I arrive at the airport at 6am, not an hour of sleep in me, just half a bottle of Jameson. As with every holiday, I had left packing until the literal last minute, throwing a plethora of single socks and a jumper I hadn’t worn in four years into my carry-on bag, as the taxi idles outside. Perfect. I was heading to Los Angeles for nine days, and New York for five. Surely I wouldn’t need any other clothes.
I love airports. Always have. There’s something about the general air of excitement/hysteria that gets my adrenaline going. Irish people adore travelling. Any kind of holiday that isn’t a week stuck in a damp caravan that threatens to topple over when Trivial Pursuit gets too rowdy. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with the traditional Irish family holiday of galloping daily into the Irish sea, blue lipped and euphoric, but it’s always nice to know you’re jetting off somewhere that promises sun, cocktails, and activities other than squeezing into a rain-sodden ferris wheel in the middle of gale force winds.
This holiday promised to be two weeks of catching up with old friends and drinking – the vacation of choice for an Irish girl. I had booked it at 6am one morning after a trans-Atlantic conversation with a friend in New York. I planned to visit my old home, West Hollywood, and all of the brilliant people I knew residing there, before taking my friend in New York up on his offer of taking me on a five-day pub crawl on the East Coast. I probably should have prepared by taking it easy before my flight, instead of dancing in a dive bar till the wee hours of the morning until one of my friends asked if I’d packed yet. Hence the no sleep, veins full of whiskey, and poorly assembled travel outfit. The ride to the airport is punctuated with my yawns and the roars of my elderly taxi driver. “AND WHERE ARE YA GOIN’? LOS ANGELES? WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO THERE, DRUGS?” Charming.
I haul myself and my luggage out of the taxi and blearily stood waiting for my change. You ever notice how people in movies always hand the taxi driver the exact fare and never need to wait for change? Either that or they always leave a generous tip. Not me, sunshine. I was waiting for my 9 euro change. Thats three cups of airport coffee. The driver dithers and faffs about, praying I’ll take pity and say “Ah go on, you’re grand, don’t worry.” Not a hope. Like I said, I’m not a morning person. After several years, he hands me the correct change and tells me to break a leg and not take any heroin. Sound advice.
As I approach my departure gate, I realise that every single seat in our boarding area is taken. I’m running on no sleep and four coffees (thanks to my leftover taxi money), so I’ve got the leg jitters. There’s nothing I want more than to collapse into bed, but to not even have the luxury of hard airport chairs? I’m not happy. Why is everyone so goddamn early? The plane isn’t even at the gate yet. The passengers should still be stuffing their bags full of last minute duty free presents. Thats what I’d be doing if I wasn’t so fecking hungover. I sigh so loud that several people look up, wondering where the breeze is coming from. “My mouth, ladies and gentlemen,” I picture myself saying, before flipping them off.
Instead, I amble over to a patch of floor that isn’t carpeted in suitcases or chewing gum, set down my bag, and fold my arms. I don’t know why I picked that particular space to wait for boarding. I don’t know why I didn’t pick an area next to a pillar, so I could lean against it as I waited. I don’t know why I didn’t do what a normal person would do, and go sit in one of the fine culinary establishments of Dublin Airport. I don’t even know why I didn’t do what I really wanted to do, which was lie face down in a bathroom stall, pressing my cheeks to the cool porcelain of the toilet, cursing my questionable life choices. For whatever reason, I decide this is where I’m going to stand, until either a seat opens up or I come up with a better plan.
A pretty, blonde girl comes out of the newsagents to my left. She walks towards me, head buried in her phone, clutching a cashmere throw and a bottle of Evian. I can tell from twenty feet away she’s not Irish. Definitely American, most likely Californian. She raises her phone to her perfect face. “Mommm?” she drawls. BOOM. Knew it. Probably Orange County. I love Americans. Despite every second one I’ve ever met telling me that they once knew a man whose ex-wife had a cousin that knew a cat whose previous owner once went to Ireland, so that in turn made them Irish, I still really, really love Americans. This particular American has for some reason stopped directly behind me, still talking to her mammy. Why has she stopped here? There are plenty of other places for her to stand, that DON’T involve her breathing down my neck. I shrug. Maybe she can sense my affinity for the land of the free and all who reside in her.
Then something odd happens. Another woman, a redhead this time, has chosen to stand directly behind my American. Whats with this one patch of floor becoming so popular? I’ve never been known as a trend setter before. Could I finally be becoming a leader? How exciting! Maybe I would lead my army of two into demanding more chairs at Gate 14. A good start to a long and successful reign. Hang on a second… Who were those two men? Why were they lining up behind the redhead who was behind the blonde who was behind me? This was starting to look like a queue. I know there are no seats left, but do we really have to all stand in this one place?
I’m still not fazed by the invasion of personal space, until I realise there is an elderly couple sitting nearby who have started gathering their bags and inflatable pillows and struggling to their feet. I watch, bemused, as they toddle over to stand behind the two men who are behind the redhead who is behind the blonde who is behind me. What is going ON?? With rising consternation, I catch the eye of the blonde, who is too busy chatting on her phone to realise whats happening behind her. Four more people have left their seats and are now standing at the back of this line of misfits. It dawns on me. They think I know something they don’t. They think I know we’ll be boarding soon. They think I’m trying to ensure I get on the plane in plenty of time. THE PLANE ISN’T EVEN AT THE GATE YET. I’m reeling. What do these people think they’re achieving? Our seats are pre assigned. Everyone already knows they’re getting a seat. This isn’t going to be some sort of Hunger Games scenario where we have to fight to the death for a window seat and a gluten free meal. How are they justifying standing up for a flight that isn’t due to leave for another forty five minutes?
At this point, there is a good fifteen people in the “queue”, and more are trying to gather their possessions to join the fun. I can’t believe this is happening. I look at the snaking line of sleep deprived travelers, stifling yawns and shifting from one foot to another. I look at the numerous seats that are now vacant and inviting. I look back at my sheep. I have somehow unwittingly orchestrated a scenario where I now get to sit down. I can’t though, can I? I feel like that would compromise my moral standing. My leg is still jittering. I pick up my bag, and hesitantly move towards a chair. No one bats an eyelid. I sit down. No one says anything. I feel like an accidental criminal mastermind. Part of me hopes the plane is delayed. I shake my head. I’m not that evil.