Passage to India – Sunday – Terminal 5

I am writing this as I relax in the executive club area in Heathrow’s swanky new terminal 5 building. I have helped myself to a third portion of free vegetable curry and rice and my second glass of complementary wine.

Terminal 5 is plates of glass and tubes of chrome, moderated with soft furnishings and an uneasy quiet. A calm most unlike other airports I have frequented and hated. This is of course facilitated by my so-called executive status, the valet parking, the executive bag-drop off and the fast track security.

All of which eliminates the traveller’s worst bugbear – queues. I did not have to queue for the shuttle, check in, security or (so far) boarding. Once I board I will not have to wait to put my case up in the overhead lockers and squeeze into an impossibly space without touching anyone. Here in club, almost given the impression we are human. We are in “the club”. We are the self-appointed elite. We have special barcodes on our boarding passes.

Yes, here in the executive lounge one is trusted to help oneself to wine and chicken jalfrezi, and complementary magazines without making a scene or a noise. Everyone looks sedate, well-behaved and at home.

But there is a subtle psychology here. Make people feel special and privileged, and they will usually act up to it. People like to live up to their own publicity. So we are all awfully nice and professional. We all need to demonstrate that we are totally at home in such company, that we know the social rules like the back of our hands.

Nobody talks loudly on their phones or guzzles their soup. To do so would be to invite the impression of being out of our depth, of a lower social standing and rather stupid. So we all try to look relaxed and at ease. A brief panic for me when I could not immediately see whether the wine bottles in the chrome decanters were for display purposes only, so I moved on quickly. Did anyone see my hesitancy? I think I got away with it. They weren’t.

I am from Oldham. I am working class. My ancestors worked in farms or in mills. My surname is a bit of a giveaway. But here, in the executive lounge, all of that is my own little secret.

There is one podgy bloke with his shirt out of his trousers who looks like he is trying too hard, and looks a little uncomfortable. We suspect his normal habitat is the pay-as-you-go canteen. More used to sneaking an extra ketchup sachet home than easing through a glass of the Cabernet Sauvignon. Maybe he is from Rochdale.

It’s all a load of nonsense of course. We are mainly here because our employers have forked out some extra cash for inflated ticket prices. Probably by exploiting the workers and lying to the consumers. We all shop at Tesco and eat at Burger King with like the rest of the world.

Everyone likes to be pampered and rarefied. It appeals to our vanity. Me ? I’d rather be at home eating chips, supping tea and watching Corrie. Naturally.

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