Airports are always interesting, even when they are empty!
I was in India on holidays. This year was tough. I was not welcome at home and I felt miserable about what was happening and how I was getting treated. It was Christmas eve and I was sitting in my bedroom and surfing the net. It was pre-social networking days. Everyone was busy with their own lives, watching TV serials, meeting friends, shopping, etc.. I felt left out.I didn’t know what to do. As my mind was racing, my hand was randomly typing stuff on the computer and without realizing I was checking out tickets for the flights the next day. I wasn’t due to fly for another week, but I was not ready to stay there anymore and feel unwelcome!
I walked out of the room and declared randomly that I was leaving the next day as I was coming back in March anyway. Nobody said anything to stop me. This was about 8 p.m. I started packing the bags. I had my dinner and went to sleep. I was out early next morning. I went to the Gulf Air ticket counter and the guys there were very courteous. They said they will put me through to London and I will have to get my London – Dublin sector sorted there.
As I walked in the entrance to the airport tears started flowing. I walked through check-in, immigration and security check with tears in my eyes. There was not much crowd at the gate. Of course, the plane was empty. The first leg wasn’t that long and I spent most if not all my time crying. I just couldn’t stop the tears.
I got off at Bahrain, the transit wasn’t too long and then got on the next plane which had about a handful of people! The crew were kind enough to serve us food quickly and get us to sleep on the middle four seats in the wide-bodied aircraft. I fell asleep crying and woke up only when we were ready to land.
I got out of the plane in London Heathrow and mechanically walked towards the domestic terminal and my mind as usual was preoccupied in its own thoughts. I was thinking about the previous Christmas holidays when I had just arrived from Paris by train and headed to Stanstead airport to take a flight to Barcelona. I ended up spending the night at a station because there were no connecting trains at that time in the night. Little did I realise that I was going to spend this night in the airport!
Only when I reached the security between terminals did I realise that the airport was empty! The security personnel had all the time in the world to chat with every single passenger that wandered into the terminal. There was a group of lovely people in straw hats, colourful clothes who were carrying guitars and bongos. They were stopped at security and asked to sing songs and play music and entertain some lonely passengers like me! When was the last time something like that happened? Never!
I asked the staff at security directions to go to BMI help desk and they asked me where I had to go. I told them I was heading to Dublin and they gently reminded me that it was Xmas and the domestic terminal was closed! Damn! How did I not think about this? I have been in UK for one Christmas and Dublin for another and I should know by now that the airports actually close down for Xmas. So now I was stuck in Heathrow and I was told that there was no redeye to Dublin the next day, the first flight out would not be before 8 am on St.Stephen’s day!
I called my friend who lives in Hounslow and he told me to get a taxi from the airport to his home, he didn’t have a car and it was difficult for him to find a taxi. I was told by the security staff that since the domestic terminal was closed there was no way I would find a taxi outside. I just called my friends in Dublin to tell them that I was not arriving and I could hear so much noise. I am sure all of them would have been having good fun, lots of fun, games, food and bottles of wine! I was missing all that fun.
Just as I settled into one of the loungers I realised my stomach was angry with me. Stuck in an airport overnight with loosies, no medicine and no food – the best recipe for disaster! Thankfully after a couple of hours when there was nothing in my body to empty anymore the loosies stopped. I was sitting there with no energy, nothing to eat or drink as there were no shops open and wanting to cry even more. As I closed my eyes, lying on the lounger, a gentle hand touched my shoulder. I opened my eyes to see the security staff handing me over a sandwich and half a bottle of fizzy apple juice. I refused to take it saying it was no help especially when I was sick. The staff hugged me, wished me Merry Xmas again and left as they were finishing off their shift.
I slept well and the next morning I was there as the first passenger when BMI opened their ticket desk. I got my seat on the first flight out and boy was I happy to be on that plane!
It was such a lovely experience in spite of the overnight stay at the airport and sickness that hit me when I reached London.
Empty airports are lovely too after all and there are people with hearts that are ready to help you anywhere in the world!