Gawan: escape from the airport

Gawan and I were in transit (I would be in the city for several hours, he overnight) and negotiating how we would wrap up our time together. He could have left me at the airport, in which case I would have toddled off to try to entertain myself in the bustling terminal with food and window shopping and free wifi. But we preferred to spend those hours together.

Since he had to check in at a hotel anyway, his notion was that I’d come along and we’d spend the time together in comfort, and then he’d bundle me off back to the airport to catch my flight. Simple.

Or so it seemed.

He hadn’t managed to book a room in advance, but this was a big city with many hotels near the airport. We found an information kiosk, which allowed him to select and book a room online, and then he phoned the hotel to have the shuttle bus pick us up.

We headed out to the pick-up point and waited. And waited. Having just left a sweltering country, we weren’t properly dressed for the chill. Down the way was a taxi stand, the back end of the line of taxis ebbing and flowing toward us. The queue of travellers, which was slowly zippering together with the queue of taxis, lengthened inexorably until it ran into and then past us. We shuffled ourselves and our bags closer to the curb to try (mostly unsuccessfully) not to be an obstruction. Eventually a security guard came over to ask us what we were doing, since we obviously weren’t waiting for a taxi. When Gawan explained about the shuttle, the guard replied that the shuttles go to a completely different location on a different level. We were baffled as to how the message had gotten so garbled, but vacated the spot.

Having wasted time in the cold, I was feeling irritable. Now back inside the terminal, the early start, the lack of food, the rigors of travel, and the sheer exhaustion started to catch up with me. I was tired and frustrated. I couldn’t think. Everything seemed like a bad idea to the point where I began to doubt that “a good idea” was a thing that could even exist. I was unable to make a decision. So I parked myself on a bench and started gnawing on a cookie from my stash of emergency rations. I didn’t feel hungry, but I often don’t when I’m travelling, and a blood sugar crash had managed to sneak up on me. After about 10 minutes of sitting and snacking, I was starting to feel a bit less wilted.

Gawan apologized: he was on a mission to escape the airport and he was utterly focused on that goal to the exclusion of all else, including food. I was OK. I had gone until I couldn’t anymore and then I stopped. When we discussed it, I understood his desire to push on, and he understood my need for a break. No harsh words were exchanged, no resentment festered. And we learned important things about each other.

We located the proper place for shuttles and commenced waiting again. Here the travellers formed a loose and anxious scrum rather than an orderly queue. One woman down the way had apparently been waiting for a shuttle — our shuttle — for ages, so we hadn’t missed it and that was a bit of relief. But it was getting to be rush hour, time was a-wasting and I was feeling jangly from all the minutia of travel that required my attention. I was starting to fret about how much time I’d actually have at the hotel before I had to turn around and come back and I briefly considered calling off the excursion and parting ways then and there… but [deep breath]… really, there was still a fair amount of time and the hotel wasn’t far.

A shuttle arrived but when it rains, it pours, and a moment later another shuttle bearing the same hotel name pulled up to the curb. Each served a different branch of the same hotel, and both branches were considered to be “near the airport”. Both buses were also in a hurry to be off. So which hotel had Gawan booked? He was fairly sure he knew but he didn’t recall with certainty. I had no idea and was no help at all. He selected one, and I followed, worried that it was the wrong one. We wouldn’t know if we won the gamble until we finally arrived at the hotel — Gawan would try to check in, and, before speaking, the concierge would give his oracular response: a frown and puzzled look would mean bad news, and completion of the transaction with utter obliviousness to the enormity of the moment would mean good news.

On the main road we were immediately plunged into a sluggish knot of terrible traffic. I knew the hotel was close, but how close? A short distance at a crawl is as bad as a long distance at full speed. What if I didn’t get back to the airport on time? What if it was a mistake to have left? Fuck.

We took the first or second exit and it hadn’t taken so long after all. But clearly I was already stressed.

We arrived at the hotel and… the concierge was oblivious. Good news! Now, up to the room.

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