The trick was to find a table where someone else had left the remains of his or her lunch, appropriate it for myself and pretend the leftovers were mine so that the wobbly woman going round asking patrons to consume in exchange for a table would leave me alone. Gone are the days of the hours spent in the rarefied air of the airline lounges and now my basic Blue BA card gives me access to a crappy lounge filled with harried people. Might as well be out with the general public and enjoy a bird’s eye view of the comings and goings at London Heathrow Terminal 5. Much maligned when it was first opened a couple of years ago, it’s downright glitzy compared to LAX (or even the best of US airport for that matter).
With seven hours to spend here, I am acquainting myself with every nook and cranny of this place. First of all, security is much tighter than in the US, with every tube of toothpaste and lotion double checked, every liquid confiscated, nearly every person carefully patted down and/or questioned. Being touched by a butchy woman with blue rubber gloves was actually a welcome respite from the boozy breath of the 25-year-old who sat next to me during the flight – while I watched a dumb movie, washed my face and grabbed some sleep, he kept his eyes glue to the entertainment screen all night long, chugging down bottle after bottle of red wine, switching to Coke halfway through the night. He regarded the toothbrush we were offered as a foreign object he quickly pocketed but didn’t put to good use.
Bathrooms are too modern here and lack paper towels – everything is mechanized which is not helpful when a girl is trying to wash armpits and face. Had to make do. Two cups of excellent, Brazilian forest coffee or something like that (Starbucks is actually present here but Pret a Manger has much better coffee) are keeping me awake. Upon quick inspection, free WiFi is not an option at Heathrow, where everything has a price. But for UK# 9.95 Boingo will give me a 24 hour access pass.
In the delirium that is ensuing after hours of sitting around or strolling aimlessly and browsing through the expensive stores, I have come to a few (delirious) conclusions:
- Restaurants should go to the same acoustics school airports frequent. Despite thousands of people milling around, airports always have a hush sound. Even the cries of screaming children come across as muffled.
- At intercontinental terminals, breakfast should be served 24 hours a day. Chef Ramsay, I would have gone for your place but, just off the plane, all I wanted was scrambled eggs and not roasted quail, as delicious as it no doubt was, especially coming from a country where eggs are all of a sudden persona non grata.
- The entire world is obsessed with their cell phones
- Racial profiling is common place everywhere. At security, the only people in my group who were truly hassled were a Nigerian family
- Travelling mode is akin to a meditative state. One is so zoned out that nothing but the present has meaning. Worry, anxiety, what to do tomorrow have no place in airports.
- Italians are louder than anybody else.
- Duty free shops are only good to refresh oneself with the free cologne samplers.
- An airport with a Prada store can be a girl’s best friend. Factoring in the UK pound exchange rate, the airport discount and the absence of tax, I saved a whopping $100 on a pair or medium heel (yeah, finally!) shoes with a cute burgundy bow from the new collection.
My next flight better leave on time or, at this rate, my spending my vacation spending money will be sunk at Heathrow.