Sunday, July 07, 2013
Excess Baggage - Saturday
‘Now, I need an answer now!’ I yell as the hire car splutters on to a roundabout while I look the wrong way for the umpteenth time and narrowly avoid being sideswiped by an angry looking kid in a Seat.
‘I’m not sure.’ Answers my wife haltingly as the swarthy youth in the Leon gives me the finger and hurls a mouthful of Hispanic abuse at me that includes the words Loco and Gringo, plus several other colourful local phrases I didn’t find the need to learn when ordering Vino Blanco and the Menu del Dia.
All trace of the soporific, sun-warmed laid-back guy whom I thought, from glances in shop windows, looked a bit like George Clooney’s elder, slightly tubbier brother, have vanished even before we’ve arrived at the hire car drop-off point. We’re lost, my wife is getting flustered, the red fuel low warning light has just blinked on and the check-in desk has already opened.
‘Just orientate the map.’ I bellow ungracefully, as I wish I had actually brought the despised sat nav I tried once then discarded disdainfully when it dropped the signal, in a one-way street somewhere around Tower Bridge. I approach the next roundabout with trepidation as a 737 suddenly roars overhead, almost confirming the incipient cardiac arrest.
‘We must be near the airport.’ Ventures my wife to the sort of scream two Pratt and Whitney jet engines in full reverse thrust would struggle to match.
‘Of course we f***ing are,’ I bellow. ‘But we’re looking for where to park the sodding car - not passport control.’
In the space of a thirty minute drive I’ve turned for a sun-tanned silver fox with, an imagined, passing resemblance to a film star, into one of those boneheads who don’t know when wearing a top is appropriate, sport absurd three-quarter length shorts and have Love and Hate tattooed on their knuckles. If we don’t get to the car park soon, I’ll be barging into Catalan bars shouting loudly, ‘Big beer mate and a diet coke for the missus, yeh?’ All I’m lacking is a shaven-headed mini-me son and a four-year old daughter with pierced ears….
‘You need to help me here.’ I plead, as a Fiat 500 overtakes me with a blast on a two-tone horn and a stream of expletives, questioning my lack of Cojones.
‘I’m doing my best.’ Replies my wife, not exactly endorsing the statement by spinning the map in her hands through 360 degrees, as a Fill Up Now sign flashes urgently on the dashboard.
‘I’m sorry for shouting.’ I tell my wife contritely, as we hump the overloaded cases towards a huge queue at our designated check-in desk.
‘That’s alright.’ She answers unconvincingly. I’ve been in sales most of my life and I recognise a falsehood when I hear one. A little bit of love for me has been lost irretrievably and lies discarded on a dusty pull-in somewhere around runway 06L/24R.
‘How can it take this long to process one family?’ I rail angrily, as the queue alongside, inevitably, moves at a faster pace than our one.
‘Just calm down.’ Pleads my wife, increasing my sweaty irritation even further. I don’t like the man I’m becoming and that’s before I get back to my desk and read 350 inane e-mails.
‘Seven minutes that last bunch.’ Says a bloke in front of me, turning and tapping his, probably fake, Rolex. He’s about my age but gratifyingly carrying more timber, with less thatching up top. Briefly I wonder what he does for a living and if he’s as stressed as I am?
‘We won’t have time to get out Duty Free cigarettes.’ Grumbles his partner, a perma-tanned woman with bleached hair and a botched facelift. I decide I don’t like them and hope they’ve just bought a dubious-titled holiday home. Ungracious, but I’m still an estate agent at the end of the holiday.
‘Would you like a brochure for your next visit?’ Asks a pretty woman, in heavily accented English as we finally ditch our suitcases and head for security. I stretch out a hand and accept the glossy publication.
‘God.’ I tell my wife glancing at the content. ‘More over-priced property.’