Travel chronicles

Airside angst

Written in Orlando airport, while waiting for my very delayed flight back to London.


We escaped a cage to get into another one.

But we didn’t know that. How were we supposed to know?

It all seemed like the perfect escape: just be there a few hours before everyone expected us. It would be fine, no questions asked. Just get on the vehicle and go.

We discreetly left the crowds. No one suspected a thing. The rest of our peers were just oblivious to our plans, sitting on the floor, looking at their devices, doing their stuff.

We slided out of the hotel through a back door. The air was humid and hot, the sun was burning with afternoon abandon. Two men took our luggage and pointed to the bus door. Inside, the air conditioning was blasting an arctic gust from above the windows. It was as if being outdoors was being sandwiched between ice layers, as if the natives had an irrational fear of sweating—”MUST NOT EXCRETE BODY FLUIDS!”

And then, soon enough, the message was delivered. A delay in our plans.

Unexpected? Certainly not. Disappointing? Certainly yes.

“Should we do something about it?”, we asked ourselves. It’s not like we could actually do something about anything. We were essentially at the mercy of others, but still, we made some calls. No one would say we hadn’t, at least, tried. Even if we knew it was a fruitless effort. And so the calls would finish, one by one, with the same feeling of hopelessness.


“No, there’s nothing we can do”

“It’s too late”


The trip was desolating as well, with accidents left, right and center. Patches of darker, new tarmac would alternate with old, and faded longer strips. They felt rough, noisy, ignored. Cracks would run for metres, an erratic zigzag like the residue of some exploded wheel. An unexpected gap, here and there, more like a trench than a gap, would make the whole bus stutter, the window panes rattling with the sudden bump. Desolated swamps on either side of the road, characterless low buildings and a monotony looking ahead on the horizon: that was our only company.

On arrival, the driver made a sudden move. It took us by surprise. Were we followed? He quickly moved along the small bays, ignoring all the signs, then stopped and opened the door, which he closed in a rush as we alighted, almost catching our coats on it. Except we weren’t wearing any. You don’t need coats in hell.