toward providing a stress-free environment for guests in numerous ways. Recently, three lactation stations were installed for breastfeeding women and play areas for children are located throughout the airport.
"We have a number of amenities here to help take the stress out of traveling," says Mester. "We want people to feel comfortable – even have fun here."
Mester says he has not received critical feedback from grammarians – in fact, it’s been quite the reverse. In 2009, the American Dialect Society named it the most creative word of the year. It is also listed in the Urban Dictionary.
"People find the word creative, but also understand why it makes sense to have it in an airport," says Mester.
At this point, Mitchell Airport is the only airport with recombobulation signs, but based on the positive responses from passengers and airlines, there might be more in the future.
"The signs make it less formal at checkpoints," says Mester. "We hope it helps travelers start out on the right foot."
Molly Snyder grew up on Milwaukee's East Side and today, she lives in the Walker's Point neighborhood with her partner and two sons.
As a full time senior writer, editorial manager and self-described experience junkie, Molly has written thousands of articles about Milwaukee (and a few about New Orleans, Detroit, Indianapolis, Boston and various vacation spots in Wisconsin) that range in subject from where to get the best cup of coffee to an in-depth profile on the survivors of the iconic Norman apartment building that burned down in the '90s.
She also once got a colonic just to report on it, but that's enough on that.
Always told she had a "radio voice," Molly found herself as a regular contributor on FM102, 97WMYX and 1130WISN with her childhood radio favorite, Gene Mueller.
Molly's poetry, essays and articles appeared in many publications including USA Today, The Writer, The Sun Magazine and more. She has a collection of poetry, "Topless," and is slowly writing a memoir.
In 2009, Molly won a Milwaukee Press Club Award. She served as the Narrator / writer-in-residence at the Pfister Hotel from 2013-2014. She is also a story slam-winning storyteller who has performed with The Moth, Ex Fabula and Risk!
When she's not writing, interviewing or mom-ing, Molly teaches tarot card classes, gardens, sits in bars drinking Miller products and dreams of being in a punk band again.