And so here I sit, amid a cacophony of disembodied voices, echoing off marble and tile. There is something nice about airports: maybe it’s the faceless anonymity that every person in them enjoys. Maybe it’s the ever-present anticipation of going somewhere, going anywhere.
There are, however, much better places to spend a night. I’m currently sitting in the Vancouver airport, staring at a giant green statue of what appears to be a large frog in a straw hat paddling a canoe. It is battling a giant bird of some kind. I think it’s supposed to be an eagle. There also looks to be a lizard sticking his tongue out in the bottom of the canoe while trying to avoid being squashed by the frog in the straw hat. It’s an interesting statue, but I don’t want to spend the night under it.
I’m on my way to Nicaragua. My bag is beside me, already smelling slightly odd, although I washed my clothes before I left. I have a brand new surfboard, still encased in the bubble wrap it came to my house in, still wearing its protective cardboard sleeves, waiting for wax and warm water.
It – and I – will have to wait one more day, though. I showed up at 5 am this morning with bells on, eyes bleary and red-rimmed with the effects of a late night in an unfamiliar hotel and too much wine. At the gate I am informed there is a problem with my standby ticket. A mismatch of some kind, they say. They will not go any further, and until it is figured out, neither will I. I am told by a dead-eyed, soulless agent (this person clearly does not care about my plight) that I need to call an employee phone number, because my standby ticket has been purchased by my aunt, who rides the friendly skies in a tailored blue skirt and a perfectly styled french-braid, handing out pretzels, soothing crying babies and generally averting disasters in a steel tube 35,000 feet above the dirt.
I am not an employee, I tell her patiently, so there is no point in me calling this number. Of course, I am convinced, and spend just over an hour on hold, listening to an extremely cheerful (despite being automated) lady telling me about how wonderful their airline is. I can barely hear the final boarding call for my flight over her cheerfulness. Then I am disconnected, and I have missed my flight. With bloodied knuckles, I leave the phone with its freshly cracked pane, and feeling slightly less patient than before, I make my way back to the desk to confront another person who has no idea what is happening. Here I am told that my ticket is fine, and there is no reason I should’ve missed my flight. This is not helpful, given the fact that I have, in fact, missed my flight.
And so I call my aunt. Everything is fine, she tells me. I will simply be re-booked on the same flight then next day. I smile, relived. Thank you, auntie.
But now comes the question of what to do for 20 hours in a giant shiny box with brushed windows and pumped-in, dry-as-dust air. Do I sit in a straight-backed chair, feeling my eyes and sinuses shrivel up until I am a snorting, squinting hunchback? Do I sit at the bar until I am a snorting, squinting hunchback? Do I sit and watch the arrivals, hugging and happy, meeting their loved ones with laughter and tears? How long can a man live off Manchu Wok and burned Starbucks coffee?
So here is a question posed from this purgatory: I’d like to know what all you intrepid surf travelers do to pass the time in these places that make our world so small in between destinations . Give a brother a hand and some ideas, please. I’m hoping that the comments section below will attract some exciting options that would be useful to a stranded traveler. Because, after all, I still have two more stops to make before I get to where I am going.