It’s flying season again, as families pile into hot and sweaty terminals, hyped up on pre-holiday adrenaline and travel anxiety.
Some of us – including me – didn’t set foot on a plane for a couple of years during the pandemic. I’d half forgotten how stressful it is. The problem is, my wife and I operate at completely different speeds. She likes to pack days in advance, get to the airport with three or four hours to spare and, once through security, proceed straight to the gate and just sit there, solemnly waiting for the plane to arrive.
I am a nightmarishly casual traveller. I throw things in a bag on the morning of departure, rock up to security about an hour before take-off and then take my time perusing the terminal shops. I’ll often buy an unnecessary pair of trainers at JD Sports or a pair of headphones I can’t afford at Currys Digital. To me, that’s all part of the holiday vibe.
Holidays are an act of anarchy. From the moment you leave your house and stick your luggage in the back of the Uber, the usual rules do not apply. For the next week or so you are likely to be wearing swimming shorts at breakfast time and eating octopus for lunch.
It’s mental, so I try to lean into it. I spend, eat, drink and time-keep as if the world is ending and all actions have no consequence. This is why my wife falls out of love with me every time we set foot in an airport. The kids have taken sides. My daughter is bang up for shopping and time-wasting with her dad; my son is a schedule neurotic like his mum. This divide fuels a toxic, interfamily psychodrama every time we fly. It’s awful.
Last week we travelled to Budapest to visit my in-laws. Things got really strange before we even reached Heathrow. The cabbie who drove us there was a talker. I had to sit next to him in the front and he WOULD NOT stop telling me about the varied battery lifespans of electric vehicles. It was very early and I wasn’t in the mood. In Germany (where people aren’t half as uptight and awkward as we are) Uber gives you a conversation opt-out before your car even arrives. They are such a civilised people.