Michael Harding: Airports are cathedrals of oppressive certainty
It’s difficult to speculate on the meaning of life as people come and go with little bags on wheels
In winter I get depressed. I go inside myself. I wander in a fog. I can’t cope with reality so I sink down into the swampy interior of the psyche where nothing is definite.
I was at a dinner party recently, and people were arguing about Trump and Clinton. They were angry with each other. But I just listened, indifferent and uninterested. And I knew that was a bad sign.
The following day it happened again. I was in a grocery shop and the girl behind the counter said the boss man was out the back and that he’d love to chat. So I waited beside the oranges, and when he got off the toilet seat and flushed the bowl he emerged shaking his wet hands. He was all smiles, and his eyebrows were halfway up his forehead and his arms wide open looking for the hug, because I hadn’t seen him for ages. But I couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to respond. He was talking to a shell, and I was watching the encounter from a distance.
Clearly I’m sinking, I thought. I’m drifting away from reality again. Which might be the result of the bad summer and the lack of vitamin D.
A summer Yeti
My new Skoda Yeti, which I bought during the summer, is more comfortable than an aircraft. In a plane I get squashed into a tiny seat, usually with some enormous man beside me who decides to snore all the way to Bucharest, whereas in the Yeti I can move my arse endlessly from one position to another, turn the radio on and off when I choose and enjoy gazing at the Leitrim hills as I travel. For me the Yeti is more luxurious than a plane, and Bundoran is more attractive than a holiday in the Canaries.
What really puts me off airports is that they are cathedrals of oppressive certainty. Reality is all external and too clearly defined. There’s no place for moody introspection. It’s like being in the army. It’s difficult to speculate on the meaning of life as people come and go with little bags on wheels, and headscarves, and big feet in sandals, and bags of duty-free drink, and paper mugs of coffee, and boarding passes and mobile phones.
Everyone must embrace the tyranny of facts. The clarity of events. There’s no space to wonder whether the pilot is happy, or if the security man searching your socks for explosives happens to be in love. I had my arms outstretched one morning as a security man scanned the back of my shoulders. I asked him did he ever get depressed. By the look on his face, I thought he was going to have me arrested.
The ding-dong sound that introduces public announcements in an airport is like a bell calling people to acknowledge some mighty truth. The boarding gate is now open, the ding-dong says. Stand here. Stand there. The boarding gate is now closed, the ding-dong says. Mr Comerford must come to the boarding gate immediately! There’s nothing foggy in an airport – unless there is fog. And even then it’s made clear. All flights are cancelled because of the fog! That’s certain. No messing.
And that’s why I try not to fly in the winter. Because I prefer to flee from certainties. I avoid facts. I prefer to journey through clouds of delusion. I dive down into the swampland of the soul, where nothing is clear. And sometimes I even like it down there in the turbulent twilight. Because it’s an adventure beyond the speakable facts of reality. A journey towards the invisible.