Terminal Madness

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Going nowhere extremely slowly.

The airport procedures involved in travelling by airplane are lengthy and laborious at best. Lots of checking, searching, walking, waiting and standing; yet it never ceases to amaze me how travellers can’t help but fall into the fruitless enchantment of the boarding gate wait. Despite the amount of dragging around of bags and beating of feet on hard marble and concrete floors they do, even seasoned travellers find themselves lured into this futile ritual. Airlines have tried to offer support by prioritising and calling out seat numbers in groups to save people the discomfort of pointlessly standing around for lengthy periods of time, but it’s like a mental illness that effects almost all travellers regardless of age, gender, race or creed.

So you know you’re allocated a specific seat on the plane, right? You also know that no matter what happens you’re not going to be asked to rest your hand luggage on your lap throughout the journey, right? You know that as long as you are at the gate prior to the departure time of your flight that the plane isn’t going to leave without you, right? You can see the seating scattered all around the gate for the purposes of your comfort. So why do you insist on standing up, edging forward one bag shunt at a time, pushing and jostling like a desperate refugee waiting for a food parcel, in a queue that stretches ten, fifteen, sometimes twenty metres back into the airport and has barely moved for the last half hour? It’s absolute madness!

I think this is one of the rare occasions when more mature adults act more childish than the young. Younger travellers tend to be more carefree in this situation. They often seem to just symbiotically merge with whatever formation of authoritative structure is placed in front of them as they laugh and chatter their way through the airport rituals. They’re often drunk or hungover and aren’t really paying attention to anything. As long as they have their bag, their passport and their ticket they’re happy. But the 40 pluses, the families and the retirees who holiday two, three and four times a year, seem to be hypnotically inured to assume formations of rigorous, efficient futility. Furthermore, they will defend that futility with a youthful vigour usually reserved for those evenings when the kids are out or Viagra night.

Maybe it’s years of state indoctrination of subservient adherence to bureaucracy. Maybe it’s a predilection to a domestication instinct to follow the crowd and join a queue. Maybe it’s all just part and parcel of the ritual excitement of travelling to a foreign land in a huge flying metal beast (although I find that hard to accept because people do it on internal and return flights too). Maybe I’m just trying to be nice and it’s simply the idiotic herd mentality of Sheeple.

Whatever it is it’s stupid, so stop doing it. You’re only going to be stood up longer than is necessary. You’re going to be wrestling with other passengers again when you get on the plane because everyone in there is probably a petty, priority Nazi like you. Even if you do get seated quickly, you won’t be able to relax because you’ll be spending the next half hour or more having your knees and elbows assaulted by the rest of the passengers and stewards as they stow away hand luggage and seat themselves.

If you had have showed some restraint and independent thought you would still be sat in the relative calm and comfort of an airport waiting lounge. You would have then entered the cabin of the plane facing a group of predominantly seated and settled passengers, and stewards who are far less agitated. You would also have done a favour to those who were seated before you by relieving them of the chaos caused by the rushing of irrationally impatient passengers onto a stationary aircraft. In short, you wouldn’t be contributing to the already excessive amount of hostile stupidity that plagues the world. You would have made one small, unhurried, step toward being one of the lesser fools of man, and hopefully made one sensible, independent step toward the betterment of mankind.

You see it’s bigger than just the terminal madness of the gate queue. The irrational gate queuers are usually the same idiots who unclip their seat belt as quickly as a sprinter leaves a starting block the moment the ‘fasten your seatbelt’ sign is switched off. They then jump up to be the first to get their hand luggage out of the overhead compartment, elbows lunging as they drag their belongings out as if there’s a fire. Then they stand in the gangway for twenty minutes clutching their bag, being nothing other than an idiotic obstruction as they wait for the cabin doors to be opened. These same people then rush to get to the baggage carousel in a scrambling hoard in a desperately futile belief that standing by the conveyor belt and staring at the hole in the wall will make their luggage come through quicker than the arbitrary baggage handling process permits. It’s idiotic. I know it’s idiotic because I have been one of those people. Now I know better. And if you have read this then so do you. A holiday is a time for relaxation. Extend that relaxation as far as you can and just wait for the inevitability of the process to run its course, it’s so much easier.

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5 thoughts on “Terminal Madness

    • Only if you let them. Kick back and relax whilst listening to some soothing music on your phone whilst it’s plugged into a socket, charging up for the rest of your journey. Just don’t get drawn in 😉

  1. Sounds like an episode of “The Amazing Race.” But seriously I do hate trying to work my way down the too narrow aisle of a plane filled with people. I suppose we all think that if only we could get before everyone else we would just be able to find our seat and sit down without climbing over anyone. I fantasise about the airline calling passengers one row at a time starting from the front, how much pleasanter boarding would be. I’m all for more sitting down.:)

    • I’ve never experienced the luxury of first class, but for me the airport experience and airline travel in general is less appealing than the twelve hour trip from Phnom Phen to Sianoukville on a reconditioned 1970s school bus. A stagnant, reconditioned-air-filled cabin packed with passengers cultivates irateness like an unaired, overused training shoe cultivates fungus. The development of self control and an ability to approach the whole process with yogic calm is the only way to do it. Be like water and gracefully ebb with the gentle tide of inevitability and try not to regress into individual tribalism 😉

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