A short little experience of the life of Tom Hanks in The Terminal.
When you travel a lot, you get into a routine. I used to be able to pack in 10 minutes, walk out the door and never forget a thing. I stopped travelling frequently for business a few years ago. In my mind, though, I can still pack in 10 minutes. However, without the routine, I am forgetting things. Sometimes it is little things - toothpaste, a baggy for my liquids, sun glasses. Recently, though, I had a biggest issue yet. I got the airport and forgot my passport.
I was flying to Florence for a short break. I packed a bag, took some Euros, and even managed to print off the address and directions to my hotel. The next day I headed for the airport. 45 minutes and a train ride later, I was standing in line the Meridiana desk, looking at the folks ahead of me. They pulled out their passports, and I was suddenly gripped by an absolutely horrific thought. My passport was sitting on my dresser back in Battersea.
Panicking, I got a cab which cost me £70 to take me home and back to Gatwick. When it was clear I wouldn't make it back from my 9:45 flight, I got on the phone and rebooked an 11:25 flight. That cost me an additional £170. Before booking, I asked the driver if I could make an 11:25. "No problem," he said.
Problem - traffic. Arrived at Gatwick at 11:00 and the flight had closed. No amount of pleading could get them to switch their opinion. I even pulled out, "My poor 83 year old father is waiting for me in Florence." Sympathy from the folks at Easyjet, but basically got the stiff arm of "rules is rules."
Thoroughly confuddled, I finally booked the third flight of the day, costing me £230. It didn't leave until 19:55, meaning I had more than eight hours to kill before my next flight.
My immediate concern was getting in touch with my Dad and letting him know I wasn't going to be in Florence by 1 PM. I called home to Toronto, and fired off emails to numerous people in both Italy, England and Canada. It was a tense hour, but I was finally able to get in touch with my father at the hotel. Crisis averted, I finally relaxed for the first time in four hours. I looked at my watch - it was just before noon in London.
At that point, I decided to settle in and hang out for my eight hour wait. I couldn't check in for another six hours, so I was relegated to the amusements before security. They consisted, in the North terminal of Gatwick, of a pub, an arcade, a few shops and some seats with a TV on the BBC news.
So there I was, a pseudo Tom Hanks from the movie The Terminal, trapped in an airport and having to make his life there. I bought a copy of the Economist and pulled out a copy of a Gresham thriller that I had in my bad. I watched some TV, did some shopping, played some video games and had a meal and a few pints in the pub.
It was dull. I wouldn't recommend spending over 8 hours in Gatwick. It wasn't awful, but it was without any joy at all. Simply functional.
It wasn't until 6 PM, when I went to check in for my flight, that I finally realised I could have gotten on the train, spend 45 minutes on the train and spent most the day at home - or wandering around London or even hanging out in Brighton by the sea-side. The four hours of panic in booking, re-booking and re-re-booking flights, as well as trying to inform my father, had taken it all out of me. I had turned off my brain and hadn't even thought that I had 8 hours to get out the airport and get back to London.
It is, ultimately, more proof that perhaps I am losing my knack at travel. When I used to do it every week, I would have never forgotten anything, certainly not something as important as my passport. And missing a flight - or even two - I would have figured out a way to get to Florence quicker, or at least how to take advantage of a long layover.
I don't know how to feel about the series of mistakes I made that day in arranging travel. Part of me feels somewhat sad that I have lost my knack of travelling. And the other part, I am a little bit happy that I have settled enough in London that I no longer have that knack of travelling.
After so many years of consulting and travelling, it's almost like I am becoming a normal human being.