Endless Lines and Waiting Times

(From May 26th)


Well, here’s Heathrow! Aaaand I have three hours until my next check-in. Basically, I’m bored. So I’ll take this opportunity to theorize!

Before I left, one of my best friends urged me to spend some time in the airplane people-watching. We often have this conversation, and I always say I’m not comfortable (or interested) in watching other people – much to her frustration. (Yes, yes, I know people are fascinating, but my own repulsion to the thought of being watched makes me want to steer clear…. Don’t worry, our friendship has survived much worse). But as I stood in line waiting to get to security at Pierre Elliot Trudeau Airport in Montreal, I found myself having little other choice.

Aside from being designed to funnel people from one point to another until they finally reach a plane, it dawned on me that they are designed for people to be visible all the time. Though I suppose this is mainly for airport officials and staff, waiting passengers are forced to see too.

I had nowhere else to look. The people straight ahead of me. Those further ahead in the snaking line. Those behind me. I spent some time looking at people’s shoes just to avoid the awkward momentary eye-contact with other people who were forced to watch me and others around us. And while my lovely family sat and waited to make sure I got past security, I could see others out of the corner of my eye watching me make various expressions and trace them back to their intended audience.

Compared to that, the plane felt like a cargo vehicle – designed less for surveillance than for transportation.

Back in Heathrow, waiting to clear customs, it was the same story, only now with a longer line. And unfortunately for me, the little punk who stole my seat (my window seat! With great views of London, so kindly pointed out by our captain) was just far ahead of me in line that every time we turned a corner, there he was. Awkwardness abounded.

Concluding thoughts: airports are panopticons! (Oh, Foucault, you are everywhere!). Bet you didn’t see that coming. Also, I still don’t like airplanes or airports that much. More importantly, I haven’t had enough sleep or caffeine to draw a more polished conclusion from this. Ah well.


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