In my personal view, there's a certain art to air travel. Particularly with the current necessary (extra stringent) Security checks and also now that certain airlines charge extra for every bag you wish to check into the hold. The walk-on, minimum fuss, well practiced Light Traveller reigns supreme.
What’s not to love? They keep their changes of clothes and shoes to a minimum, they race onto the plane, then leap out of their seats the instant that the plane judders to a halt outside the terminal building and practically elbow each other out of the way to get off and be first into the destination taxi queue. So incredibly efficient!
Even BA has adopted the electronic check-in (for those who did not have the forethought to check in and print off their own boarding cards at home) and separate bag drop approach at Gatwick.
Frankly, I admire the Light Traveller. I envy them their little, smart, wheeled carry-on bags (packed to bursting point) that trot smartly to heel behind them as they navigate the airport. So well and fashionably equipped!
I admire that they pack their travel sized toiletries into transparent bags for inspection at Security before they arrive at the airport. So very organised!
In fact, I aspire to be a well practiced, Light Traveller when I grow up. I want to be a part of that world of air travel where people glide smoothly through the departure process, have time to browse the wares in World Shopping, perhaps enjoy a beverage or two before ambling gently towards their gate, then depart to arrive unruffled and smiling at their destination …
…however, it may be some time before this Ugly Travel Duckling grows into a beautiful Travel Swan: a-very-long-time indeed.
You see, airports are just no place for your average, hapless Sports Traveller (or any other kind of traveller) in transit with a certain weight / quantity of baggage that happens to be heavy, fragile and awkward to handle.
In addition, it needs to be said that airports are very definitely no place for the above travelling solo with an upset stomach courtesy of the take away chicken tikka, plain boiled rice and mint sauce diet contraband consumed as a treat the previous evening. This caused yours truly to spend some time at 5:00am with my head laid on the cool laminate flooring of my bathroom, feeling like I had done ten rounds with Mike Tyson and wondering which end would explode next. So very unattractive!
At that point, I still hadn’t packed. No, I had spent the previous evening taking the house apart to find bits of missing kit. In the end, I had put an emergency call to a friend to borrow theirs. So incredibly disorganised!
Actually, if I could insert a Ronald Searle style cartoon of my eventual arrival at Gatwick groaning under the weight of my luggage - I would.
I must have been a painful sight, with a complexion as pale as cottage cheese, as I dragged approximately 40-50 kilos of 'out of gauge' sports, clothes and knitting luggage ungainly off the Long Stay Car Park bus and into the airport terminal.
I doubt that this sight improved any as I stood at Check In Zone D, contemplating my options and trying to work out if I could navigate the departure process without my stomach upset making its presence felt, while the Light Travellers whistled efficiently around me, taking no notice or prisioners as their little (yet surprisingly heavy) wheeled bags trotted neatly over my toes.
I decided to move towards help and my envy for the Light Travellers deepened as my carry-on bag strap threatened to saw its way through my neck, the weight of my sports equipment case turned my fingertips white, then numb, and my suitcase bumped (and bruised) my calves at every step. How very ill equipped!
Eventually, it took just shy of two hours to walk through the airline and security check-in processes, including careful receipt of my out of gauge, heavy but fragile sports equipment and emerge relatively unscathed in the World Shopping area...
…without my knitting or Denise needles.
Nope, not confiscated - I was completely chicken. I caved in at the first check-in hurdle. I spotted the fatal words, amongst the list of prohibited carry on items at the check-in desk:
· Knitting Needles.
There it was in black and white. As I stood there, considering my position...
- make a stand for knitting kind?
- risk confiscation and loss of needles I had only just bought?
- risk arrest and miss a competition because I had attempted to take 8mm, pointy plastic objects onto a plane?
...the loudspeaker intoned yet another repeat of the travel rules.
I sighed and quietly offered the needles up for inspection.
"Oh no," said the lady, "I don’t think those should go into your carry-on bag."
I sighed and into my hold luggage they went.
Some time later, I found myself sitting by my departure gate sipping a black coffee, alternating between rubbing my very sore tummy and staring at my hands, without any knitting or books to read - I felt very sorry for myself indeed.
The only thing that cheered me up was the fact that I knew I had a free afternoon ahead of me and I fairly certain that I was going to fill it with Milk of Magnesia, my hotel bed, some sleep and my knitting!