People talk a lot about airport novels. But I have bought many airport novels over the years, and do you know what's wrong with them? That's right! Not one of them has ever been set in an airport! They're not really airport novels at all! This week I am going to put that right by bringing you a series of brand new stories uniquely set in airports, for you to read as you set off on your hols, and we kick off today with Airport Story Number One, which is called:-
Nigel had been sitting in the departure lounge waiting for his flight to be called for what seemed like twenty minutes. The first twenty minutes in the departure lounge is always bearable, thought Nigel. Later it gets worse and you get the itch to buy duty free and buy a bottle for your hotel room the other end and you start thinking that the book you brought with you is too serious and you might as well get something more cheerful, because nobody ever buys a novel by Tolstoy at the airport, except maybe in Moscow...
Nigel's ruminations were suddenly interrupted by a female voice.
"Excuse me," it said. "Would you mind keeping an eye on these while I go to the loo?"
Nigel looked up.
She was fair-haired without being blonde, nice without being pretty, small without being big. She was wearing Dame Edna Everage spectacles. She pointed to two large pieces of hand luggage. Nigel felt a surge of chivalry go through him, that delicious emotion which involves so much pleasure and, with luck, so little physical effort.
"Of course," he said. " I would be delighted."
She smiled. He felt good. She went. He looked at the luggage. He would guard it with his life. He went back to his paper and forgot all about the luggage. Then, what seemed like two minutes later, but was actually only one minute fifty seconds, he happened to notice that the luggage was being removed. He looked up. A tall, rather thin, ginger-haired lady with sun-glasses was picking up both pieces.
"Hold on a moment!" said Nigel, springing to his feet and feeling some ancient fluid go through his system, the sort of fluid which his warrior ancestors no doubt felt circulating when their village was threatened. "Just what do you think you're doing?"
"I am removing my luggage," said the lady.
"YOUR luggage!" said Nigel. " I am looking after this for the person who really owns this!"
"What is her name?" she said.
"I don't know," said Nigel. "She just asked me..."
"Mrs George Marklin," said the woman. "Go on, look at the label."
Nigel looked at the label. It said, Mrs George Marklin.
"How on earth did you know?" said Nigel.
"Because that is my name. It is my luggage."
"But this woman said…"
"Was this woman fair-haired, nondescript, except for wearing Edna Everage specs?"
"She's my friend. She's called Norma. She's always playing silly tricks like that. Now, may I have my luggage?"
It would have taken a stronger man than Nigel to say no. He watched her take the two pieces, with some foreboding.
Not long after, the other woman returned.
"Where is my luggage?" she said, as Nigel dreaded she might.
He decided to take the offensive.
"You told me you were the owner. But you must have been lying. Because the real owner turned up and she took her own luggage, the pieces you had told me were yours."
"The REAL owner?"
The woman looked at Nigel.
"Was she by any chance a tall, thin woman with ginger hair, and sun glasses?"
"Well, yes, she...."
"Oh, no! You fool, you fool, you FOOL!"
With a wild cry she ran off.
Not long after that, when Nigel's flight was called, he found that his own hand luggage was missing. He reported it to Security and, though it wasn't relevant, also mentioned the episode with the two women.
"Was one of them by any chance tall and ginger?" said the Security officer. "And the other one dumpy and blonde?"
"So they're back in action, are they?" said the Security man to himself. "Well, that's where your luggage went. Thelma and Louise back again, eh? Just like old times."
MORAL: Not only do not leave your luggage unattended at any time, but best tie it to your ankle with a stout rope.
The Independent Monday Aug 12 02