Departure Lounge

It’s 8:55am, and you find me sitting in the middle of the departure lounge at London Heathrow airport. I woke at 6am, had a shower, then made bacon sandwiches for the children before discovering we had run out of milk to make coffee. After a few sips of redbush tea, I spotted a waiting taxi at the end of our driveway, and said goodbye to my family once again.

While sitting in the departure lounge at Heathrow I always find myself gazing at the sea of people passing this way and that – wondering who they are – where they are going – where they have come from. Some people look confident, some unsure, some full of their own self importance, and others like they are waiting for the world to end. Across the way from me, a saleswoman is slowly pacing around a makeup display, waiting for passers by to take an interest.

The terminal building is an odd beast. The waiting area is not unlike the terminal building in the Tom Hanks movie – stretching four or five stories tall, with seating areas clustered in groups across the floor area. The outside edge is populated with expensive stores selling handbags, makeup, watches, and coffee. I have never seen anybody in the Rolex store – I sometimes look in the window and laugh at the prices of the watches on display – my wristwatch cost 15 from Amazon, and has kept time perfectly for the last two years.

As these journeys back and forth across Europe progress, my choice travel clothing seems to regress. Today I am wearing a pair of denim jeans, a huge hoodie, and running shoes. The hoodie hides a Star Wars t-shirt. I used to dress fairly smartly to travel, but then realised it was pointless – and this way I get to wear the comfortable clothes around the hotel during the week if I want.

This week’s hotel is an unknown quantity. Given the arrival of an auto-industry conference in Frankfurt, all of the hotels were fully booked some months ago. I managed to get a room, but am paying nearly four times the usual rate for it. It’s a three star hotel just around the corner from the office – a few minutes walk from the Japanese restaurant I have so often visited, and the supermarket just along the road. I’m sure it will be fine. I hope it will be fine.

I have another half an hour to waste before my departure gate is announced. So far I have resisted the temptation of the nearby cafes – I’m not sure how much longer I might hold out. Maybe just a small coffee to help wake me up.

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