I am exhausted, frazzled, dirty, stressed out and jet-lagged. Obviously I’ve just come back from holiday.
Why do airports have to be such horrible places? I flew into Heathrow’s Terminal 5, which has been brilliantly designed to ensure that I actually did more hiking there than I managed during two weeks in Antarctica. A mile of corridors, down two escalators, onto a jammed train, up two escalators – and I still hadn’t reached the carousels. When it opened in 2008, T5 boasted about its state-of-the-art baggage delivery system. The cases from my flight took just over an hour to arrive and I felt sad examining all that battered and worn-out leather, by which I mean the other passengers’ faces. It was that sense of helplessness, the sheer inevitability of it all.
Mind you, Buenos Aires was worse. The city of tango seems to go in more for the conga when it comes to airport security. A mile-long queue finally led me to one of the most desultory searches I’ve ever endured – with a bored-looking girl barely glancing at the X-ray screen and a pat-down that went no lower than my third rib. The line to leave the country was even longer. The passport officer wanted to know – in writing – my name, my birthday, the address of the hotel where I’d stayed. Why? What possible use could this information be to anyone? And if you multiply this by 50,000 times a week, who is even going to have the time to read it all?
I tried to escape to the executive lounge. It is another fact of modern life that the personnel who sit at the entrance of these lounges are cold-hearted, despotic, about as welcoming as Cerberus at the River Styx. The gimlet-eyed beauty who greeted me told me at once that no, entrance would not be possible unless, by chance, I owned a certain Extremely Exclusive Credit Card. Amazingly, by an odd coincidence, I had exactly the thing! Suddenly, I was accepted. The lady almost swept me into her arms. She insisted on escorting me personally to the special room for EECC members that lay behind a heavy swing door. I will admit that I regarded the other excluded passengers with a look of smug superiority as the door opened. Behind it was a tiny, Formica-clad room with two babies crawling on the floor, some empty coffee cups and a basket of processed cheese. I made my excuses and left.
Last year, I joined a campaign to reduce my carbon footprint by travelling less. But it seems to me that we don’t need to worry. Modern travel is by turns vile, degrading and ridiculous. In the end everyone will notice and we’ll simply stay at home.