By Gerry Moran
Purgatory is a place on earth. And it’s called an airport. There is no heaven on earth, this we know; we do know, however, that there is hell on earth. Look no further than Gaza. Indeed you may be going through your own personal hell at the moment in which case I sympathise with you.
And what’s this Churchill said many years ago: “If you’re going through hell – keep going.”
Purgatory, however, not heaven nor hell, is the theme of this piece and purgatory, according to my Concise Oxford Dictionary, is “a place or state of temporary suffering”. An airport for sure. Let’s start with parking. Long-term usually which is almost always full and miles from the terminal, unless you’ve money to burn and are prepared to pay a small fortune on Short Term parking (two weeks may require a loan from the credit union). And, even if you’re flushed enough to avail of Short Term parking, you still have to spiral up, and up, and around, and around, to find a space – usually next to a pillar where a small scrape can cost you big bucks to have repaired by the panel beater (and I’m talking from personal experience here) .
And so the suffering has begun. Next the queue; the first of many, to check in your bag. But, hey, you were clever – you checked in your bag on line. Good thinking. Now join the queue for Bag Drop, every bit as long as the regular check-in line! And now for the next painful, purgatorial experience: security check. Are we ready? Oh, and do not get excited when you see a smallish queue ahead which you join with hope in your heart until you turn the corner and see the REAL queue, creeping, crawling along at a snail’s pace.
But you’ve been here before so you grit your teeth, say a decade of the rosary (like hell, or rather purgatory, you do, you swear silently under your breath or to your partner who doesn’t actually hear because they too are swearing silently under their breath).
Eventually you reach the table, strip off to your boxer shorts (not quite but you know what I mean) where you load the tray (or trays, depending on your baggage) with belt, shoes, jacket, PC, loose change, passport, wallet and your Rolex watch which you keep a sharp eye on as it slithers towards the limbo of the X-ray machine, hopefully to re-emerge on the other side.
Enter then, not the Pearly Gates, but the security gate for a quick scan to confirm you’re not concealing a kilogram of gelignite or hand-grenade in your underwear. And, of course, the beeper beeps, it always does in my case as I am concealing, not explosives, but a prosthetic hip. “Prosthetic hip,” I announce but it doesn’t matter – doesn’t matter if I produced a gold-framed certificate from my surgeon attesting to same.
The frisk commences which I now call frisko-dancing, as opposed to disco-dancing. I turn to the left, turn to the right. I lift my left foot, lift my right, raise my hands in the air and turn all around as some electronic device scans my body. Seeing my frustration one time, a security guy in Dublin said: “Just enjoy the massage.” I enjoyed the humour.
So, reunited with my belt, shoes, wallet etc. and Rolex (kidding) we head for the boarding gate. Surprise. Surprise. Another queue! A very long queue. But hey, you were clever, you booked Priority Boarding which queue, however, is every bit as long as the non-priority boarding queue! But, no sweat, you’re nearly there. Emphasis on NEARLY as you shuffle from one foot to the other until boarding eventually commences.
And now, hallelujah, you’re actually on the plane and look forward to a well-deserved G&T or chilled can of beer. But no. You’re not quite through purgatory yet. The plane would you believe is going nowhere because, as the captain announces, it is in, wait for it, a QUEUE to take off! Now I’m really tempted to say a decade of the rosary if not the entire rosary complete with the torturous trimmings my mother always added on as I’m remembering what the poet Tennyson said: “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.’”
But, hey, what did Tennyson know of Aer Lingus, Ryan Air or purgatorial airport queues?