27 November 2007

Lost, Smuggling and Consuming

Somehow I have not managed managed to sleep again. I mismanaged my packing, fixing the shower at 2am, forgot my french phone cards, euros, but nothing too serious. Arriving in gatwick there was a branch in the corridor, everyone else went down the left branch, but reading the sign I realised I had to take the other corridor, international connections... can I really be the only one? Various passageways merged and passed by in the airport maze, I chased the very yellow signs, one by one, alone, passing them again and again. My heavy steps thud softly on the carpet, audible in their solitude. Some people pass me, going the other way, at least there is some other humanity in this airport - unless they are robots... they do not act human, walking step step step, in hurry, like they are scared and alone. Poor lonely robots.

Then I'm there, before a security checkpoint, waiting in line, pulling my coat off rather inelegantly. The generic unhappy security man gets the people in front to take off their shoes, carefully telling them everything. Pre-empting him, I ask “shoes off?” and “Yes” he says, and proceeds with the laptop drudgery. I nod acknowledgement, placing my bags and coat in the tray, I suddenly think to ask about my belt, which he says is fine as is. I pass through, get searched carefully, pick up my stuff, fight my coat back. But suddenly I realise I have my shoes on! A huge joy spills through me, a smile embellished my face. I won! This small victory against the tyranny of paranoid terror-maniacs! Never has smuggling made me feel better! Me and my shoes, we beat the fear-mongers, the madmen, robots of insanity bear witness to my triviality!

Sober, reflecting on the nature of the - I have to admit it - completely accidental victory, I realise it was the acknowledgement followed by belt-flashing distraction that won. It broke his story, his plan, and he didn't realise it, but his brief moment of controlling me lapsed and failed to catch the silent shoes. The security who searched me so carefully simply weren't expected shoes and so they did not see them. We humans, I ponder, prime ourselves for the expected cases and find it hard to even see the unusual.

Sometime later, in Gatwick shopping-land I grumble at Costa's inability to provide a glass of water with their coffee, I shrug them off, exercising my consumer power. The consequent search leads me to a better place - at the opposite end of this, the north terminal, is a french cafe, an oasis of freedom! Free tap water in Gatwick! another success! A good birthday so far, I buy myself some shoes and wonder how to pass the time between flights, trying not to sleep too heavily.