Airports are strange places. Dislocated islands populated by all the nations of the world brought together for a short time in a false sense of camaraderie. An ever changing montage of sizes, shapes, colours, accents and behaviours.
Take the lady of African descent seated two rows in front. She chews gum for three beats then scratches her nose for one. She’s been doing it for an hour. Is she allergic to the very gum she masticates with such enthusiasm? Every now and then her head drops to reveal an unexpected bald patch on the top of her head. She traces her hand across it periodically leaving me to wonder: which came first? The bald patch followed by a concerned-to-be-balding hand? Or an involuntary head stroke tic leading to a gradual wearing away of her hair?
To my right is the shifty dark-haired gentleman who has just been turned back at the Air France gate. I overheard the word “standby” followed by a derisory laugh from the airline attendant. Clearly he stands nowhere, let alone “by”. He is left tapping his knees with a nervous set of fingers while he awaits a similar rejection from the British Airways staff who are already wise to him. How did he get through security without a boarding pass? He is the man from nowhere going nowhere. I fear he may be here some time.
Then there’s the so obviously British business suits. The ones with ties still tightly fastened for the flight who insist on queuing just in front of the doors a good forty minutes before boarding. They glare directly at the staff and defy anyone to try to board before them – even the unaccompanied minor waiting patiently to the side of them warrants a tut and a curled lip.
Poor love. There she perches atop her purple Trunki, wild-haired and hollow-eyed. Is she the unfortunate commuter ferrying between two estranged parents? Is she visiting grandparents who dislike her father and his presence in her life – the father who I watched drop her off at the airport and leave her in the care of a complete stranger?
Who knows what people’s stories are? We are all baggage in the end, waiting to land and for someone to claim us. Just passing through this airport island on our way to the real world again.