If my husband and I ever decide to divorce, it will be in the queue for security at Dublin airport. It is there, amidst the plastic trays teeming with listeria, and the people faffing about with the wrong size plastic bags, that the differences in our personalities (which, in a multitude of other contexts can even seem charming) loom between us like Mweelrea mountain.
I am frequently to be found at the check-in desk the day before departure. He likes to time his arrival at the airport to the last nanosecond in which it is still theoretically possible to make the flight, without having to rupture an artery. Every moment not spent in a lather of sweat and a state of low-to-mid level panic is a moment he bitterly begrudges – or, to put it another way, every moment that I don’t spend in a sweat and panic is a moment he bitterly begrudges.
I never leave the house with anything less than a 20kg baggage allowance. He travels with one small bag with his toothbrush, a few items of clothes and, if we’re lucky, his passport.
As soon as we are anywhere in the vicinity of Swords, I become an uptight, germophobic, control freak, who dreams of one day having an entire set of matching luggage
As soon as we are anywhere in the vicinity of Swords, I become an uptight, germophobic, control freak, who dreams of one day having an entire set of matching luggage, and he becomes a laidback-to-the-point-of-feckless teenager, who never remembers to decant his liquids into a smaller bottle. I succumb to the system; he resists it.
I've been travelling alone for work recently and I've noticed – during the seven or so hours I have spare before my flight departs – that we are not the only ones afflicted in this way. There is something about air travel that reduces all of us to primitive, basic version of ourselves. This is particularly true of air travel with Ryanair.
There are, on average, nine personality types on any Ryanair flight. I have counted them.
1 The people who didn't pay for priority boarding and are smugly obnoxious about it when they get to the gate and realise there are 187 people in the priority queue, and only three in the non-priority queue, and that the staff are going to open both in a minute anyway.
2 The people who did pay to prebook their seats, were first in line in the priority queue, and will make sure to get their money's worth later by spending ages in the aisle, folding their coat or rooting around in their bag, as everyone else succumbs to consumption in the freezing fog outside.
3 The people who always seem very angry about something, possibly the fact that they're flying Ryanair. They scowl at babies for having the audacity to be babies, and Ryanair cabin crew for having the audacity to be Ryanair cabin crew. Later, you'll see them approach the baggage reclaim area like the White Walkers storming the Wall.
4 The people who sit in your seat and who sigh deeply when you ask them to move, and then sit on your seat belt and pretend not to hear you ask them to move again. They're closely related to 2) and 3) above, except that they haven't bothered paying to prebook their seat, and you are the target of their fury over it.
5 The gas ones who find everything hilarious, are possibly still drunk, and can't work out whether seat 8F is the one by the aisle or the window.
6 The ones who go into loud raptures at the wonder of air travel. "Isn't it amazing," they'll say, loudly, "how something as huge and heavy as this, and so full of flammable liquids and human flesh, manages to stay in the air?" Yes, that one's my guy.
7 The people who think boarding times are like Brexit departure dates, a loose, largely aspirational goal, on a par with "get better at writing thank you notes". But, by some miracle, they have yet to miss a flight and they're rarely last on the plane. See below.
8 The people who are last on to the plane, but want everyone else to know this is the very first time it's happened to them. They are, in fact, never late for anything, and left the house at 4.55am this morning, but got caught in traffic, ended up having to park in the long term, had both their bags searched, and hadn't realised gate three in terminal one is in Kildare. I sat near one of these recently. "I'm sweating so much I actually squeaked," she announced, not without pride, when she finally turned up to claim the unoccupied middle seat beside mine.
9 The people who get irrationally proprietorial about the unoccupied seat adjacent to theirs; who work themselves into a state of high anxiety in the final seconds before the magic words "cabin crew prepare doors for departure" are uttered. And who then behave with barely disguised, and completely unwarranted, passive aggressive fury towards number 8). I feel bad about sitting on her seatbelt and pretending I couldn't hear her now, I really do.