BootsnAll Travel Network

Airport Madness:Watching and Waiting For English People To Lose Their Cool

This entry picks up where I last left off..waiting at the airport in London for my flight to Geneva.

I often stay up all night in airports, waiting for flights the following day. I do this because it’s cheaper to travel this way, but also because one meets the most interesting people in airports.

I waited for over eight hours with a group of people I will most likely never meet again. yet, waiting around in airports makes people very open to chattering away about their lives..and it’s always a bit surreal the way they share their fears, ideas, and innermost thoughts..kind of like a strange blurry snapshot you look at later and can’t quite remember where it was taken.

Anyway, the main problem with staying up all night in airports is that it’s exhausting. You get on the flight you’ve been waiting for all night long and you’re sort of fumble for your bag, your passport…you try to read your ticket to figure out where you are seated, and you can’t quite make out the get in the wrong lines, the wrong seat, you put your baggage in the wrong place…

And then, blissfully, gratefully, you slip into your proper seat, feeling somehow superior than everyone else that you managed to not pay for an overpriced hotel room at the airport. This is about the point that the real exhaustion, accompanied by a tiny bit of nausea sets in. You’ve only been slurping cups of horrid airport coffee and munching on stale trail mix for over ten hours, after all. It’s to be expected.

This is what was supposed to happen to me at the Gatwick Airport. This is what I was expecting. Some slight discomfort, some slight suffering, and then sinking into my airplane seat gratefully and taking a nap.

But what happened was totally different.

I had decided to fly Easy Jet, a notoriously cheap airline, that flies all over Europe for next to nothing. I was apparently not the only person in England who had that very same idea.

Easy Jet didn’t open until 6 am, so people began forming get into about 5 am.

It is said that English people will line up for anything..and it’s true..I’ve seen it happen all over England. Sometimes they did not even seem to know what they were in line for.

This time, they were in line to be in line.

The line got so long that it winded this way and that, right out of the Easy Jet area, down the escalator, out into a hallway, out into the parking lot. The escalator had to be turned off. Guards were called in to monitor the crowd. People selling coffee came wandering by with little carts, and entire families with strollers and babies and toddlers sat on their luggage and ate breakfast.

I joined the line at about 6:30 am. It was raining quite hard and it was dreary. I was waiting outside in the rain, using the cheap yellow umbrella I had bought in Spain as a shelter, and it kept blowing inside out. I was tired, the babies were crying, the cell phones were ringing, and it was depressing.

I was glad at least to be leaving England.

My flight left at just after eight o’clock in the was about 7 am when people in the line began to become a bit anxious. Everyone seemed to realize at the same exact moment that we were all in lines for different Easy Jet flights, and that those of us scheduled to leave sooner than the rest had no real chance of catching our flights. The line was moving at a snail’s pace, and there didn’t seem much chance of it speeding up.

English people don’t seem to panic, even in situations like this. They sort of..just talk about things among themselves. It’s like they are taking it all in, in slow motion.They seemed slightly out of sortsĀ  that they might miss their flights, but no one really was doing anything about it.

I was too tired to think about it, myself. I think being surrounded by hundreds of English people who are about to miss their flights and areĀ  just mumbling among themselves that someone will come and “sort it out”, so that they can “get on with it”, as they give their children packages of crackers and tell their school age children to play nicely..somehow has an effect on that American psyche, that wants-no demands-all problems be solved at once.

I was almost to the point of falling asleep, standing up, when a Easy Jet employee walked up to me, wearing a shockingly bright orange polo shirt which made his pallid skin look green. He asked me where I was going, and I told him to Geneva.

“Go upstairs, make a left, then right, then downstairs, then left. Wait there for the first desk that opens. We don’t want you to miss that flight!”, he said, smiling greenly at me.

I understood nothing he said. He was from the Birmingham area of England, which is impossible to understand-it sort of sounds like someone mumbling into their underarm.

The man next to me in line was also going to Geneva, and he had understood his countryman perfectly. So I tagged along after him, trying to keep track of his bright red head of hair in the crowd.

We arrived at the Easy Jet desk at 7:40.

People were still insanely patient. I watched as a young couple and their two children missed their flight to Italy. They never lost it. They stayed calm. The Easy jet employees stayed calm. Everyone was calm, it seemed, except for me.

At five minutes to eight, I finally got up to the counter. Everything was taken care of, don’t worry they said. Now just go to the gate and wait.

Great. The red haired man and I walked towards where they pointed.

We got to our gate, number 110.

“This is not the gate for Geneva.”, the extremely annoying Easy Jet employee told us. I wanted to tell her that the bright orange color of er polo did nothing for her, but somehow I held back.

“Go back to the waiting area, and watch the screen. It will tell you which gate to go to.”, she continued.

The red haired man and I were practically ran to the waiting area to find out where we were supposed to go.

We got there. We looked up at the screen. Next to our flight number, it said, “Please wait.”

It was past eight am. We had two minutes to catch our flight, which left at 8 10 am.

People crowded around us.

They began to show an distinct absence of English reserve. I would say that they were becoming extremely agitated and vocal. Their dissent was heard by all, including numerous, heavily armed guards walking around. The guards made me nervous, like I was in a George Orwell novel. Kurt Vonnegut would have been able to write an entire novel based on the next few minutes.

Finally some words flashed next to our flight number.

“Gate 110. Closing. Gate is Closing.”


A mad rush was made back across the airport by all of us. The red haired man almost knocked over a toddler on the escalator. Entire families were running to catch the flight.

We all got to gate 110. What did we find, but…

another line!

“Where have you all been”, another Easy jet employee said.”This flight is being held up waiting for you.”

The English people had had it. They had reached their limit. They started with a low mumble among themselves and it reached a dull roar. They began actually complaining.

I had never seen English people complain about anything. True, I had been living in a cult with people that hadn’t had the permission to complain much-but, even on my various forays into other places ripe for complaint, such as banks and supermarkets..I had never really heard an English person complain.

One young girl was especially upset. She was about fourteen years old, wearing very high heels, and her shoes were not made for running thru airports, they were made for being seen in and being stylish. She had broken a heel from all the running around, and she was quite unhappy.

When she got up to the desk, she handed them her passport.

The green faced woman, wearing the bright orange polo shirt handed back her passport.

The teenager stood there for a moment, thinking.

“Anything else?” asked the Easy Jet employee.

“Yeah.”, said the teenager.”Just in case you didn’t know, that shirt makes you look terrible. You look green.”

My thoughts exactly.

Ah, England. In that few minutes I decided I will have to return again, someday.



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