With my flight status showing as “scheduled” I began my journey from the Hairy Ford (that’s Hereford, for the casual reader) a little after eleven of the morning clock. The British rail network did me proud, delivering me to Gatwick in plenty of time for my 18:15 flight.
I was glad that I had decided to check-in online, as the queue was quite formidable. I joined the shorter bag drop queue, only to be told, upon reaching the front, that I had to wait ten more minutes because the computers would not process anything to do with my flight until it was less than two hours away. During those ten minutes I contemplated the baffling phenomenon that is airport queueing. You queue to check in; you queue at security; sometimes you queue to enter the mini departure lounge at the gate, and you queue to board the plane. What purpose do these queues serve? I appreciate that you need to be metal-detected, and your bags need to be x-rayed, and that the hilarious nostalgia fest of your passport photo needs to be compared to your miserable, queue-beleagured face. I can even tolerate, albeit begrudgingly, that it’s not practical to board every passenger in strict descending order of their seat number, so as to avoid some arsehole trying to stuff his battleship-sized carry-on into the overhead locker, delaying everyone else from sitting down. But I can’t see why they don’t just roll them all into one giant queue and have done with it – sort of a conveyor belt, a production line. If this conveyor belt led from the airport entrance to the gate, it would streamline the whole process beautifully.
But aside from the shorter queueing time , exactly what did I achieve by checking in online? I still had to queue to see a woman who checked my passport, asked me if I’d packed my own bags and put my suitcase on a conveyor belt to the underworld. How does this differ from checking in? I always thought that by checking in, you were confirming that you were going to fly – like form registration. “Oseman?” “Present, sir. Please don’t give my seat to someone else.” But Easyjet lets you check in up to 60 days prior to your flight. A lot can happen in 60 days. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but I’m guessing they at least had the foundations dug and a couple of burger vans frying up after 60.
Anyway, having seen my suitcase off to the nether regions of the airport organism, I joined the mercifully short queue for security. After being metal-detected, and having my keys and belt bombarded by the rays discovered by Malcolm X in his downtime from violently opposing racism, I soon found myself sat in front of the departure board. At 17:10, the message “boarding starts at 17:10” was replaced with the all-purpose legend “please wait”. At 18:15, I was still being silently and unnecessarily exhorted to wait. At 18:20, the text turned red and informed me that the flight was closing. simultaneously revealing the gate number for the first time. A brisk walk to the gate, and I found myself in another queue. A tannoy announced that passengers with inaccurately-named “Speedy Boarding” passes were now invited to come forward. Half an hour later, I was still in the queue, which was advancing at speeds most closely associated with the Eastbourne post office queue at 9:30 on pension day, in a universe where time runs six times more slowly than it does here. Reaching the head of this queue, and passing through the hallowed portal, I discovered not the Holy Grail, nor the shining face of the Lord himself, nor even a plane, which, frankly, was the least I was hoping for. Instead I espied a bus, filled with people who had been ahead of me in the queue. It was like I had joined my deceased loved ones in heaven, only to discover that heaven was a bit rubbish and, had they had the means, my loved ones would have sent me a postcard telling me not to bother hurrying, and to be honest, only to come on to heaven when I was quite sure that I’d exhausted everything I could do on earth and I was so desperate for a change of scenery that sticking my head in the gas oven was the only thing left to do.
Of course, the bus couldn’t go anywhere until everyone who was behind me in the queue had also passed through the golden portal and suffered the same crushing disappointment. When it had finally shuttled us to the plane, there was a final, brief queue to get on the aircraft, as if someone was reminding us that, even in the blessed afterlife, there is some arsehole with a carry-on that’s too big.
The plane finally parted company with the ground two hours after its scheduled time. Upon arriving in Nice, I called my hotel to inform them that I wouldn’t make it there before the latest check-in time of 11:30pm. Defying the odds, my baggage chose the same holiday destination as me, we were swiftly reunited, and the careful planning of my route to the nearest railway station paid off admirably. Having purchased a ticket, I took a pew on the dark and lonely platform, reflecting that, were I in a similar situation in the Hairy Ford, I would be in constant fear of yobs and muggers. Regrettably, the French railway system proved as piss-poor as the bus system I had been subjected to on my previous visit to Cannes. The scheduled time came and went (the only saving grace being the singular absence of queues), and the hour of midnight found me teaming up with three other stranded Brits, walking back to the airport and negotiating a fare with a tourist-hating taxi driver.
At 1:30am, my destination and I finally coincided on the time-space continuum, and a comfy bed called my name.
Today, being the day before the Film Market really kicks off, I have little to do until a dinner with Carl and his SAE students, so I believe I shall check out the beach. Au revoir.