I watched the crowds of travellers at Gatwick airport with disbelief: lines and lines of people waiting patiently to board flights that would take them on holidays to the sun, or to see Santa and his reindeer. If that was me, and I was cornered on the floor of an airport lounge waiting for a miracle that never came, I would probably go home. For thousands of holiday makers, that was not the reality, as delays caused by drones overhead, stretched into hours and days.
We put up with all manner of indignities and disappointments in the hope of something better, which on the one hand, is reassuring: it is good to be stoic, and to stay optimistic. But I can’t help wondering why we are so willing to believe in the fantasy of better, if only we will fly away somewhere else; and I’m surprised that more people didn’t conclude from the delays that they would be happier at home, with their perhaps rather muted family celebrations. Surely home cannot have become so objectionable that we would rather spend days sleeping on a floor, than go back to our usual comforts. Is the fascination of elsewhere so gripping?
Or have our expectations grown too great? I recognise that Christmas and New Year are family time, and that we want to be together and do something special. There is, equally, intense pressure on us to do that and be that, and to buy our way to that special place we call happiness.
Even so, flying away in the depths of winter somehow goes against my grain, when all I really want to do is hibernate. And surely, instead of being encouraged to jet to the sun on 21st December, we should remember that winter weather is unpredictable and that snow, ice and dark nights make travelling more hazardous. In other words, it might be better for us all, if we could surrender to the seasonal wisdom that says, now is a time for resting and doing less.
As for demonising members of the public for supposedly disrupting air traffic, are we really ready to vilify unknown others because they inconvenienced our holiday plans? We are encouraged to believe that the consumer is king, and that, if we only want a thing enough, we should have it. But I do not believe that anyone’s life deserves to be ruined because our seasonal expectations took a dip.
We all say we wish we didn’t have to work so hard, and that the demands of the commute are intense. Yet when we have the chance to do nothing – and a seasonal break over winter is the perfect excuse – we itch to be elsewhere. Just sayin’…