Safe travels

I’m one of those travellers who has to be at the airport two hours before the scheduled departure time. Not for me the last minute panicked run to the gate, all the while praying fervently that there is still time to make the plane. I like to have time to wander, to have a coffee, to sort myself. I like to have time, period.

This morning, I was all set to take the metro/bus combination that normally gets me to the airport. I had it timed to the minute. 9.10 departure from the flat would get me to the airport at 10am for a noon flight. I can be quite anal at times, when it comes to scheduling. But at 9.07, my phone rang. It was an older friend whom I haven’t seen much of this year. She’d just gotten my Christmas card and was calling to thank me for it. Hers was one of the numbers I’d lost when someone absconded with my phone  a couple of weeks ago so when I didn’t recognise the number, I had to pick up. Curiosity will be the death of me yet. A known number, I’d simply have called back from the airport.

She’s a hard woman to stop in mid-flow, so as I chatted, I was mentally recalculating my schedule and resigning myself to shelling out for a taxi. I could have taken a later metro and still made it in plenty of time to board, but that would have upset my state of mind. I was focusing on being at the check-in desk at 10 am. On schedule. My schedule.

I have a fondness for spontaneity. I rarely, if ever, have a plan (note that in my world, a plan is not the same as a schedule). I’m quite happy, for the most part, to take life as it comes, but when it comes to public transport and scheduled arrival and departure times, I turn into an automaton and cannot be reasoned with. Logic flies out the window.

My very pleasant taxi driver dropped me at 2B minutes before 10am. The desk was open and there was just one person ahead of me in the queue. I had time for a coffee and my last cigarette (I think I’m going to quit – again – for a while). Security was a breeze – nobody in line. And when I finally boarded, after doing my rounds of the duty free, I had a row of seats to myself – as everyone did. The staff, with plenty of time on their hands and so few people to contend with, were chatty and relaxed. I spent the three hours reading, drinking cups of tea, nibbling on a cheese plate. Heaven.

We landed on time. My luggage made it. And I was met. That has to be one of life’s simplest pleasures – coming through the doors from baggage claim and seeing someone you recognise who’s as happy to see you as you are to see them. Priceless.


The closer it gets to Christmas, the more manic airports get. If you’re travelling this week, I hope your trip is as uneventful as mine, and that everything goes according to plan – your plan.


Grateful 47

Airports are a wonderful laboratory in which to study the human mind and make-up. I am convinced that some people pack their frustrations  alongside their socks and then spend their two hours at the airport before boarding trying to dump those frustrations on someone else. At Malta airport this week, my flight to Munich was delayed by a whopping 26 minutes. It was due to board at 9.05 and when nothing had happened by 9.20, some people were getting a tad anxious. Three men  – one German, one British, and one Maltese – were in particularly irritable moods. They seemed to be travelling individually but were drawn together by a shared frustration. They had connections to make in Munich – that was obvious – but hey – sometimes connections are missed.

The Maltese guy was having it out with the airline staff – he had a business meeting he needed to get to and why was the plane late. Technical difficulties. What kind of technical difficulties (as if that mattered!). Technical difficulties. Then the British guy adds his two pennies worth of a rant and explained that technical difficulties meant that there was no plane and we wouldn’t be flying at all. Then the German, for good measure, starts on about airlines having no respect for schedules and the importance of people.

In the meantime, on the TV in the nearby café, reporters in Syria were telling the world about two explosions in Aleppo that had killed 28 people. I sat between the TV and the trio, as if watching a tennis match. I thought briefly about pointing out to them that all the complaining in the world wouldn’t make the plane appear. I thought about mentioning that the people they were yelling at had absolutely no control over the situation. I thought about showing them the idiocy of their ways: so their plane would be late and they might miss a connection but at the end of the day, they would be alive.

But I didn’t do anything. Instead, I sat back and gave silent thanks that somewhere along the line I’ve learned to put things into perspective. As  Alice Caldwell Rice so famously said: It ain’t no use putting up your umbrella till it rains.