I recently found myself at the airport again, third time in the past week, and as an avid people watcher, think it’s just the perfect place for me….until recently. Yes, I understand that traveling can be stressful. It’s totally stressful for me; I wake up two hours earlier than my usual time if I have a morning flight to start taking the obligatory tablets du jour to keep my good self alive and then go through the usual pains of said tablets in plenty of time to get into the car on the way to the airport. All is good in the royal household (I’m not a royal by the way, but I like to refer myself as such, after all, in some life I do think I was a princess or a queen or perhaps the queen of Nothing as I used to say).
So, off I go to the airport. Tra la la la. The driver seems nice enough; he arrived way too early. I need those extra fifteen minutes for my additional five trips to the loo – thanks, mum for giving me that…we’re not stopping…you’d better not leave the house without taking a dump – no, she NEVER used those words, but that’s what she was intimating or demanding even.
We arrive in Arrivals – Lord, I hate that. If you’re leaving, surely you go to Departures, not Arrivals. Car services are just lazy. When I drop my friends or family at the airport, I don’t drop them off at Arrivals, I drop them at D-E-P-A-R-T-U-R-E-S. Makes sense, no? At any rate, I lug my three bags from my two-day stay back in London into the lift, past all the holiday goers and families excited to be at the airport at 7.30 am on a Saturday morning with my coffee in hand and get to the cattle car of a queue. Already I notice in the lift that people aren’t chipper; to be fair, neither am I, it’s much too early, I haven’t finished my coffee and I know that there’s something wrong with my ticket as I was thwarted from doing online check in. It’s going to be a bore of a morning no doubt.
In the queue. I wait my turn patiently, smiling through the screaming children, drunk (already at 7.30 am) young girls and chaps going to some sunny spot for a long holiday weekend and finally it’s my turn. I chime up to the gent at the check in counter. ‘Good morning’ I say. ‘I need to check in. I thought that this was sorted in Lisbon, but evidently it’s still a problem so can you please just check me in?’ I’m putting my bag on the conveyor belt as I speak.
‘No, you have to go to the customer services counter and pay for your ticket.’
‘But I’ve paid for my ticket.’
‘It doesn’t matter, it says you have a problem with your card and you need to pay again.’
‘But I don’t want to stand in the queue again for another 40 minutes and this should have been sorted in Lisbon.’
‘Next please. Take your bag with you, ma’am.’
Really?? I’m left standing there with time running out to get over to the desk and then back over to check in and put my bags through so I don’t miss my flight.
I look around me. There aren’t any smiling faces really. Just angry, grumpy faces. The holiday goers even start to get grumpy and their smiles are turning into frowns, their brows furrowing as time ticks away and their flights approach boarding time and they are still in the queue waiting to get their three big bags onto the belt for their two night stays. Don’t forget those ten pairs of shoes you might need to wear when you’re out drinking and partying at some sleazy establishment somewhere in Spain or Portugal. Certainly don’t forget your blue eyeshadow and fake eyelashes. Lads dressed in their slip on trainers or whatever the fashion of the day is called. I’ll have to look that one up. You know, with their Capri shorts on, khaki colour, of course, caps on, Ray Bans and all. They’re grumbling. Moaning about everything from waiting in the queue to the hotel better be good enough. Mate, you’re probably paying thirty quid a night, don’t have such high expectations, eh?
I get to customer service finally. The girl at the counter is actually smiling. There’s a change. ‘Let me help you with this.’
‘Thank you. The chap at the check in counter said I had to come here and pay for my ticket. I’ve already paid for my ticket. I don’t understand.’
‘I don’t understand either. Your ticket is fine. You should have just been able to check in.’ Please tell him to just check you in.’
‘Okay, thank you and have a very lovely day.’
Back I go to the chap that sent me away in the first place. A couple in the front of the queue are quick to point out where the back of the queue is and that I needed to be there rather than in the front. How very dare I? ‘I’m sorry. I was here before and told to come straight back to this kind gentleman as there was a problem with my ticket.’ Stares, grunts, groans, and a few curses from the first ten or so people waiting in the queue. ‘Really, I’ve waited in the queue already and he told me not to wait again. I’m very sorry, I’m not so bold as to just jump ahead of the 100 people waiting because I think I’m better than everyone else. Honestly.’ I really do, of course, think that I shouldn’t have to wait in such a queue, but I was telling the truth.
‘Okay, we believe you.’ Eyes suddenly tiny slits that I could see through their glasses; they were a couple in their seventies at least. No, they did not believe me, but I gave them no choice. I was next and that was that.
Mean chap at the check in begrudgingly checked me in despite me telling him that the woman didn’t actually do anything over at customer service. My bag had a strap. ‘You must remove this strap and put it somewhere else.’
‘I’ve never done that before.’ But I comply. I don’t want any trouble. Please just make sure my bags get to my destination. They have precious cargo. Pastiles and my riding boots and my thirty year old, maybe even forty-year old, wooden mug tree from my kitchen that I need to have in my house in Portugal. It’s been following me since you gave it to me, mum, when J and I were married. Some things I can’t give up. The $5.00 coffee tree is one of them.
I go get my coffee and bagel in the usual haunt. No time for sitting down; my flight is boarding soon. Must get to the gate. Why is my gate always the last gate in the airport? It doesn’t matter if I am flying British Airways from London or Easy Jet from Spain, it’s always the bloody last gate in the airport; the ’25-30 minute walk’ one. I’m running through the airport with my bags and dodgy knee. Why won’t people move out my way on the people walker? Walk, don’t stand. I think there’s a sign that even says keep moving. Oh good, this people walker is ending, I can run around this lot and get on the next one free and clear. I make it. There it is gate 22.
I arrive at the gate to find yet another queue. This time I’m quite close to the front and there are two people on either side doing the boarding. The gentleman on the right looks at me and indicates I’m up next and to move over to him. I start to walk over and suddenly from behind me this big bloke steps in front of me, pushing me aside and pulls his missus and four children out of the queue and in front of me! ‘This is what happens when two families are traveling together.’
‘Huh?’ What just happened here? So, because you are traveling with another family that was on the left side and you were in back of me, you think it’s okay to just push me, physically push me out-of-the-way and step in front of me? Well, it’s not okay, but what choice did I have? I’m a small, middle-aged woman who happened to be sweating profusely after running to the gate. I succumb to being shoved aside.
‘Are you okay?’ The woman on the left asks me. I am sheet white and still sweating. I mutter something about being pushed aside and rude people and she looks at them, rolls her eyes and continues to let me pass.
I finally sit down in the gate area and wait for my plane to board. It’s leaving in ten minutes. We should be boarding any second. I fan myself with my newspaper and finally stop sweating.
‘We are sorry to announce that there is a slight delay in your flight.’
Good thing I ran all the way to the gate. I look around and there they are. The two families traveling together; angry that the flight is delayed. Another family is sitting across from me, they have a son, I’d say he’s about ten years old. They finally call boarding for anyone with small children, the priority passengers, blah, blah, blah…of course, the families traveling together jump to the call to arms. Despite no small children; I put the youngest at six, the oldest at about eleven but they qualify themselves as needing extra time for the small children. I tell the family eagerly awaiting the boarding sitting in front of me to go and board now. I point out that the families boarding have older children than their boy. The boy is excited. ‘Can we board, can we board, can we board, please, please, please?’ ‘Go on! If they can do it, so should you.’ They head my advice and get in the next queue to board the plane.
Eventually it’s my Zone. Time for me to get into the queue. I queue at the gate, we get shuffled down the jet way to the next queue. I can just see the door of the plane if I crane my neck to the right and look through the sea of people standing in front of me.
On the plane at last to stand in another queue. I am only in row 4, how can there even be a queue from row 1 to row 4? Only on an airplane folks.
I sit down next to a pilot; I always get a good feeling when I see a pilot sitting next to me. It gives me a sense of security that if they trust the guy flying the plane, then all will be okay.
We’re off….maybe next time will be easier, less grumpy. Doubtful. I’m home at last though. Oh, I forgot to mention upon arrival to the airport, my car was brought to me by the parking people with the entire passenger side of the car covered in white paint. A story for another day. One day I hope my luck will change. People think I don’t have any luck. I have all the luck in the world, it’s just all bad luck. I will look forward to some good luck soon. They say it can’t last forever. I’ve had at least ten years of it; I’m still waiting. Comeuppance they say…man, I must have been a real bastard in another life!
Airport Photo: Getty Images