Douglas Adams opened his second Dirk Gently novel with the lines: “It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on earth has ever produced the expression, ‘As pretty as an airport.”
It’s hard to argue with this sentiment although the Richard Rogers-designed Terminal 4 at Barajas Airport in Madrid (below) may be an exception.
But I am not at the shiny modernist Terminal 4 in Madrid. I am at Dublin Airport’s brutalist and dilapidated Terminal 1, a less remarkable example of the type.
Inside is not much better, the suspended ceilings, garish lighting, information screens and signs providing no surprises or delights to the throngs of people lumbering oversized luggage in all directions. Perhaps its one remarkable feature is that, unusually for an international airport, it has eschewed signs in multiple foreign languages, opting instead to use only English and Irish.
Terminal 2 is at least newer, but beyond its curvaceous exterior, jarringly at odds with the rest of the airport buildings, has little to make it memorable.
I began my journey today at Terminal 2 (well, I began it at home but on arriving at the airport I went straight to Terminal 2) hoping to catch an Aer Lingus flight to Paris.
I should explain: my life partner works for an airline and one of the dubious perks is the option to fly standby for a fraction of the cost of regular tickets. The downside to this is that full-paying passengers take priority — which is hard to argue with, admittedly — and sometimes there are no seats available.
Today, the first time I have attempted to fly standby alone, was such a day. Due to the cancellation of an earlier flight, all Aer Lingus flights today are packed to capacity, and I, as the domestic partner of a (relatively) low-ranking member of staff of another airline am essentially in last place when it comes to any seats that may become available for standby passengers.
Which brings me to Terminal 1, and Air France. They too are dealing with the aftermath of a cancellation and their flights are also full. But not too full. And sometimes people just don’t turn up for their flights. And as I’m suavely dressed and travelling light, I may even be allowed to take a jump seat.
So I’m cautiously optimistic. If I don’t get on this flight, I’ll most likely give up and try again tomorrow. But even though I should be soaring above the world, halfway to the City of Lights, and am instead in a grimy food court surrounded by other people’s leftovers and rowdy children, I’m calm, I’m relaxed and I’m happy.
I think what I’m trying to say is that I’m in a good place right now. I just also happen to be in an airport.
[Update 24/07/2016: I was unsuccessful in my attempt to secure passage aboard an Air France flight yesterday and returned home. I was much more successful to day, quickly being confirmed aboard an early Aer Lingus flight. At the time of writing, I have spent a good portion of the day soaking in the beauty, culture and eye-watering prices of Paris in July and am now aboard a train to be reunited with my loved ones. A success, then, if not an unqualified one.]