I am sitting in a café at Edinburgh airport. We have gone through security and are settling in to wait until our gate is announced supposedly in ten minutes. We shall see. There are conversations going on all around me, some music playing in the background, announcements being made, and above all the hiss of the steamer as the baristas go about their jobs. The noise levels are on the edge of being uncomfortable but this is the price to pay for travelling to a Spanish island. I do a bit of hand rubbing. There are eight of us which should be a comfort really but in reality I want to run off to a corner and ignore the rest of the world.
Our gate is announced and immediate some people want to move to it. What is the rush I wonder? We will just have to sit down there too, if we are lucky in that there are seats, at one end of the airport there are literally six seats for the whole flight. We are at the other end though where there are at least plenty of metal benches to perch on. On the board above the gate desk it says the flight is boarding but there is not sign of anything happening. We sit and chat; various groups take the opportunity to go to the toilet. A queue is forming by the gate despite no announcements that I’ve heard and I can’t understand why; we all have numbered seats on this flight. I personally prefer to sit in the terminal than on the plane, perhaps people are making the most of standing before the several hour long flight. The queue starts to decrease as people pass through the gate and eventually my group gets up and joins the end. Again I don’t see the point, why not wait until the queue is nearly reduced to the gate? Is this herd behaviour in action? The people in front of me are having their roller cases taken off them and put in the hold, was that the reason for queuing?
I am walking towards the tarmac, it is raining quite heavily and I have put my waterproof in my hold luggage thinking it unnecessary to carry on the plane. Three of us wait in the plastic tunnel whilst a luggage tractor drives over the crossing we need to use. I feel sorry for the woman standing in a heavy waterproof making sure people don’t wonder off, I wonder how long she needs to stay here putting up with the Scottish autumn in this exposed position. We can enter the plane at both the front and back so I look at my ticket and guess that row thirty is nearer the back and head in that direction but working my way under the curved wingtip. Aircraft wings are a thing of wonder to me; apparently the curve at the tip makes this Boeing 737-800 more fuel efficient.
I climb the rear steps by myself and greet the steward, a neat blonde haired young man barely in his twenties, before he can say anything. He replies to my greeting and hesitates, seemingly expecting me to do something and then asks to see my boarding card. I muse on the possibility of somebody sneaking around the tarmac in this windy cold rain wanting to get on board this flight and concede it could happen however unlikely. It turns out my seat is about five rows from the back and after some swapping around within the group, take a seat next to my wife. As expected there is not much leg room but I am impressed there are some millimetres between my knees of the seat in front so only when the man sitting in it bounces around do my knees get assaulted. The seat feels more upright than usual and I wonder if this is a ploy to get more rows on this plane. I chat to my wife a bit before “closing down communication”. I put my headphones on and plug the lead into my MP3 player, select a 1980’s compilation album on and close my eyes. Sleep finds me quite quickly during the first remixed track of “Shout” by Tears for Fears.
The flight passes by for the most part in a state of unconsciousness but there are times when I have a vague sense of things happening around me. I hear what I assume is the co-pilot talking to the passengers in a much more jocular manner than normal. I think he is selling raffle tickets with the added incentive that a leaving member of the crew will be given a free ticket for each one a passenger buys; I wonder if the crew take it in turn to “leave” on each flight and how many people fall for this sales technique. Cynical, what me? The plane is cool, much cooler than I expected even with my jumper on, is this another ploy to save money? I select the second album and return to sleep. I slowly wake up noticing the music has finished. I hear an attendant broadcast that we are going to land in twenty minutes, asking for people to return to their seats and put their seatbelts back on. He asks people to carry their rubbish, newspapers and children with them when they leave because of the short turn around in Palma. Some people snigger when he mentions the children but I wonder if he is being deliberately funny or actually asking people to carry their children off the flight instead of letting them walk because this will be quicker. My cynical self wonders what a twenty year old would know about children.
It is quite an unnecessary bouncy landing considering the beautiful sunny calm weather outside (to my mind); how many hours flying does this pilot have? I am the third last off the flight and notice that there are newspapers and rubbish strewn all over the place. This time the blonde haired attendant is joined by a darker haired twenty year old; I am intrigued to know what is going on in their minds behind the smiles as we descend the stairs to the waiting buses and squash ourselves in. It is cooler in the sun than I expected but it definitely feels like summer for this Scottish visitor. Since I was last on the bus, I get to be first off and after a head count we follow the signs to get our luggage. The departure and arrival gates seem all to be mixed up in Palma airport so if feels rather crowded and chaotic trying to find baggage reclaim. We leave one building to enter via a glass bridge into another, in front of us there is a pileup at passport control with only two human monitored positions open (all electronic ones are closed). There is no passport checking beyond the guy seeing we have something in our hands as we file quickly past; no exactly tight on security here then.
This is a busy airport and it seems the main destination of all British holiday makers. We pass ten carousels each with at least two if not three British flights listed on them, it is not until the last one that I see Hanover mentioned; there are Germans here too then (let the sun lounger wars begin). While the kids wait for the luggage to appear, I queue up for my hire car wondering if I need to remember the pin number to my credit card; I don’t. I have to guess what the car hire lady is saying most of the time because of her heavy accent so unsuited to speaking English (I am sure the same can be said for my pronunciation of Spanish going by the puzzled frowns the locals give my attempts). I concentrate on not taking the hire firm’s excess insurance because I already have my own.
Unfortunately the other group has gone to a different car hire firm which seems to be much more efficient in processing people, even having a laugh with their customers; I make a mental note of their name. Baggage claimed we make our way out of the terminal building and take the short walk to the cars past all the package holiday buses and I think about my own first introduction to Spain all those years ago when I was five with my parents and brother; package holidays was just what you did in those days at least for my type of family. Nowadays I hire cars and villas and avoid the tourist centre for a quieter more cultural visit. I am so looking forwarding to just be able to sit and write.
The group separates and I am left we three teenage girls; I really wish I hadn’t forgotten to pack the GPS. Our Seat Leon Estate car is perfect apart from being a rather nice metallic grey than a practical hot country white and is waiting for us all pristine and clean. We load up the luggage and my daughter has to remind me to get in the left had side of the car to drive it. I try to convince myself to drive on the right. The multi-storey carpark has many exits and in its confusion of one way systems and signs I eventually head for the nearest one. I don’t think the directions we have printed out match with the exit and so we are unable to meet up with the other car. Plan B kicks into action, we will make our own way to Polensa. My trainee navigator does her best to direct me and after a brief visit to Palma marina we head in the right direction happy that our written clues match what we are seeing on the road. I enjoy driving this Leon; it is basically the same as our Yeti but with a very different body. It is also much quieter on the motorways, so quiet in fact that I find myself slowly going over the speed limit on several occasions because there is no discernible rise in noise levels.
Our holiday has started and I have survived the crowds and noise of the airports. Maybe by the end of the day I will have relaxed enough to enjoy it too.