I don’t get to travel a lot in my field of work, except when I’m on holiday. I’ve always enjoyed being at an airport, as a kid, it was seeing all the planes, which if I’m honest is still fun for me. But as I’ve grown up, airports fascinate me for many reasons, not just for the planes.
So I’m on holiday currently, visiting Toronto and Boston. I flew British Airways via Heathrow and to my delight, I had a four hour layover at London. Since I’m traveling alone this time (hate it, never like traveling without my wife), I got to indulge in my airport self-entertainment wholeheartedly.
So the reasons why I like hanging out at airports are –
1. The planes
First and foremost, it’s the airplanes. I love sitting and staring at them. Taking off, landing. I prefer watching planes land, it’s like a massive steel apartment building falling from the sky. Watching the plane approach the strip, make last minute adjustments and then when the wheels hit the tarmac, I wait for the plume of black smoke. What an adrenaline rush it must be for the pilots!
Whenever I travel abroad and meet friends or family, they insist that we try “good” food at “good” restaurants. I can’t really satisfy my cravings for trashy junk food. So, when I’m alone at an airport, I can go nuts. If you’re ever passing through an airport and come across a chubby Indian gleefully tucking into a burger king meal, that would be me.
3. The bookshops
Undoubtedly my favorite activity. Yes yes, we have bookshops back home but the lure of airport bookshops is irresistible. I don’t end up buying paperbacks, it’s usually a foreign edition of GQ or Vogue or Esquire. In short, classy literature.
Also, my wife loves the airport bookshops as well. But for entirely different reasons. She’s not interested in the books or the magazines. She usually ends up buying silly unnecessary candy near the cashier. She’ll be like “I’m telling you, you don’t get these sour skittles ANYWHERE”, or something like “Oooh…I’m buying these orange tic-tacs for my mum”. Anyway, the candy usually finds it’s way to the bottom of her mega-bag, only to resurface years later during some boring sight-seeing trip on some other vacation. And then she’ll gloat “And to think, you weren’t going to let me buy these skittles, who’s loving them now?”. Honey, I’d be loving the skittles if you didn’t keep trying to pass me all the disgusting watermelon flavored ones no one likes.
4. The other shops
My favorite shops are the ones where they try to sell you stuff you never needed till you saw it. Products like an alarm clock that jumps off the bedside table and runs away (genius), tempur-pedic neck pillows, weird space-age universal chargers, wireless cellphone chargers, headphones of all shapes and sizes and even disposable underwear (yes, you read correctly).
There’s also all the perfume stalls (makes me sneeze, so I stay away) and the duty free booze (usually to pick up single malt for home, after the cursory “Dad, Which one should I buy?” phone call).
5. The people
Oh how I love to stare. I love people-watching. What they’re wearing, who’s listening to music, who uses a Mac, who’s a PC guy, what earphones they’re using etc. You can tell a lot about a person by how they conduct themselves at an airport.
I’m always envious of people who manage to travel gracefully. There are a few in every flight. They’ll be dressed so well, not a crease on their button down blue shirt, impeccably well fitting jeans and beautifully polished shoes. These are the ones that never carry any hand luggage, all they have is a neatly folded NewYorker in their hands (pretentious pricks). I wish I could travel like that. When these seasoned, slick travelers stroll past me down the aisle, I’m the guy who’s usually trying to straighten my completely accidental bed-head hairstyle and scrape off dried spit from my cheek. I feel fat.
So on this flight to London I just took, there was this lady in her fifties, she was really fit (didn’t look a day over forty), who was wearing a white knit turtleneck and beige pants. She was carrying this wonderful tan soft leather bag by Tod’s and loafers also probably by Tod’s (it’s my story, I’m going to promote the brands I love. Deal with it). When she got off the plane, she looked like she stepped off a spa. No sign of that 9 hour flight fatigue, no curry stain on her white turtleneck. There’s a special place in hell reserved for such people.
There are so many more reasons but I think you get the gist. This is why sometimes I wish I was a busy businessman who had to travel a lot for work. I envy my friends who do, though they seem to hate it. I guess not everyone wants to be like Clooney in ‘Up in the air’.
So what kind of a traveler are you? Do you love or loathe airports?