At an airport once, while waiting for my flight to be called, I caught sight of someone I knew and who I really wanted to avoid. Luckily for me there was a party of Glasgow Rangers football supporters seated nearby, so I thought I would sit near them and hide behind their impenetrable accents.
It was a good strategy that had worked once before and would have worked again if fate hadn’t once more conspired to deal me a crummy hand.
After about ten minutes my human shield of football fans got up en masse and made their way to their boarding gate. Their flight had been called! I felt vulnerable, exposed. Luckily the object of my shyness was nowhere to be seen. But better safe than sorry, so I found another refuge, this time behind a school party of young teenage girls.
I started to feel relatively safe, cocky even, and then I looked up at the screen and was filled with a near panic when I saw that my flight was delayed for one whole hour. I was also beginning to regret that second cup of coffee I‘d had an hour earlier, knowing the way that caffeine goes through one, or at least through this one.
I prayed that something would happen to distract everyone’s attention just long enough for me to slip to the loo. Maybe the schoolgirls would suddenly turn into a flash mob and start tap dancing on the tables. Isn’t flash mobbing all the rage these days? In England flash mobs have been descending locust-like on public libraries threatened with closure and borrowing every book on the shelves leaving them empty, bare and bookless.
I crossed my legs and pleaded to myself: Please, schoolgirls, please, don’t just sit there, start flash mobbing!!!
But all they did was giggle and gaggle and send text messages to one another like a bunch of schoolgirls!
I waited about twenty minutes until I could wait no longer, checked that the coast was clear, hoped that I wasn’t being watched by a pair of cat’s eyes, and then made my dash.
I made it in five there and back without incident.
So who was this individual I was so paranoid to avoid? His name was…… No, I can’t bring myself to say it. He had a huge mop of yellow hair and was always whistling. I worked with him for about two years. He was a doom monger, a prophet of doom. We’re doomed, he used to tell us. Doomed, doomed, doomed. We needed to repent to save ourselves from being doomed. Otherwise we’d be doomed. Doomed, doomed, doomed.
Ten years on and I could still hear his doom laden voice. I couldn’t be expected to put up with that. Well, could I? Five minutes of Dr Doom and I’d be a nervous wreck.
Twenty minutes, then the screen announced that our flight was called and that we should make our way to the boarding gate. It was the school party’s flight, too, so I followed them to the escalator.
It was a long escalator, and as we were going down I spotted a head of bright yellow hair in front of us. Of a man’s bright yellow hair! My heart missed a beat. I felt doomed! Was this his way of getting his revenge for all the nasty, rude, sly, sarcastic, pointless, mean, malicious, malevolent, voraciously unnecessary, sneaky, unspeakable, low-minded and often down right gratuitous comments, insinuations and rumours that I’d made about him all those years ago? It was certainly possible, there are some people who never forget anything!
We got off the escalator and began walking the long corridor to the boarding gate. If he recognizes me what should I do? I needed a strategy. I could either be covert, keep hiding behind the schoolgirls. Or I could be overt, put all my prejudices behind me, and greet him with open arms as a former colleague and brother in arms.
I decided on the latter, and was on the point of making this decisive move so important for my psychological, philosophical and emotional development, when he suddenly turned, first in profile, then full face……and I noticed that it wasn’t him at all! In fact, apart from the hair, it didn’t look anything like him. Of all the low, sneaky…..
I felt a surge of something rush through me. Relief? Soulagement? I wanted to rush forward and embrace him and thank him for not being who he wasn’t (I know what I mean). But instead I just found a seat and waited for the off.
The off came about 15 minutes later and soon we were flying at 30,000 feet and speeding through the stratosphere at 500 miles per hour, or at whatever speed planes speed at when they’re speeding at 500 miles per hour (I know what I mean), with nothing but the giggling of schoolgirls to stop me from relaxing. It was a cheap price to pay.