When I got into the taxi (silver Mercedes, arrived 15 minutes early) the driver asked me if I wanted him to change the station on the radio. I declined: it was too early in the morning to make decisions like that. I should have asked him to turn it off. At 5:15 in the morning, LBC have a vindictive man called Steve talking incessantly about how people are too fat, too ugly, too untalented. Admittedly, they all sounded like participants in various reality tv shows, but did they really deserve to be called “old bags” or worse? I assume none of them were up this early in the morning, listening to the non-stop grumble going out across the airwaves.
So, I got seven hours of sleep, I had a shower, I checked in on time. I even got to spend some precious minutes on Skype, checking in with wife and child. Those were the good things.
On the downside, Heathrow Terminal 3 feels like it was a Satanic machine that feeds on misery. From the low-level sense of incompetence at the American Airlines check in, to the sluggish queues at the security cordon, to the endless gloominess of the departure lounges, and the delayed gate announcements that never come on time, it feels designed to suck the hope from your soul.
I had a proper security check once I got to the gate. I’m not sure if that was because I had drawn the ire of one of the staff, for lining up in the priority queue rather than the main cabin. (There was one person in front of me at the main line, and nobody on the priority queue at all, but perhaps he felt his soul would itself be stained by contact with a lowly type like myself.) Whatever reason, they patted me down and took off my shoes and went through most of the compartments in my bag (except, for some reason, the part that contained the box of breakfast my mother had kindly packed for me). Then they put everything back in my bag, and on I trundled.
By the time you’re at the gate in Terminal 3, there’s no further drive to sell you stuff, apart from some vending machines that are probably no good as you’ll have got rid of all your UK currency by then. You sit on an uncomfortable chair in a glass box, looking at the gray sky and the meta tube outside the window that will shortly carry you into the gray sky (hardly a transport of delights) and then you wait some more, as if something exciting were about to happen.
In a few hours, I’ll disembark, find my bag, recheck my bag, seep through customs and then wait some more, for another plane to somewhere else. In the meantime, I sit and wait and try to imagine stories for my fellow passengers. The Russian oligarch, slumming it in economy. The corpulent lady who is actually an Israeli spy. The superannuated man in a short sleeve shirt who is … and so on and on and on