16th February 2012
I’ve recently been away from Cyprus for around 3 weeks on a “whistle-stop” return trip to England, then to Bangkok via Doha and onwards to Phuket. When my girls heard me use the phrase “whistle-stop trip” they virtually collapsed on the floor in heaps of laughter. I guess they were highly amused at the image of me as an intrepid traveller.
Travelling is terrific and provides the best opportunities for people watching. “People watching”: probably the single most, self-proclaimed, globally favourite pastime. Everyone I know seems to enjoy people watching and this doubtless means that we people watchers are also the subject of other people’s people watching (I feel a tongue twister coming on).
Something that particularly struck me on this latest people watching excursion was the behaviour of people when queuing and the desperation with which around 90 per cent of travellers clamber to be first on the plane, first off the plane, first through passport control and first at the baggage claim carousels – only to wait 30 minutes for the luggage to arrive, with every likelihood that their bags will be last out! Speaking of baggage carousels, I once worked with a woman who told me that as she tried to haul her bag off the carousel, the weight of the bag and the crush of people pushing around her caused her to fall on to the belt and travel round for several meters with the bags, legs in the air as she struggled to pull herself off the belt! (I wish that one had been caught on “You’ve Been Framed”).
What is it about airports and travel that causes people to push, shove or sneakily creep forward in the queue? I witnessed some of the worst behaviour ever on this trip – especially in the queues for the flights into and out of our connecting airport. To wit, as we were queuing for boarding at Heathrow we couldn’t help but notice a man inching his way to the front of the queue. His endeavours were impressive as he circumnavigated several people to get to the front – at which point he argued with a member of the cabin crew before disappearing through the glass partition like a Will-o’-the-wisp.
We saw the same guy on the next leg of our journey. This time he was trying to queue jump in a line for passport control. The airport in question is impressive; the procedures for transfers worked like a dream and although the behaviour of some of the passengers was a bit of a nightmare, the mannerisms of a few of the travellers were nothing short of hilarious. “My man” was less successful here and had underestimated the resolve of the passenger he was trying to push in front of. It was fascinating to watch him as he inched forwards gradually and very funny to see that the man in front had clocked him and so began inching forwards at the same pace. We were all amused and entertained to witness two fully-grown and presumably mature men “racing” each other in a snail-pace airport queue – both pretending not to notice the other. As for us we placed bets on who would win – great fun as we had ringside seats in the adjacent queue.
We witnessed the worst behaviour ever at the same connecting airport on our return journey – again it was in the queues for passport control and it happened where two queues seemed to merge into one – creating what you might call a “pinch point” in the trade! It seemed that a man tried to push in front of two women who were travelling with a child. One of the women was having none of it and as she resisted, the man threw her a punch that struck her forcibly on the side of her face. The whole crowd gasped in a collective “Ahhhhh” of shock and disbelief. An argument ensued, with the man’s wife hurling words at the woman who was now angry, crying and pushing back – another man in the party then hit her again – to further gasps of disbelief and shock from the crowd. Where was security??? Security men then came rushing forwards and guess what? They ushered the man and his family through – totally ignoring the poor woman who was then restrained by female security staff. Our queue had inched forwards by that point and as I passed the woman I could see the side of her tear-sodden face already bruising up. I’ve no idea how this all ended but I hope that the bloke got his dues and that the woman was compensated and apologised to by the family in question and the airport authorities – though I suspect not!
As for my party… well of course we were well behaved throughout the whole journey… almost. There was just a teeny weeny little incident that resulted in a protective and not so little otter glaring at a passenger who was behaving rather badly towards mummy otter – the passenger was, of course, suitably put in her place!