It has been a while since I’d been to Gatwick Airport as a departing passenger: a significant revamp has been performed, that’s for sure. Security is now fully equiped, automated, barcode-reading, in line with the latest anti-terror devices and procedures: my boots beeped, so I was shoved into a body scan where I posed for the nude pic according to strict instructions. In face of terror, we are all naked.
My good intentions reassured (or, at least, the omnipresent possibility of bad ones unproven), the real treat was just around the corner: it is no longer possible to circumvent duty free shopping in order to access the boarding gates – you have to zigzag through a long, hallucinatory corridor of sales, promotions, ads, assistants, gadgets, souvenirs, perfumes, spirits, scarves, teas, ties, creams, phones, toys, tablets, toblerones, grooming kits, designer bags, shaving kits, endless limited editions, endless stuff. Buy buy buy buy buy buy buy – the ethereal anticipation of flying now no longer a reverie, now a feverish turbo extension of the banality of the high street. In truth it’s always been the case for some if not most, but it’s no longer an option: it now borders on neurological intimidation.
The body scan reduces you to flesh, only to propel you into an intensive retox program in extreme consumerism, leering just around the corner.
The biggest surprise by far, however, was yet to come, in the shape of the new flight departures noticeboards. Not their appearance, although they certainly are big, colorful, flashy, plasmatic, slightly cute, in line with current pervasive aesthetics doing the rounds. Mark my words: soon they’ll display little animations of fluffy lil’ planes taking off. “L’Avion Rose”, some generic autotune bimbo lounge singer no doubt whispers out there as I type. Piaf does a turn.
But I digress: what ultimately made my jaw drop to previously unsuspected depths was the content of these noticeboards. Whereas in the past, in the absence of a designated boarding gate for your flight, the board would invite you to “please wait for gate info”, it now sweetly insinuates:
Flight X123: “You Still Have Time For McDonald’s”
Flight Y456: “You Still Have Time For Prêt A Manger”
Flight Z789: “You Still Have Time For Boots”
Okay then. After one is x-rayed to the bone, one must stuff himself in duty-free bling. And then, before the gate is announced, one must stuff himself again with food, meds, diet cokes, more scents, more sugar, more fluff. Prove your good faith and hang out in a bulimic shopping haze, will ya?
How long until buying Chanel nº5 and munching on a crap burger with plastic fries become a mandatory exercise in anti-terror? Do we still have time?