Monday, 25 April 2016

The Duty Free Shop

For audio click here
I've never been responsible for missing a flight before, I’ve only missed them when the airlines have messed up. But today I missed my flight and it was all my fault. I know you are meant to get to the airport two hours before your flight time, but when I have an early morning flight, I kind of try to make savings here and there so I can eek out a few extra minutes in my huge hotel bed.
I knew Lisbon airport was small, surely I could get there just an hour before take off. Sunday morning the traffic wouldn't be so bad, so surely I wouldn't need twenty minutes in the taxi, surely I could have just one more cup of coffee at breakfast. But that second cup sent me running to the toilet, the streets were deserted but it was red light day, you know that one day in the year when every traffic light says stop just for you. And Lisbon airport has had a make over. What once was a cute little airport, is now a huge confusing maze with distances between important points that would have a long distance runner puffing for breath. I dropped my bag and then did the fifteen hundred metres to the security check, going up three blind alleys on the way. Belt off, laptop out, coins in the box, step through the metal detector, all fine, but then the five words no one wants to hear.
“Is this your bag sir?”
Damn I forgot my contact lens solution.
Surely one bottle of contact lens solution didn't justify my whole bag being emptied, re x-Rayed and swabbed, but apparently it did.
I was now down to twenty minutes before take off, not a lot of time sure, but just enough.
I was suddenly feeling like I was in a bastardised version of a Clash song.
All lost in the duty free shop. 
I hate those airports where the duty free shop is clamped on to security so you have to go through it whether you want to or not, and then they wind a path through like a meandering river complete with oxbow lakes, a path that all passengers must take or risk being eaten by the Christian Dior crocodiles or the John Paul Gautier piranhas. I’d foolishly gone off piste. I thought I could defeat the system, take a short cut but anyone who’s tried to go against the arrows in Ikea will know that I should have known better.  I was paying the price or my folly, I was in the Toblerone wilderness, discovering a whole new civilisation of strange M and M creatures.  I heard them announce my name, threatening to offload my luggage. I was so close but still so far away. Each way I turned I was faced with walls of spirits or cigarettes. Sweat dripped off me, my bag seemed heavier, my feet were wading through some sticky stuff that turned out to be a spilled bottle of Malibu.

It was hopeless, a lost cause, but then I saw an opening.  The way out. An escape. I was free. Maybe I could still make it. I had to run the gauntlet of an army of overly made up women armed with some sort of spray guns, but it had to be worth the risk. Except. I wasn’t out at all, I was back at security, back where I started. I waved goodbye to my flight. 

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