Airports are mostly pretty faceless, sterile places, despite what Alain de Botton (recently writer in residence at Terminal 5) would have us believe. The terminals are generally pretty ugly and people are usually tired, children fractious and suitcases (mine anyway) always seem to be last out onto the carousel. I find I just want to get through them as quickly as possible.
Which makes it all the more delightful when a moment arises - something surprising, ironic, illogical or comic. One happened to me recently in Nassau in the Bahamas (after the BA flight out of Terminal 5 as it happens). It didn’t start well, but by the end I was spellbound in bemused fascination, not knowing whether to squirm and join in or run for it.
Heading for the Arrivals Hall I passed the string band – traditional instruments, tropical shirts and straw hats – and I noticed a small kerfuffle in the corner of my eye. A woman, from a previous flight by the look of it, was clearly so taken by this reception committee that she simply had to dance. The band were happy enough to play along. And the pirate compere, who was swashbuckling around, engaging new arrivals in the mind-blowing excitement of being in the Bahamas, giving out brochures and advice, was loving it. I guess it brightened up his day no end.
I managed to sidle by into the main Immigration hall, and into the maze of retractabelts that keep you going back and forth, left and right, covering about two hundred yards in a building just twenty yards across. Presumably a bored official sets them up to be as long as possible, despite there being little chance of a sudden influx of a thousand desperate passengers who need to be kept in order. But I had this inkling that trouble was about to follow me.
Things were momentarily uneventful … left twenty yards… right twenty yards… left twenty yards… oh bollocks, I can’t be bothered with this... I just removed the belts from their stands and rehooked them and made my way up to the yellow line that way. I joined the five couples standing there patiently.
Moments later there was a slip sliding behind me and a slightly monotone hum. Along with the others I looked around. And couldn’t help but smile. The dancing woman was doing a limbo under the retractabelt tapes, all six of them, and was gradually making her way up to the yellow line. Her mother (I suspect) tried one, thought better of it, and then went around the long way, back and forth, encouraging her on at each straight.
They joined the Immigration behind me, puffed but still humming the tune. Don’t Stop the Carnival, I think it was… There was an engaging rebelliousness about them, but soon came a moment of panic. Was she about to ask me to dance? Luckily her mum chipped in. They were off to the Atlantis. I knew the one, the huge theme park hotel on Paradise Island - yes, the waterslide passes through the shark lagoon. Yikes, I thought, I wonder if they’ll survive (the sharks, I mean).
Not me. I’ve always thought the best of the Bahamas was the out islands and so I was headed further afield as soon as I got through the Immigration queue. Actually I was off to kayak along the Exumas. But that’s another story...
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