With the greatest of ease
The British are a humorous people; on the coach to Heathrow the driver urged us to ‘notice, please, ladies and gentlemen, that your seats are equipped with seatbelts. As you no doubt are keenly aware, there have been a spate of road accidents involving buses. In one of the latest, five people died, fifty-five were seriously injured, and five walked away. Guess who among them was wearing a seatbelt. Thank you for choosing this coach service, and please enjoy your flight.’
Just as the bus pulled into the central coach station at Heathrow, I realized Tariq was sitting just behind me—on his way home to Berlin for the holidays. We chatted as acquaintances do, mainly of papyrology, and bid each other a safe journey.
I was at the airport three hours early. This was stupid, but I am not a good traveler and prefer to be far, far too early for everything than be too late for anything. There were exquisitely dressed women in the line, whose scarves were knotted to show the label, whose clothes were pressed and pleasing to behold—it seemed almost a shame to hear the London bray in their voices (though it was not, admittedly, unexpected). There was also a beautiful young couple; they were so perfect it would be too simple to despise them. Men in tweed were everywhere and everyone seemed swaddled in wool. Even myself.
We were met at the airport by Peggy the drug sniffing puppy. ‘Please set your shoulder bags on the ground, so Peggy can sniff them,’ said the handler, who spoke to people with the same encouraging tones she used for the puppy (‘What do you smell, Peggy, huh? What do you smell?’). That said, it was the fastest I’ve ever been through immigrations—how empty the airport seemed.