I love airports. The smell, the hustle bustle, the background noise of the wheelie cases on the shiny floor and the badly behaved trolleys being pulled into line by a traveller with 3 cases piled high. I love the lights. I love the floor escalators that stretch on and on. I love the Bing Bong of the loud speaker, and I love the soft voice that says, “Please can all passengers flying on LY336 to Paris please make their way to the gate now. This flight is now boarding.” I love the golf trolleys that role around the airport delivering the elderly gentleman who got stuck in the toilets to his flight before they close the gate on him. I love the duty free section with its endless selection of perfumes and make-ups, wines and whiskeys, sunglasses, fluffy toys and giant Toblerone bars. I love the feeling of not knowing when you walk through the metal detector, and hold your breath waiting for the beep. I love the baggage collection area. I even have a soft spot for the queues at passport control.
However, regardless of whether I am a traveller or someone meeting a friend, my favourite thing about airports is the Arrivals lounge. I could sit for hours watching people greeting their friends, family and loved ones returning from their holidays, or flying in for a visit. The little old man arrives in to visit his son from England, expecting to find a shed for an airport and people walking around in funny clothes looks relieved if not warn out. The good-looking guy deep grin swaggers towards his girl-friend waiting with kisses and hugs... he has missed her. My favourite game, which I am useless at, is trying to figure out which arriving flight the strangers I see came from. Thankfully Amman is on the list as I would have got them all wrong!
As we stand waiting for Eli’s family and my friend to step through the doors, we control our excitement with this game, and turning around to stare at the beautiful guy behind us, trying to work out if he was there to meet a friend, family or a girlfriend… we were praying for family. It then occurred to us that an airport is a great place not just to pick up your friends and family members, but it is a great place to pick up some talent. The place is swarming with good looking people, only perhaps slightly on the pale side from the harsh lighting… or maybe it is just that I have already lost my summer glow… either way, one thing I am not a fan of at the airport. In the large arrivals lounge our game moves from guessing where they are from to ‘Are they really that good looking close up.’ For the most part I think I have the better taste of the two and decided that none of the guys arriving in were as worthy as the guy stood behind. But just as the voice of my more forward friends popped into my head saying ‘Give him your number,’ I saw a familiar face coming through the doors and heading to the opposite exit to where I was standing.
Forget tall beautiful man and time to hop. Skip and jump over people and their luggage. My friend, one of my best friends from England who had no idea I was coming to give him a kiss hello, finally noticed me stood grinning in his path and burst into a grinning, jumping, spring-back hug landing in perfect form on my right foot. Love is painful! Once we controlled ourselves and stopped hugging each other, I noticed the tall beautiful man was not looking in my direction anymore… “Wait… He is not my boyfriend! He is married for goodness sake! And I am not the right sex for him anyway!” But we had no time for fantasy explanations to my fantasy lover. We were on a mission of phone cards and making sure that Eli did not forget about me in her excitement to meet her mother, sister and splodge.
I suddenly flashed back to all the greetings my brother and I would share with our parents when visiting them in Israel. I remember the old terminal with the old arrivals lounge with the giant screen on the wall so people could see you coming before you walked out into the arrivals hall. I remember feeling not only greeted by my family, but also by all those strangers stood with banners and balloons in hand for their loved ones. I remember my final arrival into Israel; my family stood welcoming me home.
I remember my final departure from England. I remember my brother saying goodbye. I remember my brother, usually so in check of his emotions, hugging me and crying, while thrusting money into my hands for CD’s. I remember standing there, hugging him and saying goodbye and already planning in my head when I would go back to England to see him, and when he, my sister in law and the kiddies would be coming to Israel to see me. Now two years on, I have no date in my head. I have been and come back. He has visited and gone back to England, and now you ask me when I am next going to England and I have no idea… and that makes me sad. But I am determined it will be soon… so to all my favourite people in England, please note that I am thinking of you all, that I miss you all so much, that I am planning coming home to see you, and I am thinking of the Arrivals lounge.