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Terminal thoughts... - By Rebecca Wicks

I hate airports these days. They always used to be exciting, because at the other end of a 9 hour cartoon-fuelled plane ride was something thrilling, like Disney World. But now they're just annoying. And I feel like I live in Disney World now anyway.

I guess a kid never registers the stress of pushing through a hundred bewildered people as they stare around them, lost, wondering where their terminal is because they haven't bothered to read the signs. A kid rarely gets asked to remove its shoes when it walks into the departure lounge; and it practically never gets taken into what resembles a stand-alone changing room, by a lady with a scary scanning machine, that looks like something out of Star Wars. It never gets made to feel like a terrorist for having a beeping belt buckle either. I hate those machines. I always get picked out to be scanned. Just now, it happened again. I had nothing stuffed in my shoes, nothing hidden in my t-shirt, but I did have a lovely chunky necklace from Accessorize round my neck that made the entire hall sound with alarm bells and a couple of sniffer dogs perk up. I felt guilty, but I guess that's fashion.

I'm sitting in the departure lounge: gate 43, at Dubai airport, waiting for my Virgin flight to London. It'll be the first time I've been home since I got here, almost a year ago. I'm watching people arrive now, taking their seats, removing their shoes, putting their shoes back on, plugging their headphones into their ears in an effort to block the irritating buzzes, pings, swipes, groans and mutters of annoyance all around them. Straight ahead, a man in a blue t-shirt is zipping and unzipping a giant bag over and over again, looking peeved. Perhaps he's wondering if he packed too much stuff in his hand luggage. I'm wondering who he is and where he's going. Well, I know he's going to London because he's on my flight, but where's he heading once he gets there? I bet he's got three kids and he forgot to buy them presents on his business trip, so he's stuffing rubbish airport gifts into that bag, at the last minute. Nice.

To my slight left, a couple sit side by side - a blonde girl in a white summery t-shirt and a brown-haired guy in a button down shirt. They are staring down at the blue patterned carpet. They don't look very happy. Maybe London sucks to them. Maybe they've been here on holiday and had a really great time and don't want to leave. Or maybe they just had an argument. Maybe he's mad at her for making him leave his new, nine-foot shisha pipe at the hotel, because they didn't have enough room for it alongside her giant stuffed camel.

A man next to me is engrossed in some sort of crime novel. His legs look a little burnt so maybe he's burying the pain between those pages. I wonder if he came to Dubai alone for a holiday, just him and his crime novels. Well, why not? Actually that's a funny thought too. People come to Dubai for a holiday, and then they go home. I live here, and go to London on holiday. I've taken precious days off work to go back to the rain, crime and punishment of a drastically overpriced city I couldn't wait to get out of. I'll wait for my tan to fade and my phone to get stolen and a teenage yob to spit on my shoes, and then I'll come back to Dubai. Maybe then I'll buy a crime novel and burn my legs a little bit over the weekend.

Almost time for boarding now, so I'll pack this laptop away before I'm accused of smuggling something between the keys, or a bustling passenger spills his coffee on it. London here I come. I have no idea what to expect, or whether my mates will even recognised this tanned, manicured, slightly snobbish, wannabe five-star version of the scruff who left them last June. But I'll let you know next week.

Posted: 14 June 2008

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