I Spy – Things You’ll Always See at the Airport

Whenever I travel, I always wonder why people are there, where they’re going to, what they’ll be doing when they get there. Nosey Parker, I know eh! And while I’ve been Sherlocking* over these questions in my mind (and gawping at the passers-by as they go about their business!), I’ve noticed there are several things that you’ll always see when you’re at the airport.

So dear reader, here’s a little game of I-Spy I’ve prepared for you.

Leslie Nielsen in Airplane
‘I just wanted to wish you good luck. We’re all counting on you.’

Someone going mental at the check-in desk or boarding gate (15 points)

In the early days of the internet, when easyJet and reality TV were just kids, the sight of an enraged passenger having a blazing row with a check-in assistant was a common sight when you were checking in. This phenomenon seems to be dying out now as online check-in becomes ever more popular and people have to resort to kicking a machine instead.

If you do like to catch a bit of airport aggro, the best time is probably before very early flights, when travellers are likely to be checking in before their first coffee of the day, or on flights towards the end of the day, by which time they’ve had so much coffee they’ll tear your throat out if you even breathe wrongly in their direction.

Take care not to mention the fact that setting off for the airport to check in or to the boarding gate only five seconds before they close might not have been the greatest idea. You won’t make any friends!

Someone with an insanely crazy beard or hair (20 points)

Unless one person has been cloned from another, no two people are the same, although I’m sure scientists are out there prodding a few genes and chromosomes etc. around to make it happen. That’s one of the truest joys of travel (the differences between us all, that is, not the cloning) and you’ll always see someone with an absolutely crazy hair style or beard that no one else would even dream of entertaining.

This can be anything from big hair that takes up the whole departure lounge, to hair dyed a million and one colours, to super spiky hair that transforms you into a human flail. Beardwise, it could be someone sporting a a beard so long you have to tuck it into your socks, a spiky beard, a multicoloured beared or even a beaded beard.

You’ll find yourself staring. You might even find yourself wanting to stroke it. But don’t do that, it’s creepy. You also expose yourself to the risk of the bearded one saying yes, which is even creepier. Taxi!

Close up of bearded ZZ top musician
Keep the beard and you’ll always look like your passport photo

Someone totally zonked out (10 points)

Nothing worse than a flight delay, and you’ll usually see the body clock of someone who is on the business end of one finally cave in. They’ll look like they’ve been poleaxed (if they’ve been arguing with a check-in clerk or boarding gate official, they might well have actually been poleaxed in the ensuing conflict!). Their snores will make the airport shudder and they’ll be so out of it they’ll sleep through their holiday.

Resist the temptation to draw on them and splash photos of them all over Facebook. Would it be rude not to? Oh go on then, you crazy kids!

Man sleeping heavily at the airport
‘Last call for the passenger who looks like he’s swallowed 10 jars of valium. Please proceed to Gate 10.’

Someone murdering a language (25 points)

‘Je voudrais… (consults phrasebook)… aller… a…’

Cut to a patient looking check-in assistant, baggage handler, customs official, member of waiting staff, etc. They smile politely and switch from their native language to English to hurry things along as the queue backs up. On the outside they’re smiling, but in their head they’re reaching for some kind of mental ear plugs to make it all stop.

But no, some intrepid souls will stumble and stutter on until the bitter end, no matter how badly they murder the language. Fair play to them for having a go, but why do we always seem to speak several decibels higher when we go into a foreign language? Woss all that about?

Nothing wrong with speaking a language but the better we speak it, the, er, better. After all, you’re an ambassador for your country, don’tcha know!

A lonely suitcase (30 points)

All the baggage has been hurled onto the carousel, the travellers have picked up their suitcases and dashed off to catch the airport until the city or meet the loved ones at the other ends.

However, there’s still one suitcase still left going round… and round… and round on the carousel. The poor little blighter. Somewhere out there – let’s say in Moscow – a confused soul is standing at the carousel and summing up all their life coaching experience, just waiting to be reunited with their luggage: ‘It’ll be here any minute now…’

Sometimes if the suitcase is lucky, there may be a second piece of stray baggage out there to keep it company, nonchalantly circling round on the carousel in Athens while the owner waits for it in Dubai. Could be the start of something beautiful.

Lost luggage at an airport on the carousel
‘Hey, don’t go… let’s be friends…’

Someone banging their head on an overhead locker (50 points)

Small planes are just the ticket for this! I myself was the proud cruncher of my own cranium against an overhead locker recently on a trip back from Ireland. Politely stepped out of my seat to let the passenger next to me in and as I lowered myself back into my chair, I hit the overhead locker with everything I’d got!

Laugh and the whole world laughs with you. That certainly is the case when you bash your head on a plane. You just can’t seem them laughing because they’re stifling it from behind their seats.

So next time you book a flight and there’s not much room on the plane, you’re in for a treat. Book a window seat and try to get on the plane as late as possible to increase the chances of this happening!

These are just a few of the things I’ve observed in the hours of my life on Planet Earth that I have spent in the airport. I’ve got a blog post out of it, so I’d say it’s always time well spent. How many did you spot on your trip? Care to add anything to the list, in the comments below?

*If there’s no intellectual property on that word, I’m claiming it!

Images by malias and Michel Curi, used under CC license 2.0; and George Ctsari and Hernan PiƱera, under CC license SA 2.0

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