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Every year, millions of people across the globe trade their day to day life for a week or two of alternative living. Airports can be thought of as the hearts of the world. People pump in as quickly as they are pumped out, but as Heathrow’s T5 demonstrated this year, airports occasionally can suffer a cardiac arrest, sending thousands of passengers into a frantic spasm until flow is diverted to Gatwick.
For many, air travel offers a ticket to the world, a piece of engineering genius or just a chance to relax before the holiday. For the rest of us, it represents a much more depressing view.
The start of a holiday usually means having to manoeuvre my way through the labyrinth that is the airport. Just one quick glance into the departure area and all sorts of similarities between it and limbo all come flooding into my head. People of all races and ages are just waiting, waiting to set off to their fortnight in paradise, to fly home or simply to be reunited with a loved one.
Check in desk always offers the same ordeal time after time. I have perfected my answers to the mandatory questions to a T. “Yes I packed the bag myself, no I’m not carrying anything thing sharp and I know I only look 12 on my photo but I still have a few more months on it yet.” Every time I resist the temptation to tell them that I am carrying a rocket launcher in my suitcase just to break the monotony of it all.
Walking past security I always try to make a game by seeing who can pick out the most expensive cosmetic bottle in the confiscation tank. How on earth somebody could make a bomb out of head and shoulder astounds me. I dread to think what would have happened if he and the creator of the Atom Bomb ever met. I should imagine we would be running round with three arms and tail. Although we would all have nice silky soft hair.
Duty Free is always my favourite part of the airport. It gives me a chance to unwind and relax before a long flight. Although everything the shops have to offer is around five times the price it is in any high street store, the products look that little bit more appealing. Surely an establishment which persuades you to buy a £1.50 bar of Cadburys should be investigated by the trading standard department.
Finally when I have finished mingling around the shops, and spent half my holiday money in the process, the flight is called for boarding. Even though the plane does not leave for another hour, if I are not there in fifteen minutes, my bag will have already been offloaded and its contents shipped to the Salvation Army.
The seemly unthinkable happens and the plane, which I have been sat in for the past hour, finally takes off. I have resisted the temptation to thump the snoring man on your right when the in flight entertainment starts. Now I know the price of the cinema has gone up lately, but at least you don’t get the sound of engines as background noise.
The meals come round and the smell of it makes me feel sick at best. The smell is one of both disgust and mystery. What is that animal and why does it smell like that? I usually eat the food more out of sympathy for the poor creature that died, only to be smothered in a sauce full of E numbers. We would all be better off going back in time and flying in the of the Wright Brothers planes. The entertainment would be far better although there would be no significant improvement to the meals.
Just as my patience with the snoring man is finally at the end of its rope, the friendly pilot tells us we are nearly landing. You can almost feel the jubilation running through the nine hour old stale air. The landing gear lowers and there are always a few people who think that the head and shoulders bomb had gone off. The plane touches down, brakes and slows to halt and this is where the fun really begins…ARRIVALS.
Anyone travelling to America will know of the green passport forms they have to fill out and hand in to passport control. The form must be completed with names, addresses and various bits and bobs to ensure you don’t commit any crimes whilst on holiday. Each character must be exactly 3mm in dimension and must not cross the black boxes, otherwise you will be sent right back to start of the queue. These however, are the lucky ones, as the officers always look more likely to shoot you than let you into their country. They send you off with their customary “Welcome to the United States of America”, set in the kind of tone that says “I don’t care whether you have a nice time or not just get out of my face.” Always a happy bunch!
Baggage reclaim usually offers a fun experience. The officers with their chirpy dogs sniff every bag checking for drugs, immigrants or in my case, illegal contraband of honey roast ham and brie.
After reluctantly having to give up my ham and cheese, we are let go and are free to leave the airport to start our holiday. Fourteen days of sheer bliss and relaxation until all this will be repeated on the return journey. Only this time, there is no holiday at the end of it.