Thoughts from an airport lounge
There's always one passenger who looks like a terrorist. Empty eyes surrounded by dark, shifty circles; unkempt hair reminiscent of a threadbare table lamp; clothes that suggest he might already be incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay. Unfortunately, this time, I think it's me.
So here I am on a Friday evening. I should be out on the town, painting Edinburgh red, but I find myself instead in Edinburgh Airport's fine departures lounge. All around me, babies are crying, young couples sip lattés which have been subjected to mark-ups so steep they ought to be punishable by death, Irish tourists insert the phrase "to be sure" into their sentences rather more than necessary and middle-aged English men take sips from their fifth pint of beer.
I can sort of understand why they want to have a pint or two before they get on the plane, but it's a vicious circle that someone needs to break eventually: the bottom line is that when you're steaming drunk, you care less about the steaming drunk people sitting around you. When you're sober, on the other hand, you almost want to down the plane and hope they don't take the brace position as it hurtles towards the ground. (The brace position, as any in-flight safety announcement will tell you, makes all the difference between life and death. Don't assume it in a crash landing and you're liable to have your innards splattered across the inside of the cabin; assume it and you'll walk away spotlessly clean, a vacant smile splattered across the outside of your face.)
Although Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland, you'll be amazed to learn that it isn't a very important city internationally. Our population reaches the steady heights of half a million people, and we get an airport to match: three overpriced places to eat, lots of uncomfortable chairs with not enough padding, dirty floors, irritable staff and a building that could be plonked down anywhere in middle America without any comment or notice from the locals. We've also got planes to match: sixty-seat propeller death tubes which literally have the words "please God, fly me" written across their sides. This is another reason the beer comes in handy: thanks to a decline in air business since September 2001, the planes actually run out of fuel halfway to their destination and rely on middle-aged Englishmen to urinate into the fuselage.
Looking around me, I'm alarmed to discover that another dishevelled passenger - yet far tidier and better looking than me, and therefore an evil terrorist on two counts - is sat across from me and is staring intently at my laptop. I'm tempted to shout "bally hard cheese, muggins, you can't have it" at the top of my lungs and flee to another gate, but obscene outbursts are not tolerated in modern airports. They have special devices, pioneered at LAX, which pluck you from your seat, whisk you off to a special holding chamber and beat you with sticks until your ears bleed the truth of a hundred nations. Also, my doctor has asked me to count to a hundred before I make another outburst, so as to avoid another faecal incident. (The joke's on him: I've secretly replaced all the numbers after 16 with unspeakably foul language.)
Without an outburst, however, he's going to sit there and stare at me until he gets up and goes to his plane. Which I hope is before I get up and go to mine. Dear God, let him be on one of those dinky propeller planes. Let him fall to his whirly doom.
Not so much air rage as flighty passive aggression, I decide that this sort of emotional immaturity is beneath my manly (portly, smelly) stature, glance at the departures screen, note that my plane is boarding, and leave. His disappointment is palpable as he gets up and goes to buy himself a pint.
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