There’s a kind of madness in the air By William Bowles

16 February, 2008

Note: sorry about the story being out of sequence but all attempts at posting it failed. Had to wait until my return.

February 2, 2008 — For the first time in a long time I’m taking a trip to NYC, my old ‘home town’. The airport (I use this term advisedly) I’m leaving from, Gatwick, just outside London, has been tranformed into one, gigantic shopping mall (with runways attached as an afterthought).

The security ‘check-in’ is OTT, now you even have to take your shoes off (shades of the ‘shoe bomber’). How long before we get stripped searched and every orifice in our battered bodies probed, I wonder? If it gets to that point, you’ll never see me in an airport ever again.

Once through the by now thoroughly misnamed check-in you enter the madness zone, your thoughts drowned out by the roar of thousands of trapped consumers who are now imprisoned literally, in a corporate wet dream.

With nothing to do until your aluminium tube squirts you in this or that direction, you have no choice but to consume something, anything, unless of course you want to wander endlessly through this valley of lost souls, aimlessly, until departure time.

As I sit here consuming my overpriced ‘caffé latté, I notice a giant sign that glares at me, “Gatwick. Building a Brighter Future”. How can airport mall say it’s building ANY kind of future, let alone a brighter one? The people who market this place are surely cretins.

Above it, an even bigger sign reads, “TAX FREE PRICES FOR EVERYONE”. Delusion piled on top of delusion.

It’s insanity. I’m horrified, overwhelmed by the ‘reality’ corporate capitalism has trapped us in. Partly it has to do with the atrocious acoustics of the place. I’m privy to snatches of conversation within an unknown radius of where I’m sitting but of course, none of it makes any sense. A woman, whose location I couldn’t actually identify, but it sounded as if it was right next my ear, has a laugh like a drain. I search in vain for the source of the bellow but it’s coming at me from every direction.

By now I feel physically sick, and for the life of me, all I want to do is get the hell out of this bedlam and head for my home but I’m trapped here, this is my punishment, Gatwick, the Gateway to Dante’s Inferno. How the poor sods who work in this awful, soul-destroying place tolerate it, is beyond me.

I seek solace in my laptop, maybe I’ll check my mail but I discover that I have to pay in order to connect to my various and sundry mail servers. The ‘hot spot’ has gone cold on me.

I scan the punters faces, all have a dazed, almost vacant expression as they wander the vast space which still looks like a temporary construction, worse, a converted aircraft hanger even though I know it isn’t. Hugo Boss, Harrods, McDonalds, two floors of it, on and on it goes. BAA should put up a sign like the one they had at the entrance to Auschwitz only instead, it should read, ‘Abandon all hope (and your wallets), all ye who enter’. It’s a fucking nightmare! What have we done to deserve this? Oh Father I have sinned and been condemned to spend the rest of my life in an airport shopping mall.

I wonder, am I going insane? Is this what a panic attack feels like? I get up and find a new place to sit, maybe it’ll be a little quieter? I go into consumer mode and think that maybe there’s money to made from a ‘quiet zone’, away from all this madness then I remember that’s what first class is all about (but you’re still paying).

Something in the caffé latté has triggered my one and only allergic reaction, the symptoms of which resemble a head cold, I’ve no idea what causes it. My nose starts to run. I retrieve a soggy napkin from my pocket.

I gaze around. The ‘babes’ are either packed tightly into skinny jeans or have rolls of blubber cascading out of their ‘skinny’ jeans. The guys mostly resemble Eminem lookalikes; cut down jeans, sneakers and hoodies seem to be the clothing of ‘choice’.

It hits me that all those dystopic novels by JG Ballard were modelled through some trick of time displacement, on this hell on earth, or maybe it’s the other way around.

People stop and stare around, lost, bemused or perhaps just plain stupified like I am by this horrific place. I gaze at the clock: an hour and ten minutes before my tin can takes off. Can I last out?

Lord I have sinned and Gatwick Airport is my punishment.

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