Saturday, 4 February 2017


I had realised when I got to the station they weren't with me. I'd also thankfully lost my bank card too so at least I couldn't buy any at the airport. Amsterdam had been fun. I'd broke my last €10 cash getting a sandwich and some water so I was hearing everything on the way home wether I liked it or not. I'd have to go back to one of the oldest and the greatest ways to pass time; people watching.

I'd got to my gate a little early and checked the screen. Due to some fog the gate hadn't been announced yet but I'd been directed down there by the information desk. The plane was coming soon, all was good. I finally sat down after the longest walk through the airport and had the sandwich. I was approached by a young Dutch man in a suit with a tablet. He had glasses and tidy hair. He was preppy. He was a surveyor for the airport conducting data capture.

I enjoy data capture and analytics and I figured as I didn't have my headphones to take me away I'd see what this had to offer me in the way of interest. The survey was written impeccably and was relatively complicated, making it a little more fun. It was fresh in my mind how fascinating the Dutch people were compared to us Brits. Interesting characters. Polite, intelligent, straight laced, sometimes wooden and almost to a man they were remarkable with the English language. I'd seen this as a cool interaction to have stumbled upon. The surveyor was all of the above. He was so typically Dutch, but a similar height and complexion to myself and also was 27 years old. I could see he was as interested by the process of the data capture as I was. We were similar. We finished his survey and discussed his job and what exactly the data is used for, went onto Brexit, (followed by my subsequent apology on behalf of my countrymen) and we exchanged names and parted ways. Willem. The perfect 'single serving friend' as Tyler Durham describes these people so well in Fight Club.

I got down to the waiting room as I was about to board the plane and sat down in a corner. I watched the room fill up with people. Across from me was this guy. He was like a bird. This bird boy looked like he'd just took a pill. Fidgeting and restless unknowingly pulling faces and sticking his neck out to stare at people. Someone would walk around the corner to show the assistant the passport, entering his line of sight and they would instantly catch his eye. He would stare in the way only birds do. Completely still with his neck at full stretch in their direction. The people showing their passport to the assistant were behind a blindspot as I watched on. I was enjoying this because it gave an air of mystery to what his expressions gave away. It made for better more rewarding learning of his algorithms. The game was not on easy mode so to speak. I was aware of the irony in this and that I am now staring at him. Maybe someone was staring at me. But between watching Willem the surveyor seemingly chancing upon his interactions with the passengers and now the bird boy's clockwork-like cycle of behaviour as people entered the room one by one I felt like James Bond scoping the set out. Things were starting to happen in my mind slightly before they happened in real life, I was in that place.

The point the bird boy and Willem the surveyor met was wonderful. I'd been keeping an eye on both of them for 15 minutes now and their own little interactions emotionally with the strangers in the room. I'd earned this, this was my Big Bang. While Willem was focused, clinical and pragmatic the bird boy was a bad bluff. His thoughts were written on his face. Willem the surveyor remained poker faced. He was the fucking dealer. He was like a spook. He was here to collect data and that alone. As the bird boy's female companion did most of the talking for the minute Willem took of their time, bird boy's head was twisting as his eyes danced up and down the surveyor, from his hair cut to his shoes and back again. They parted ways with Willem walking towards the right and in turn past the door where people were filtering in. Bird boys eyes once again transfixed on the mystery passenger behind the blind spot. Order was restored.

An apparent late introduction of characters to the story yet

The surveyor had scuttled off as secretly as he had entered the room. The doors were open and people were boarding the plane. I'm stood at the vending machine as two voices come dancing down the stairs. One loutish Irish accent shouting 'Flybe! Flybe!' and the other I couldn't quite make out. I get a Twix from the vending machine, grab my bags, check my passport and head out the door to a little purple plane. I'm now stood behind them in the queue. It's cold and the plane looks like a little deathtrap, especially with the fog. Without the headphones I'm privy to their conversation. These are the exact situations where I love headphones. I'm cursing myself. One of them looked like a burned out match. He was a character that didn't quite make the cast of Trainspotting. He must've weighed 6 stone wet through and stood hunched over sipping something strong from a disposable coffee cup through a chewed up straw. He was pissed out of his skull and cruising at 2,000 words a minute all dribbling out from below his burger 'tache. Among various ramblings in his boggy Birmingham accent he announced 'I feel fucked for whoever has to sit next to me I'm gonna chew their ear off for an hour'. This apparently was the Irish guy's partner in crime. His idiot in tow. I later learned his name was Matthew. 

The Lottery

I instantly knew it was me. It was a small flight with maybe 100 people on and I was flying alone, I knew it was me. I was getting my ear chewed off. As we went up the steps I ignored his chattering enough to get my phone out and look at my boarding pass. 10D. Ok as long as he doesn't call 'ten' then I'm good money. I take two more steps up the little ladder and hear him say 'ten, I'm in ten'. After all, I'd been following the patterns of Willem the surveyor and bird boy and had been realising what happened next in their little stories so why would that stop now? So we sit down next to each other, I make no eye contact, just put my hoods up as planned and zone out. Eager to not give him any opportunity at all to talk to me. Not a sniff. The Twix can wait, I'm a statue and he can't see my face. He hadn't spoke in about 5 whole minutes when he burst and blurted over 5 rows to the air hostess asking why if the plane isn't completely full could he move to sit with his friend. She was busy counting heads and making final preparations before the flight and assured him she'd sort it in a minute. He couldn't help himself. He tried to start the conversation with me, half subtly bringing it to the attention of everyone near us that she'd told him to shut up.

I couldn't be arsed. I just didn't look up. Now I knew he wanted to move I knew it wasn't permanent. In 5 or 10 minutes he'd be gone and I'd already avoided his verbal advance. The whole time I'm thinking about this guy, bird boy with the way he stared and Willem, the busy Dutch surveyor's pragmatism and how I wanted to write about them so other people could see a bit of them. They all seemed so interesting with my full attention. I felt like for better and worse all this would have been missed if I had my headphones. I pulled my phone out, opened a note and started punching away. I'm now here, writing this, the guy has got his move and it's a bit more peaceful. I've ate the Twix. What a day to lose my headphones.

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