Sunday, February 03, 2008

Yet another airport

Fifteen minutes ago I was curious. What is a bocadillo? What does Iberian ham taste like? Now I feel like Obelix as a food critic (remember the exchange with Cleopatra’s taster?). Because the answer to the second question is, salty. As for the first, a bocadillo is evidently a sandwich in something like a small baguette. Not quite so crusty. Toasted and buttered, which is very welcome, but still a trifle rugged. Even when filled with Iberian (salty, OK?) ham and melted Brie.

Half past seven in the morning, dawn breaking through the glass walls, aeroplanes squatting on the tarmac like elongated chickens – any moment one of them will shake itself, fluff out its tail and emit a huge chuk-chuk-churr-oo-ook – the terminal warm and colourful like an indoor plaza. Smells of coffee and fresh bakes register somewhere in my lower brain, and my stomach lets out a low contemplative growl. Tell me, my good man, where is this lounge of which we hear so much?

A flood of totally incomprehensible Catalan follows, accompanied by seven finger waves, a shrug, a full arm point and two (consecutive) raised eyebrows. I stem the outpourings with a hurried ‘Gracias’ and back off warily. Have to find the damn thing myself. And I do. Which doesn’t help at all at all, because a vinegar-faced girl all but shoos me away for not having a privilege card. Excuse me, kiddo? I mean, what?! You expect all passengers through Barcelona to apply, WORLDwide, for a privilege card to this lounge that looks like the lobby of a budget hotel at 3 in the morning? Tell you what, senora, you give me back my boarding pass and I’ll go find a coffee somewhere more cheerful. Meantime, you have a nice vinegar-and-horse-piss, it might improve your attitude. Buenos dias, have a nice day, remember to shut the coffin lid when you take a nap.

Which is how I arrive at the Caffe di Fiore and the Iberian ham bocadillo. Table service only and they obviously have a height requirement for the waitresses. The biggest one could just about eyeball my second shirt button, and I’m not a tall man. Small neat packages they are, though. Black hair, black eyes and black uniforms filled just right. But they serve me a cappuccino gone cold and I have to ask for a fresh hot cuppa. Bad poodles! You shall not get your walkies unless you behave!

A Spanish couple and their two daughters take the table next to me. The husband is an ash blonde version of Cary Grant. The wife and daughters, sadly enough, all look like Sammy Davis Jr. So much for Brief Encounter 2008.

Four airports so far in the last seven days, two more to go. India has uniformity in uniform. The rules are the same in all the airports. Europe seems to revel in unpredictability. At Heathrow, they let me keep my belt on but I had to take my shoes off. Here in Barca it’s the other way round. As for ‘Any liquids’, I had wised up and put even the tiny travel bot of Klein (Eternity, yes I know some of you like to know these things even when it’s not Clooney, not that you can tell us apart in a poor light, oh you can? Did I ASK you, right where were we … ?) inside my suitcase. Which apparently weighs TWENTY-NINE kilos. Agh. That’s what comes of buying Moscatell on the cheap!

Idea – I should take up ethnography. Sociology. Whatever. Do a PhD on inter-cultural and intra-cultural differences as evidenced in airport security and tourist information offices. Important and useful, innit? If I can swing funding for it I’m set for a few years – travel and write and get paid for it.

Except that it would mean too many weeks and months away from a Very Small Person. Who has just asked on the phone, ‘Papa, WHEN will you come home?’ On my way, on my way, give me a day or two!

**** **** ****


MinCat said...

ooo heres a tip, even if you are a rabid carnivore, do the bocadillo de tortilla de patatas. and have em heat it up for you :)

Rimi said...

Thank god I didn't have a travelling dad, although to be fair, he probably does not see it in quite the same light. The whole point of having a father around is that he can come running to battle midnight cockroaches and tuck you in at night, with the edge of the duvet curled up just right under your feet*.

And you made me google Sammy Whoseit Jr. Most uncharitable of you.

*Mothers are more versatile.

Tabula Rasa said...

a whole family that looks like sammy davis jr! :-D brought these lines back:

(i wanda why nobady don' like me
or is it a fac' dat i'm og-ly?

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

MinCat, little late for that since I'm now back in India. Perhaps there's some place in Delhi I can find one.

Rimi, hope Sammy's mug was worth the effort!

Prof, look a boo-boo deyah ... love that one but live in fear of my Small Person learning it.


Unknown said...


Priya said...

Thank God for small mercies, the showoff time is over.

Unknown said...

Welcome back !! Otherwise your discourse on "airport cultural diversity" could fast snowball ..

ArSENik said...

"A Spanish couple ... Brief Encounter 2008." - Classic! Hahahahaha...

What's In A Name ? said...

"Small neat packages they are". Neat. Indeed. :)

Lekhni said...

Not only can't the Europeans agree with each other, they can also not agree with themselves. If you go to Heathrow in 6 months time, they'd have changed their mind about some of their rules..and brought in some other rules..

Jam said...

Awwwww, this line "Papa, WHEN will you come home?" is just too cute. That single line can become a post in itself.

Sphinx said...

excited, I am, by your post, seems another has just journeyed through barcelona. I loved the place, from las ramblas (where we stayed) to gaudi's masterpiece and everything in between and that dish I can't remember - sea food with rice and all, supposed to be a specialty (i think its payala). ooh, the memories.