A four hour layover at Heathrow would knock the enthusiam out of a televangelist. Being of Anglo/Celtic descent, I feel a genetic bond to the doughy middle-aged faces on British Airways, that slightly deranged, broken nosed, shaved head-butting boyo look that indicated past excesses on the rugby pitch or time spent terrorizing the continent as a soccer hooligan.
The pod seating thing that BA businessclass has going is totally creepy, with privacy screens erected to keep the bad dentistry of the bloke in 10D out of one’s own bleary face. The airlines have to fire Recaro, the Italian bucket seat designer, and do away with the modular pod thing that is absolutely useless to anyone over 6 feet tall. I’d prefer to lie on the rug and curl into the fetal position. Dude to my left looked like Gordon Gekko, right down to the blue shirt with the white collar and cuffs and the pound of vaseline in his hair. He spent the first half of the flight trying to barter for a pair of duty-free Bang & Olufsen ear buds for his iPod with the purser arguing that the price was the price and the 777 was not the Dirt Market.
Heathrow — grey, tubular, about three degrees too warm on a classic English morning where the sky looks like a stewed sweatshirt — is one of the singularly depressing travel experiences. Aside from the multicultural paegant of Asians, Africans, Sub-continentals, and other colonial descendants packing their villages into the overhead compartments, aside from the peevishly quaint terminology (Border Control, the Luddington Suite), the atrocious pub/breakfasts in the concourses, there is the oasis of the British Airways Lounge, a sort of hipster purgatory with genuine Oliver Twist porridge, unlimited espresso, and gangs of gesticulating Russian businessmen who bellow and drink white wine at 9 am.
Settling in is a ritual. Plug in the notebook, boot up, read a book while that happens, look at the Blackberry, charge that, set the clocks on the PC and phone, get a coffee, get some food, take off the blazer, reassure self that wallet, passport and ticket are in place, find wireless, curse wireless pain-in-the-ass effect, look out at the grey landscape of tarmac, English suburbs, highways, wait for PC to finish booting … read email. Wish you hadn’t. Write an aimless blog post. Wish you hadn’t. Think about taking a shower but wonder how weird that will be but how great it will feel.
Three more hours till I board for Bangalore — nine hours then onwards to the Hotel Ista where I intend to eat a dosa for breakfast.