16 December 2008

Watching the river flow

Terminal 2 at Heathrow is a bad joke now, probably has been for years.
Low ceilings give it an oppressive feeling to start with, and the fact
that it is packed with shops as well as waiting passengers makes the
experience so much more depressing. The tedious piece of muzak that has
been repeating endlessly for hours doesn't help, either.

I found a Caffe Nero – in fact I found two, but the larger one, with
seating, was crowded and I didn't fancy queueing – and as I walked
around with cappuccino in hand an American lady approached me to ask
directions. I wondered for a moment whether I looked like an airport
employee, but there are plenty of business travellers wearing suits
around so there is no likelihood of confusion there. No, she just wanted
to know where I had found coffee, and I was able to direct her. I
ventured a comment about how well we treat visitors to our country,
exposing them to the misery of this airport terminal, but my witticism –
a form of gallows humour in any case, and of course far too ironic for
an American audience – passed her by.

I've perused all the shops, as BAA intended I should, though I haven't
bought anything more than a few necessaries – sandwich and fruit-and-nut
bars. I've enrolled with the iris-imaging programme, which is supposed
to speed my passage through immigration when I come home tomorrow:
unfortunately, the staff tell me that US Immigration doesn't participate
in the system, so it will still take hours and usually an interaction
with a congenitally humourless border guard to get into the land of the
free.

Today is not a good day to be travelling anywhere, it seems, certainly
not in middle Europe. Several Lufthansa flights are showing on the
monitors as "cancelled", though the helpful approach of telling us about
cancellations over the loudspeakers seems to have been lost somewhere.
My flight's appointed time came and went, and then the monitors showed a
revised departure time – 95 minutes late. But no announcements – perhaps
so as to avoid disturbing the shopping.

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