It should have been obvious to me. But it was only when I was being scanned in the X-ray booth that I realised I’d gone beyond the point of no return. I hadn’t met my travelling companions and by now there was no turning back.
Skulking by the barrier, I looked out in hopeful desperation. My confidence in being able to spot 19 strangers was seeping away, much like the bottled water I’d left behind. I had two hours to wait until the gate was announced and this was my only realistic way of regrouping. Still, I didn’t want to give in too easily and carried my holiday brochure before me, hoping for recognition.
Even explorers need the loo, I thought. So there was no point in depriving myself of this civilised luxury. Simon had spoken highly of T5’s mod-cons and he didn’t over-egg it. Toilets almost flushed by magic and dryers dried, as if powered by a warm Mediterranean breeze.
What would Simon do now? He’d explore, of course. Gordon Ramsay’s ‘Plane Food’ seemed to have taken up a large chunk of floor space, but I wanted something a little more ethnic. I plumped for the coffee bar. I was served a scalding beaker full of the most highly caffeinated brew I’d ever encountered.
As I walked down the shopping galleries, my skin almost melded itself to the undrinkable beverage. Dior, Gucci, and Harrods – all were waiting to tempt my holiday budget from my wallet. Signs declaring 50% off and two-for-one deals were wrestling for space amongst Chanel and Prada.
I’ve never been a shopper. Designer labels, at any price, are wasted on me. I began to focus on the announcement board – where another helpful young man waited to serve me. Flights were coming and going, but still mine didn’t appear. After two hours it was announced that my flight was delayed.
Another hour passed before I was finally able to race towards my gate. I searched for luggage labels with the familiar orange, red and black logo of my tour. There were none. I checked my own travel documents and I knew I was in the right place. Where were the others?
Just as I was wondering how easy it would be to break out to the main departure area, I spotted a familiar sight. This was no time to put on a front and pretend I was a confident and experienced woman who knew T5 like it was her local bus station. After apologising to the person who appeared to be in charge, and anyone else who’d listen, I was derailed to hear that no-one had made the rendezvous point. The team leader had been delayed by a problem on a rail link and no-one had met up. I had been the first to arrive. I was the trail-blazer, a pioneer.
Simon would have been proud. I’d managed to survive in an alien world, fed and watered myself and even maintained civilities by working the hi-tech toilet. Yes, the hard part was over, all that remained was a four hour plane journey, bonding with 19 strangers and a walking holiday in Rome to conquer...