Coming back from vacation with a bad case of airport misery | Travel

I was in a very bad place last weekend. Not mentally – I was at an airport Starbucks fell against a wall. It was not until we had been sitting in the departure hall for many hours, while our two young children at midnight watched the rooms slowly filled with hundreds of people and thousands of iPads before I realized, with excitement, that I was inside. a news story.

It’s a very special kind of sweet and sour excitement, is not it, when you look up from your own personal disaster and realize that you’re part of something bigger? The dullest, most annoying moments in your life are suddenly polished to a high gloss and beautifully lit. Stories that from your mouth would have made friends politely choke yawns after 30 seconds, become whole newspaper articles, with expert quotes and panoramic pictures, and someone who seriously explains how to pee in a cup.

I’m not talking about major tragedies here, I’m talking about their usual domestic filth that disturbs Britain’s strenuous peace to the extent that it’s in the newspapers. I’m talking about the times, for example, when you turn on the car radio and are told that you’re sitting in a traffic jam “the length of Wales”, or your small town is experiencing the hottest day in 100 years, or you’re at the very end of a NHS waiting list for your ear, or you can no longer afford pasta because of something to do with wheat. So it happened that my family and I, returning from our first vacation in three years, found ourselves among the thousands of Britons stuck at an airport due to “travel chaos” from lack of workers.

We had had a wonderful holiday, but at that time we had to constantly remind ourselves of it. Despite the fact that I had swum in the sea the same morning, at 01:00 I was unsure if I had been anywhere else, ever, beyond this bank of plastic seats. I was born here many hours ago, and this is where I grew up, on the tile floor at street 5a, and here we ate our meals of cereal bars and Chupa Chups, and this is where we took care of each other’s diseases and minor deaths. Despite the new cold of being among a maskless crowd, everyone was surprisingly well behaved. Even when it was announced that all Manchester flights were canceled, and our seat neighbors (who had been waiting for seven hours) began to collect their bags, instead of anger or panic, there was a resigned peace of mind, all very “well” . I was impressed.

You always think (I always think) that a vacation will be about clearing your mind of worries and nonsense, an idea reinforced by shutdowns in a house with a sweet little family mentally beaten after too much TV. Not only would my thoughts be reset, refreshed, but the dynamics of the whole family as well – no more bumps about teeth, or whining about who took his tip – we would see the sea and smell the heat and then a great calm would fall over us. Of course, I forgot that wherever we go, there we are. At the airport, while trying to silence the baby, I read a quote from Quentin Crisp. “You must know who you are, who you think you are, who your neighbors think you are,” he said in all his wonderful wisdom. «What are you really like? You must not go into a dream, but accept your limitations and then express them in your life, in your behavior, your identity. You have to tell the truth about yourself. Otherwise, life is just a waste of time, is not it? ” Well yes. And who I am, it turned out, was a person who did not find peace on the rocks of a Greek beach in June, nor in the ocean, but who fell against a wall at a Starbucks airport.

I was not the only one. Everywhere people smiled their gloomy little smiles and jerked up to make room, keeping their voices down while toddlers slept in starfish figures over jumpers on the floor. There was a polite crowd around the phone’s charging center, but it had the feel of a group of fans waiting for Kylie instead of the expected scrum. When we finally returned to the UK at 4am, rolling our bodies through passport control, we found a quiet queue of hundreds of holidaymakers on the other side waiting to check in, queuing along the airport in an area designated for Ukrainian. refugees. “Welcome!” said the sign awkwardly, to a pink cowboy hat hen party.

We arrivals weaved through those who left with duty-free excuses, some jealousy. There was partial exhaustion, yes, but there was also a mild mark of humanity at the airport peace – a teenage boy who came to WH Smith to get a drink for an elderly woman who saved his place, I would sit down with the baby they would clean up a little, everyone was honking around a man who was snoring very loudly at an ATM. When we entered the cool dawn, I felt the excitement again – we had gone on holiday, but came back with news. I saw a photographer standing by Marks & Spencer documenting the mild chaos, moving the sleeping baby to my shoulder and waving to him as if the queen.

Email Eva at e.wiseman@observer.co.uk or follow her on Twitter @EvaWiseman