Tales of Woe from the Departure Gate: An Airport Guide
Humans are deeply varied and multi-faceted creatures. We are defined by an inability to define us exactly; we differ in our views, our dreams, our opinions, our dislikes, our hopes, our experiences. However, there is a truth universally acknowledged – a truth that unites us, that can be used to tar even the most polar of opposites with the same brush.
That truth, is that everyone thinks airports are the absolute pits. They’re a sort of purgatory, the horrors of which are only superceded by Asda superstores on a Saturday morning and motorway service stations.
Your mum, your gran, you next door neighbour, your dental hygienist, your butcher, the peculiar woman who works at the cattery – all of these people have Tales of Woe from the Airport Departure Gate. The finer details of these Tales differ somewhat but the plot template rarely varies: Parking was A Nightmare, Luggage Restriction Despair, So Many People?, (They were drunk – at 7am?), [Insert Member of Airport Staff] just didn’t know how to Do Their Job, it cost How Much?, And then we were Delayed for…, Honestly it was a Nightmare.
Follow my literal step-by-step airport guide to ensure that your Tale of Woe becomes the Tale of a Pro:
It begins. You enter the Departures building. Third time lucky – someone got their pushchair stuck in the revolving door. Pampers everywhere. Horror. Do not pause.
Well-packed carry-on wheelie suitcase in one hand, boarding pass in the other (on your phone, obviously – it’s 2018).
You don’t have checked baggage; you’re not an amateur.
Straight through to security. Drain that water bottle, take your laptop out of its case, belt is already unbuckled. Greet underpaid and overworked airport security man with smile. He’s just explained for the 10th time that sun cream is, in fact, a liquid. It’s only 6am. Be on the charm offensive and give him a knowing wink – you’ve both done this before. He thinks you’re obnoxious and a little bit odd because you’ve just winked at him. It’s 6am. You’re in an airport. Go with it.
Glide through the metal detectors like the majestic and prepared travel expert that you are…oh, wait. Can you just step to the side a second, madam? Early-morning airport grope. Shit, house keys. Sheepish smile – sorry about that, completely forgot about those.
Duty-free! Shiny shiny, Clinique minis travel set? Bottle of Grey Goose? Put them down. Dodge well-meaning perfume sprayer lady with faintly apologetic grimace and half-arsed excuse. Bye duty-free.
First port of call: WHSmith. Petite bottle of Evian water and some mints – part with half of entire life’s earnings and the promise of your firstborn. No need to part with promise of second-born for limp egg and cress sandwich – you’ve got a packed lunch. Clingfilmed ham sandwich = 1, limp pre-packaged egg and cress = 0.
Frustration. Crowds. Accidentally boot small child (“Charlie, stop running around. Mind the lady!”). Smile in an understanding way as rage simmers. Piss off, Charlie.
Departures board. Stare intently. ‘Gate information at 7.35’. Look at watch: 7.05. Consider returning to browse limp sandwiches to kill some time. Consider locking yourself in a toilet cubicle and playing Solitaire on your phone. Consider a repeat meeting with perfume sprayer lady. Settle on finding nearest metal seat and scrolling through Twitter until eyes glaze over.
7.35am: Gate 58. Look around you. Nearest gate – Gate 3. Thank God you bought limp egg and cress sandwich. Sustenance required for unplanned early morning sprint. Limp egg and cress sandwich = 1, purse = -10000000. Furtive glances at fellow departures board watchers. It’s race time. On your marks, get set…
Gate 58. No time to get your breath back, get in the queue. You’re the first, congratulations. Your prize is standing and staring at the Ryanair staff hopefully for 45 minutes. You can’t feel your feet. Where did you put your pass-, oh it’s in your hand. Please don’t make me put my well-packed wheelie-suitcase in the hold, Ryanair lady.
Time to board. Herded like cattle onto moving sardine tin/ bus. Weigh up pros/cons of holding onto handrail. Con: sweaty, greasy, bacteria-ridden. Pro: less booting of small children. Opt to avoid handrail. Bus judders into action. Promptly fall over suitcase.
Recycled air and lack of leg room time. In your head you are an aircraft expert and the only person in this whole place qualified to spot last-minute breakages or leaks. Quick scan to make sure all in working order i.e. the propeller is not hanging by one sole steel cable. Everything ok with the left phalange? You have no idea what you’re doing, do you? Take a seat and hope for the best.