On Saturday, two incidents made me stop and take note of my feelings and how appropriately I was dealing with them. I am normally a great exponent of looking for, and celebrating, the good bits of life, however infrequently they might present themselves, and revel in the joy that they engender. On this occasion though I have a couple of peeves that I don’t feel obliged to share, but want to talk about the learning from them
Having joined one queue at passport control I quickly realised, as someone else moved, that there was a much swifter neighbouring line which I proceeded to join, along with a dozen other eager fellow-travellers. Two people later and I was at the yellow waiting line, giving the Romanian guy adequate space and privacy, patiently and politely as one is supposed to. 10 minutes later all our respective positions had altered not one iota. The balding gent with the big nose and Polizei epaulettes was still ensconced in his perspex castle whilst the non-natives started to get restless. Others behind me jumped ship returning to the previously slower queue but I stayed, rooted to my frontline position.
I got angry. Inwardly I was yelling that this was wrong. Yet, being powerless to change the situation, I obligingly remained, stationary. Anger was the wrong response.
I could have departed my encampment to follow the deserting rats filtering off to other queues. Upon this realisation, I felt a degree of shame that I had made a mistake, something I am often unwisely keen to avoid. It allowed a degree of self-reflection and brought an atmosphere of inward calm – I was in no hurry to get through security, my plane didn’t leave for a couple of hours (yes, we were trying to leave a country that I had entered when my friend flashed both of his own ID cards at the border police as we sped through the motorway checkpoint). This made for an interesting counterpoint with the chapter of Matthew Syed’s Black Box Thinking I had started to read at the outset of the line-up, all about cognitive dissonance and not changing your thinking because that would require an admission of error.
Ultimately though, after momentary self-reflection, I decided I was happy enough to stay put and simply feel a slight sadness that this unfortunate event had befallen me. This served me well a few minutes beyond the passport police when, having obligingly gone through all the undressing rigmarole that is security screening, I was still made to sit on a stool and be dusted for dangerous chemicals or stray sherbet – no forthcoming explanations allows greater creativity of thought. I did wonder though about the allegedly random nature of an event that happens far more often when I play the unshaven, scruffy, single male traveller rol
And thence to the flight itself and my second dawn of realisation. With the midday sun flooding the cabin the catering trolley hove into view, supplying us with a cornucopia of products from a company that may rhyme with Dark Sand Fencers. The cart was being propelled towards me by an employee of my (currently, at least) national airline with whom I undoubtedly shared a common mother tongue. He could have remained nameless, but BA-badged Paul asked what I would like. My request for a beef sandwich and a coffee passed the filters unscathed and a nod of acquiesance issued. However, my addition of a brownie foxed him somewhat. Maybe he couldn’t bypass my thick accent to reach the understandable words behind. Possibly his hearing was impaired by the normal levels of engine noise and gentle murmur of conversation. I tried again but sadly my desire for a different result from the same action was as idiotic as always. I had a sudden image of the recent video of two Scots in a voice-activated life and was desperate to try asking for floor eleven. Eventually I resorted to snatching the in-flight food and drink menu from the slot, exasperatedly flicked to the page and stabbed my finger at the required picture. I heard some mildly feeble excuse about no-one having requested one of those before, then a departure to find the aforemangled cakelike snack. I got a little bit angry.
The Mobile Food Dispensing Operative returned to my side to helpfully inform me that there were none left, so I simply downsized my request to the sandwich and coffee. I was a little bit angrier.
I was then required to pay, the somewhat gold-plated, £7.05, obviously including an airline-food-increase that seems de rigeur, regardless of which emporium supplies it. I was concerned that proffering a £20 might lead to some adverse comment, requiring as much change as it would; although, as always, hopeful that I might rob them of the 5p if they had insufficient coinage.
But I was wrong, and getting angrier. They don’t accept cash. Of any denomination or currency. No pounds sterling, no euros, no roubles or zloty.
Not very happy, and more than a little bit annoyed, I was actually needing to simply be sad. Yes, I could argue that BA’s monetary policy was wrong but I was, once again, powerless to change it. To feel sad and recognise it as an unfortunate incident gave me greater opportunity to accept the situation, put away my wallet and accept that I wouldn’t be eating expensive food that I could easily live without.
Whilst I know I need to read and think more on the topic of feelings and emotions, and how using their power can enhance my life and reduce my stress, Vivian Dittmar’s book ‘The Power of Feelings’ has been a useful step on this particular journey of discovery.
On the plus side, it was gorgeously sunny when I landed early at Heathrow and this rightness brought me a degree of joy.