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Travel: Broadening the Mind or Compressing the Soul?

Travel: Broadening the Mind or Compressing the Soul?
July 21
10:49 2018

MICHAEL J BLAIR
Perthshire, Scotland 

At some point over the last twenty years, air travel lost its glamour and became a form of torture.

Its prime motivation seems to be to test the patience and endurance and sanity of the travelling public.

From the moment we wake up on the day of departure until the time we leave the airport at our destination, is fraught with difficulties.

In fact, a few weeks prior to the day of departure, the mental cracks begin to appear. Decisions have to be made on everything.

Do we take the car to the airport? If so, what about the cost of parking for the duration of the trip?

Or do we take a taxi, which seems pretty simple, but not always.

Forgotten booking. Traffic holding it up, making it late. Then there’s the cost. The miserable/jolly taxi driver. The questions. The answers. The list goes on…….

When the decision is made, there are always nagging doubts, but the die is now cast.

Travel insurance is usually something I either put off until the last minute. I have no idea why, but I expect in my case, it’s down to not wanting to spend the money. It’s not expensive, but in my mind it seems like I don’t really need it, but common sense usually comes out on top.

Packing should be simple. How difficult can it be to stuff clothes into a suitcase?

Ha, clothes aren’t really the main thing, so I’m told. Ok, I’ll make a list, but the problem with me and a list, is that I can never remember what I need.

No matter what I do, I never have enough of something. Sometimes it’s socks. Or underwear. Or t-shirts. But always the pills.

For some unfathomable reason, I never bring the right amount. It’s not like I don’t count out exactly what I need. I really do that, but once again, I’ve miscounted the days.

I have enough to do the exact number of days I thought we were away, but not for the number days we are actually going to be away.

At least it’s only one day this time, and I shouldn’t fall apart too badly.

So, too many socks. Double the amount of underwear. But not enough medication. One could not make this shit up!

When arriving at the airport, it’s the joy of the herd. I’m fairly sure cattle or sheep are better treated than the travelling public.

Having arrived, we discover the bag check-in for the flight doesn’t open for another hour. This was because we were far too early. Oh well, the waiting begins.

Security has become more repressive and unpleasant than ever. The unsmiling officials. The endless queues with people in various stages of undress, trying to save time.

The haunted looks on the parents of young children, trying to have complete breakdowns, keeping them from rampaging through the cattle barriers.

We shuffle along, heads down, waiting for the moment when we have to remove all manner of things which are associated with terrorism. Watches. Belts. Necklaces. Souls. Identity. Life-force.

Having done this, there is the added humiliation of the legs and arms spread “pat-down”. I always seem to set off the metal detector, so the search has to be done.

Once again, nothing found. I have no idea why this happens.

There is also the torture of the walk through “duty free” area. I can proudly say I have never bought anything from these perfumed, grinning sellers of stuff I can live very well without.

For whatever reason, I have never understood “duty free”. There may have been a time when it was relevant, but nowadays most of the stuff can be bought online at a much lower price.

There is no option to avoid this experience, so yet again, another unnecessary travel inconvenience.

There now begins a longer period of waiting. We have been processed, made to feel somewhat less than human and now we are corralled, staring at the screens displaying the arrivals and departures, waiting for the magic moment when the number of the boarding gate is shown.

When this happens, the herd mentality kicks in and they take off like stampeding wildebeest, trampling anyone and anything that stands in their way.

I usually wait for the dust to settle before I head in the direction of the aforementioned gate. There’s no point in rushing, as I can’t rush, plus being first at the gate area doesn’t mean one will be boarded first. In fact it’s often the reverse.

Before boarding, our passports are checked for what seems like the 127th time. I figure if we get as far as we have, it’s very unlikely that we aren’t who we say we are.

At this point we are finally boarded and seated, looking forward to four and a half hours of cramped hilarity, screaming children and incontinent adults, making the toilet a tiny dark stinking hell.

Welcome to your holiday!

If I haven’t lost the will to live, I will follow this up at some future stage, trying to understand and explain how people react to a free buffet.

Michael J Blair contributes political analysis to DDA, and he can be reached at: michaelblair43@googlemail.com. His Twitter handle is: @mmjblair

[header photo courtesy of Josh Hallett; Wikimedia Commons]

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