The alarm on my phone erupted at 6am this morning, and woke me with a start. I don’t remember the dream now, but I remember wanting to return to it. I watched the clock tick through each minute until 6:30am, thinking back through everything I had packed – wondering if I had forgotten anything obvious. Traveling has become so routine, I now worry that I’m not worrying – if that makes any sense.
After having a shower, shave, and filling and packing my washbag, I still had half an hour until the taxi to the airport would arrive, so busied myself with making lunches for everybody – lining them up along the cooker, ready to go. With a few minutes remaining I spotted the taxi draw up to the front of the house, and made a final call up the stairs.
“I’m going now.”
There were muffled grunts from upstairs, followed by the clomp clomp clomb of my shoes in the hallway, and the clunk of the front door closing behind me.
The taxi driver has become familiar. Perhaps once a month he arrives at the end of our driveway, and delivers me to the airport. No fuss. No drama. Occasionally he makes conversation along the way, but not always. This morning he talked about the traffic – debating which route to go – worrying unneccesarily about my itinerary.
“It’s fine – I always allow an hour to get to the airport, and I always work around arriving two hours before departure – just like they advise you to”
Of course it never takes two hours to get through the various hurdles at the airport – particularly London Heathrow. This morning I arrived outside the terminal at 8:15, and was through security by 8:30. Everything seems to be done “at scale” at Heathrow – with legions of staff standing ready to work through occasional gluts of thousands of passengers at a time.
I’m always impressed by the airport – by the relative calm that seems to exist within the terminal buildings. I imagine if you tried to map out what everybody is doing in some sort of time-and-motion study, you would quickly go insane – and yet “the machine” quietly continues – 24 hours a day, day after day. Planes arrive at gates every few minutes, calls are made to passengers, people disembark, and board continually – I don’t think any plane stands at a gate for longer than half an hour.
I remember watching a documentary about air travel some time ago – where they stated that most large passenger jets need to be in the air for at least 18 out of every 24 hours to turn a profit – and the aircraft will be expected to work at that rate for twenty years or more. I wonder what will happen when the oil runs out though (which it will, in the next thirty or fourty years) – will all the jet planes be scrapped to make way for something else ?
Maybe the internet means we won’t need to travel as much. I’ve always thought it slightly insane that I travel to Germany every month with work to sit in an office, when I can quite happily sit in the office at home – or even our spare room – and achieve the same ends.
People are sitting around me in the departure hall looking up anxiously towards the information screens – watching the time tick down on each flight. My flight is already delayed by over half an hour. Half an hour to sit here and wonder how to fill my time. Perhaps a book. The Kindle is in my bag – filled with movies, music, TV shows, books, and magazines. Given the unpredictable and unreliable nature of fast internet connections while travelling, I tend to bring my own entertainment.
I’ve tried to watch Germany entertainment TV shows while holed up in the hotel, and can never make head or tail of them. It would of course help if I spoke any German. It’s interesting how different languages sound when you don’t understand them – French is somewhat soothing, English polite, and German invariably sounds like a raging argument.
I keep yawning. Perhaps a coffee will help.