Airport Anxiety

airportLocation: Somewhere in Terminal 2, Heathrow International Airport, London, (AKA: Lucifer’s rectum),

Temporary population: roughly 12,492,593.

Time: 3:17 pm, July 20, 2014.

Goal: Flight BA198 leaves at 4:30 pm. from Gate B32 in Terminal 5.

Dilemma: Gate closes at 4 pm.

There are people everywhere. And though they are in all shapes, colors, and sizes, their two unifying factors are that they stop without warning and they drag along a suitcase on wheels. I sprint ahead to dash between two of them, just barely sneaking through before they crash their shoulders together. Still, I am through, but my troubles are far from over.

I try to read a far off sign as I jog along, but sweat has filled my eyes. I hanky away the sweat and continue my mantra: Terminal 5, B32, Terminal 5, B32, Terminal 5, B32.

Admittedly, this mantra is at times interrupted by Tourette’s-like outbursts of frustration which stretch the limits of my creative lexicon to its grandest degree. Fortunately, most of the people around me are too busy shuffling along and listening to Robin Thicke to notice.

In the distance, I catch a glimpse of the magical phrase: Terminal 5. Yes! Thwarting my advance, however, is something of a conglomeration of obstacles you might see Indiana Jones negotiate…if Indy was trying to catch a transatlantic A330 in Heathrow, that is.

A group of tourists has built a human wall around me, using their infants and wheeled suitcases as low-lying barriers. A throng of salespeople have come out of their ridiculously priced boutiques and shops. Another is trying to sell a car. At the airport. There are motorized carts, prams, a living statue, and a moble Froyo stand.

And then, in the middle of all of this, I utter this sentence for the first time in my life.

God, would you please just get me in the air.

OK, my dislike of leaving the ground in a giant metal death tube has been well-documented. But I always knew that flying was a necessary evil. You start in one place at breakfast and by dinner you’re across an ocean. But the plane is no longer my primary worry. This is partially due to the fact that flying in one is like being in your living room. Well, if your living room could crash into the ocean at 600 miles per hour, I suppose. But at least you’d have a selection of movies and shows and someone actually delivering you food and drinks until it happened.

Primarily, though, the dread I used to reserve for airplanes has shifted to airports. Maneuvering a terminal means running down hallways, jumping through the closing doors of trains and buses. It means wrestling with line jumpers and leaping over babies and those ubiquitous wheeled suitcases that are the bane on my toes’ existence.

And let’s not forget about the collisions. As all of the information one needs to read at the airport exists on the walls and ceilings, it is a contact sport of diving around people and rear-ending others in the accidental sex variety.

And it’s all to do something I don’t really like doing: flying. It’s sort of like being put through one of those U.S. Army obstacle courses just to win a mushroom sandwich.

After it all, I make my flight just in the nick of time (4:16 pm). I am sweating and tired and aggravated, but I do not forget to kiss the airplane and whisper a word or two of encouragement to her. I find my seat and scroll through my vast entertainment options. This is good. Paradoxically, I relax. It is a brave new world when I am more relaxed on a plane than on terra firma.

Still, if they serve me a mushroom sandwich, I’m outta here.

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