In the last two weeks I've been to Heathrow Airport three times, to drop off and pick up students. Hanging around in airports is a familiar concept to me, but waiting to collect unknown children-who don't know you from Adam either- is weird. I've always liked arrivals, as it's a place where people are reunited, but after the first hour or so it loses its charm.
The 'unacompanied minor' situation involves children being passed on from one adult to the next, each hoping that the others will do their job properly. Some parents, understandably enough, come to England for a visit so they can accompany their children on the journeys. I think I would do the same, rather than putting my ten year old on a plane alone. The set up I witnessed on Saturday, however, was nothing short of ridiculous. I had to wait at the terminal with a German girl for her Mum's 'man friend' to arrive on a plane from Dusseldorf, to then take her off my hands and fly straight back. Madness. Not only was it totally over the top (I mean, if you are so worried about your child, maybe you shouldn't be sending them away at all?) but it was also risky. What if his plane had been delayed? But then again buying a new ticket is not a problem for the rich.
Anyway, the main inspiration for this post is that as a result of these airport trips, I have spent around 9 hours in taxis, with taxi drivers who wanted to tell me everything and learn everything and generally chat shit for the entire journey- there and back. Saturday was a classic. Shane-I'll call him that to protect his identity-talked so much that I think I could give you at least 30 facts about his life. Like that his long term girlfriend left in March, taking the kids and leaving him with nothing but a blow up bed. Now is that really something you share with a stranger? Also that he hasn't seen his kids (13 and 16) since then, but that he pays his child maintenance. And that he's been having various online and text conversations with women, some of which 'he just simply couldn't repeat.' Thank God for that. And that he's going on holiday to meet a woman 'probably just for friendship' and then moving to Australia. Then there was the conversation about the psychology behind the text kiss. And the smiley. At what point is it right to start putting a kiss, and should it be one or two? What would you do regarding kisses if a bloke was texting you? How should I know? I'm bloody married! At one point I was reassured 'I'm not looking for anything serious right now, Rachel.' Great, really good to know, cheers.
And then there was also the incessant questions. When are you going to settle down? What are you doing after this? What is the pay like here, and in Saudi. So many questions, forcing me to talk more about myself than I would ever choose to do with someone I'd just met. But in the passenger seat it's exhausting trying to deflect or ignore direct questions. The real high point of all this was when he asked me if I'm thinking of having children yet. Not knowing how the hell to respond, I told him I thought it was a strange question, to which he replied, 'Well, that body clock's gonna start ticking soon.'
I know being a taxi man must be a boring and lonely job at times, but is that really my problem? You're paid to drive, damn it, so leave me alone to read my book/sleep/stare at the road in peace!