I hate airports. Some people see them as places of excitement, full of people travelling all over the globe, every continent and every country coming together in one place, huge metal birds soaring across the horizon, and all of that bollocks. In reality they are inconvenient places packed tight with tired and stressed-out travellers in inappropriate clothing for the climate, families with noisy young children who have to take up the entire row of waiting-area seats with various coats they were never going to wear, soulless security staff who have been trained in the art of humourless arrogance, and shops full of things you really don’t want. Yes I know that’s a glass-half-empty look at airports, but that’s how I see them. I don’t like them.
San Francisco International was actually quite nice. Incredibly modern (lots of glass and white painted metal) with interesting displays of public art. Hardly anybody about, so there was space to breathe, and there was none of that waiting in a queue for a couple of hours to check in. I hate how airlines insist on you being two or three hours early, mainly because I do not ever want to spend any more time in an airport than I have to. It didn’t take too long to get around it, either – some airports are so huge you need to take a plane to get across them. Of course, there are the travelators – which, as Seinfeld once pointed out, people often forget are actually for travelling on, not for just standing there, leisurely passing the world by, ‘look at me, i’m not even walking’.
Usually it is such a relief for me to get on the plane and get off the ground. Unfortunately, United Airlines employ the sardine-method to air-travel, and I was clamped into place with nothing but King Kong for entertainment, on a flight I was expected to sleep on. I didn’t make the journey any worse by actually watching it, so I read a little, listened to some music, tried to sleep and failed. The air-hostesses, their baggy eyes caked in make-up and their uniforms threatening to throw stitches and release unwanted air-pressure, waddled the aisles unsmilingly offering pretzels and sodas and food with less taste than the Daily Star. I watched the map anxiously, passing over the Rocky states, past places with names like ‘Big Baldy Mountain’, across Canada and Greenland, over Iceland and finally into Britain.
And into Heathrow, one of the world’s largest (and therefore most irritating) airports. Baggage reclaim is always fun, isn’t it? It’s like a gamble, did my one make it, or is it in Sydney? And then you start to wish that you’d tied a ribbon to it, because everyone’s bag is large and black and looks just like yours. People pile around the treadmill ready to pounce on any bag slightly resembling their own, pushing other people out of the way in fits of jetlagged desperation. And then a sigh of relief as your luggage comes out; and a smug look on your face as if to say to the others still waiting, “well, I guess I’ll be off, good luck getting your bags back from Australia, suckers!” Yes, airports are really lovely places.