“Why does it feel like we’re being punished for taking a flight?” asks Katie Byrne
I thought I’d struck it lucky on Sunday morning when the plane hit the tarmac of Dublin Airport 20 minutes ahead of schedule.
With a quick exit and no bags to collect from the carousel, I was hoping to be tucked up in my leaba with a cup of tea and a humongous Toblerone by 1am at the latest.
The dream was very much alive as I dashed through the airport terminal, towards passport control — and then things took a turn for the worse. The first rude awakening was the sight of hundreds of people bottlenecked around a stairwell. The second was the tannoy announcement about delays at passport control.
I meandered my way along the queue of disgruntled travellers, but the real fun started outside the airport, where there was another interminably long line of people waiting for very few taxis.
After a quick mental calculation, I concluded that I’d be better off getting the bus — but things weren’t much better in that queue. When the number 41 eventually came into sight, the crowd went full Dunkirk. Queue-skippers and elbow-jostlers took prime position; the rest of us were left standing there, mouths agape, as the doors closed and the bus pulled away.
After missing out on a coveted bus seat, I had no option but to go full Dunkirk too. This is every man for himself, I reasoned, as I hijacked a taxi that a Spanish gentleman had the presence of mind to order. The taxi driver was delighted when I pushed myself against his windscreen with a €50 note. The passenger wasn’t too keen on sharing, but I’m afraid he had no choice…
It was bedlam, and yet my experience was nothing compared to the unfortunate travellers who were departing from Dublin Airport on Sunday morning. Some people queued for two hours at security; some missed their flights.
It was the worst airport experience imaginable, and here’s the thing: travelling abroad during a pandemic is already challenging as it is.
The new airport essentials are passport, tickets, money, mask. There are laborious forms to fill in and extra precautions to take. If you’re half-vaccinated, or unvaccinated or less than 14 days from being fully vaccinated, you have to get tested pre-departure and again before you come home.
Most of the elevators can only take two people at a time — something to bear in mind if you’re travelling with someone who needs one. Little airport luxuries like trying on make-up (hands off!) are part of a bygone era. As for airport pints, they aren’t that enticing when you’re doing something you’ve been told not to do for the last 18 months. Most people just want to get on their flight before somebody tells them they’re not allowed to.
Meanwhile, you’re dealing with a lot of understandably anxious people. Most of the travellers — and staff — that I encountered at the airport last weekend were friendly, but there’s always going to be that one person who makes you feel like you’re carrying the bubonic plague when you dare to sit near them.
I flew during lockdown (yes, yes, I’m a terrible person) and while I took all the necessary precautions — double mask on plane, bubble at the destination, two-week quarantine period back home — I was surprised to encounter a woman raising a ruckus about the lack of social distancing on board.
An aircraft is a steel tube designed to carry large numbers of people over long distances, with limited toilets and re-circulated air. The concept of social distancing on board is laughable, but I digress.
I made my return trip to Dublin on Sunday a little bit easier by changing the way I travel. I treated myself to a top-row Ryanair seat and bought a bumbag at Malaga Airport (laugh all you want, but it’s the most efficient way to carry masks, sanitiser, passport, phone, etc).
These little tweaks staved off a mini meltdown but still, we have to ask what airports are doing to make an already challenging situation easier for travellers. Dublin Airport knows exactly how much footfall to expect. Likewise, they should know by now how much longer it takes to check extra documents.
Irish people have the right to travel freely to dozens of countries, so why then do travellers feel like they’re being punished for doing so?
The pandemic and the opportunity to work from home seems to have led to two distinct groups of workers.
The first group have actively disengaged from their jobs and are doing the bare minimum required to get by.
The second group have gone into overdrive and are dealing with job insecurity by working extra hours and even extra jobs.
Bolstered by the ability to work remotely, a growing cohort of employees are taking on a secret second job. They have two bosses, two salaries and, presumably, a thousand balls to juggle.
The experiences of secret double-jobbers are detailed on the website overemployed.com.
Billed as “the secret door to financial freedom”, the platform tells resourceful workers how to successfully work two jobs without getting caught and/or burnt out.
Pointers include not telling anyone about your secret side gig (“Remember, loose lips sink ships”) and giving managers exactly what they want (“When you feed into people’s perception of what they want from you, you’re more likely to get what you want.”)
Apparently, it also helps to be distinctly average: “Don’t cause attention. Try not to be recognised. Don’t add more work for yourself.”
In one sense, you’ve got to respect the sheer gall of the people who pull this off, not to mention the hustle. Yet, in another sense, we have to ask what’s driving these people to work themselves into the ground.
The pandemic has triggered an array of psychological issues. Perhaps some of these issues are beginning to manifest in the way we approach our work.
You’ve got to give it to Tory MP, Michael Gove, who was spotted on the dance floor of an Aberdeen nightclub at the weekend.
Appearing to be on his own, the 54-year-old Cabinet Office minister danced to techno and jungle music until the early hours.
His moves were described as “Dad dancing” and likened to Mr Bean, but can we take a moment to celebrate his spontaneity and general joie de vivre? Good for him.