My love for airports and flying is well known in my family. Weeks before travelling I already imagine myself wandering through those big bright terminals. Like modern cathedrals. People of all ages and sizes and colours from all over the world. An amazing display of suitcases and creative packing efforts. Airports have a very distinctive smell – each country its own.

Walking into the airport building – here is where the adventure starts.  The first adventure being of course – if I hand in my suitcase, will I ever see it again?  Yes, I will trust that they want to get my suitcase back to me as badly as I want it returned to me.

Free from luggage I can now enjoy myself.

I’m much too early with loads of time on my hands. That is exactly how I planned it. I can investigate some of the other terminals as well . Or I could go to arrivals. I remember that film with Tom Hanks living in an airport. Now that  is just what I could imagine myself doing for a week or so. Upstairs and downstairs exploring all the places  I never get to see.  A little like exploring a medieval castle all alone.  A  nice thought.

I’d love to go down into the dungeons, no that’s castles. I mean that underground world where the suitcases ride around on conveyor belts up and down for miles before reaching the right exit. I’d like to sit on one of those suitcases, though perhaps I’d opt out of the scanning bit.

Time to go through to departures.  I really don’t know why people get so upset about security. Do they feel guilty? Are they smuggling something?  So it’s not that nice  having to take ones  shoes of if one has smelly feet, but well, so what. Those poor policemen and women, it can’t be that much fun for them either. No wonder they never smile and look grumpy. I guess it’s also a big responsibility, so I smile and thank them and get a look of surprise, and then we laugh.

Now I’m a step closer to my plane. Yes, my plane, well, my seat – it’s in the plane,  it’s my bit of plane. I wanted to be a pilot as a teenager, but reality caught up with me in the guise of maths and physics. Nowadays it’s all automatic pilots and computers which work out wind directions, speeds and the position of the flaps and slats. Perhaps I should apply again.

I still have plenty of time before the best part comes.

First I could go to the duty-free and try perfumes. Got to be careful there as I might end up with too much floral and musk on and around me. Wouldn’t want to annoy anyone. Lots of make-up to try also. As I usually don’t wear any,  I might end up looking like someone else and have problems when showing my passport. I could get some chocolate, but that’s another danger zone as I could easily make a pig of myself and feel sick on the plane and that would not do at all.

Books. Books are wonderful. Books are also heavy, especially when one buys 4 for 3. I usually get my priorities right and leave clothes behind if I can’t lift the suitcase of the floor.  In this case my suitcase is not at hand and the books are in  plastic bags, together with the bottle of water, the bag of sweets, the chocolate (yes, it’s still there),  the teddy for my grandchild, and my coat, my newspaper and my bulging handbag on my arm.

I should have gone to the toilet first.  Where do I put all this stuff?  Why is this cubicle made only to accommodate half of my body? And how does one get the toilet paper out of this contraption? Perhaps it’s all done on purpose so that passengers who fear flying will now forget that,  as the bigger fear of dropping the passport down the toilet takes over?

After that battle I could do with a coke.  Better not.

First call over the loudspeaker, adrenaline surges and I race for the gate.  Next time I’ll get a bit earlier to the airport.  They get bigger and bigger.

Queue at the gate, so these are my fellow travellers. Interesting.

I could say a lot about them,  but I really need to search for that boarding card which has disappeared. Also need to phone home to say I’m about to leave. So where’s the phone?  Am I at the right gate?  Is this the right terminal?

Everything’s fine and I can now trot down the finger to the plane.  Reminds  me of  a  cattle chute. My plane. Through a tiny window I inspect it from the outside together with the pilot and flight engineer who are doing their rounds. Engines are where they belong.

Now, to find my seat without beheading people with my books and teddy as I squeeze down the isle. Window seat, of course. Near the wing. These are toddlers’  seats,  thank God I’m small. Problem is the person beside me is overflowing into my seat and I’m squashed up against the window. My flight is only three hours so I shouldn’t really fall sleep on that soft round shoulder so close to my head. Hope I don’t need the toilet. Also made for toddlers.

Fasten your seatbelt, we taxi, we take off. Wonderful. Great pilot. I feel safe and free. Left my worries behind and up here above the clouds there’s nothing to do but to enjoy life, admire the sky and see the earth getting smaller and smaller beneath me. I could read one of my books if I could reach them.

Shame it’s only three hours.  I was much cleverer the last time I travelled. Instead of taking this direct flight I flew via another country and had to change planes. Another airport to see, more smells and sights  and more books. And more landings and take offs. Instead of arriving in three hours I had nearly a whole day of airports and flights.  And all for the same price.

Perhaps I could find a route with three airport and perhaps with an overnight stop?  Quite a challenge. I’m sure it can be done.

Copyright*Jonie S.John 2009

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