You know those Airline programmes, where they basically film everybody getting pissed off because their flights are delayed?
I used to watch those in a sort of amused horror, laughing and cringing as people attacked the poor airline workers in crazed frenzies. Since then, I’ve travelled through many airports and seen lots of tense conversations, but never the sort of ridiculous drama of those shows… until now.
And the scary thing? I can actually understand it now. I feel like it would take very little right now to snap the thread holding on my mask of calmness and quiet dignity, and turn me into a screaming, crying, shrieking lunatic trying to beat the crap out of a total stranger. I mean, I nearly shoved someone earlier just for walking in my path, and I was surprised by the urge I had to shake a woman who was moaning about the fact that she’d been stuck at the airport all night. I paid to go to London Heathrow on the 18th, she whined, glaring at the airline worker, and now it is the 19th. This is not good enough. Why am I sleeping on a cold floor and not being flown to London Heathrow RIGHT NOW?
Because London Heathrow is CLOSED, ma’am, said the harrassed airline worker. And this is the thing, you see, about complaining. I can understand it if it’s going to change something – but really, what can an overwhelmed representative really do about the fact that your destination won’t let you in on account of it being all covered in snow? You just have to accept it and wait patiently.
But that’s very difficult to do when you’ve been looking forward to being on the other end of that flight for so long, and it’s Christmas, and you want to see your family and cuddle your cat, so I have to confess I understand how the frustration can turn into rage at the only people who are there. You’re disappointed, you’re tired, you need a shower, you’re hungry and thirsty… oh, yes, when I finally got a food voucher (there is no ATM in the terminal) I joined the hundreds-strong queue at the only restaurant, only for them to run out of food when I was halfway along the line! Sigh. I ended up going very humbly to one of the Red Cross volunteers who have been providing sleeping bags and suchlike, and begging for a bottle of water.
While I have remained my usual patient, “oh, no problem, don’t worry about it” self on the outside, I’ve been gradually unravelling on the inside, to the point where a kind and helpful email from a friend earlier made me start to cry, sitting there surrounded by people. I hurriedly dried the tears and decided to search for a new way home instead – but had there been someone there for me to scream pointlessly at at that moment, I might well have done so!
On the plus side, many random conversations with strangers have been had in French. There’s that spirit of “everybody help each other out, we’re all in the same boat here, or at least wish we were in a boat”. As I type this, curled up by a power socket I found sneakily hiding beside a check-in machine, I have the iPhone of some guy plugged into my laptop to recharge it, and what’s more he trustingly has left me with it to go and get me some food. The only regrettable part of all this human interaction is that when the first girl approached me she spoke so fast that I got confused and said “please speak slowly” in Korean instead of French. Ah well.
Original flight abandoned. Had to get out of the crazy terminal filled with mad people. Dublin flight booked. So much for my paid-for vacation. Don’t care, as long as I get out of here soon!