I love airports— they are full of promise. I had to learn to love them as I’ve spent so much time waiting for my flights, and now the wait is one of my favourite parts of the trip. For me, the moment I leave home for the airport, my trip has begun— I am in tourist mode, even when I’m just travelling interstate for the day for work. I refuse to drive myself to the airport. I normally catch a shuttle which is jam-packed with another six or seven people juggling bags and umbrellas and newspapers. It seems that everyone in a shuttle is in holiday mode and they’re all chatty and excited. Especially me. I have made friends for life on those shuttles— well it seemed that way but I forget to maintain contact after a few days.
I arrive extra early as I’m always delayed in security— I have dark hair so I am explosives checked every time. Maybe I just look dodgy? I’m not sure— I tell myself it’s because of my foreign looks. Once I get through security the fun begins; I am free to explore every inch of the airport. Not quite— I don’t stray too far from my terminal, but I do have a nice little routine.
Firstly, it’s about coffee, but before I select the cafe, I need to go to the magazine store and buy a new journal and pen. I am obsessed with notebooks, and I tell myself that writers must have a notebook and pen on them at all times. It’s a lie. I save every idea in my phone, but that doesn’t stop me from buying a new journal or notebook. The paper has to be just right. I don’t even care too much about the cover, as long as the paper is thick, with beautiful lines, and the book itself must open fully so I can lay it flat on a surface to write. The pen nib must be neither too thick, nor too thin. Then it’s coffee time.
I have these romantic notions about myself sitting in a coffee lounge in the airport sipping a flat white and writing frantically what will become the next best-seller, but that’s far from the truth. Airport coffee shops produce some fantastic coffee so the reality is me sitting there chugging through three espressos, running back and forth from the bathrooms as coffee is a diuretic, and writing a shopping list in my $30 dollar notebook. But it doesn’t matter— when one is at the airport it is about what could be, not what is.
After the three coffees I’m normally wired so I decide it’s time to stretch my legs. The feet attached to those legs are usually wearing heels as I travel a lot for work, so the walk becomes a limp after the first 400 metres or so. But I refuse to sit right before a flight as I know I’ll be cramped uncomfortably in a seat only big enough for a ten-year-old child for the next couple of hours, so in my heels I kind of lean on a wall and change feet occasionally. Heels and a pencil skirt are part of the romantic notion I regret every time, especially when I’m freezing to death mid-flight and I attempt to wrap my blazer around my feet to stop the chilblains.
Then there’s the food at the airport. I love airport food— so many little nooks to try. Overpriced nooks, but exciting ones. Chicken nuggets taste divine at an airport, especially the cheesy nuggets. I have eaten those more times than I dare to count, but I also try a range of other places. When at airports in other countries, I always try a restaurant or cafe with local food. At Phoenix airport I had the best blackened shrimp. In Hawaii I ate their pulled pork with pineapple. In Vancouver I had Tim Hortons. My imagination really kicks in and I pull out my new notebook and pen, packed into my bag with ten other notebooks and pens, and I write about my meal. I take photos as well, imagining that one day I will have a world-class food blog, but once my stomach is full and I leave the restaurant, all is forgotten. I still have one more thing to do— go to the little airport convenience store.
I love airport convenience stores. I can stock up on packets of tissues, mints, hand lotion, another pen and notebook, some local t-shirts that are always too small when I get them home, a cap with I Heart Hawaii on it, the occasional psychology book that I’ll never read, a magazine and newspaper, and various other bits and pieces that I simply must have. It’s like I lose my mind in those stores. I know I can get the tissues for $1 at the supermarket, but they look so special under the bright airport lights and worth the $6 I paid. They must pump stupidity through the air conditioning at airports and I’m particularly vulnerable to it.
I spend so much time on my airport routines that I have been very close to missing my flight a few times. I’m normally the last one to board and on the way back from Honolulu in February, someone had incorrectly assumed my seat was free and had set himself up quite comfortably in it. My stern look and bulging bag of airport goodies was all the warning he needed to move along.
I don’t think it would be possible to enjoy my travels as much if it wasn’t for the sheer joy I derive from the airport— a veritable playground. Admittedly, they’re not so fun on a six-hour layover after a 13 hour flight and another 4 hours ahead, but even then, a long nap across a row of airport seats makes for a decent snooze. It’s all about how you imagine it!
2 thoughts on “Destination Nowhere”
Talking about layovers at airports between long flights, I once had a 12 hour overnight wait in the airport lounge at Abu Dhabi, between a 7 hour flight from the UK & a 15 hour flight onwards to Sydney. As I had lots of time to sleep on the next flight, I thought that I’d make the most of the time by catching up on some coding, so I opted to save some money by staying overnight in the airport lounge rather than paying for a hotel room.
I set up on the floor of the airport lounge next to one of the power outlets that must have been normally used by the cleaning staff doing the vacuuming, plugged my MacBook, and started typing away.
By about 1am the whole floor was covered with people sprawled out, mostly asleep, right on the hard polished floor of the airport lounge. It seemed that this was completely normal, and my choice of saving a few dollars by not paying for an overnight hotel room was standard practice among the locals.
At about 3am I got talking to the guy next to me, who had also plugged his laptop into the power outlet to make use of the time. He happened to be from Iraq which piqued my interest, so I asked him about life in that fascinating country which had been so devastated by the war in 2003 & the subsequent insurgency against the occupying forces.
It turned out that that my new conversationalist was one of the coaches of the Iraq national football team – that’s “soccer” to the rest of you! Of course, Saddam Hussein was no longer in power at this point, but this man had been involved in the team during Saddam’s reign, and had a few stories to tell about the fear that used to grip them after any lost games – the leader of Iraq didn’t like to lose, and the consequences could be dire.
Time passed fairly quickly, and eventually morning came so we both had to go our separate ways – I was heading back home to Sydney to visit my family, and the soccer coach was heading somewhere in the Middle East.
It just goes to show what you might miss by never speaking to the person sitting beside to you next time you’re in an airport!
That’s a wonderful story. You should probably have your own blog! It’s so good to meet others in these situations and learn their stories. That’s truly fascinating. Thanks for sharing.