Arrivals at Lisbon’s Portela Airport are not, I’m afraid, as romantic as Heathrow’s. Actually they are not romantic at all. As I was standing there, quite eager to hug my arriving friend, I realized that there was little hugging taking place. Actually, no hugging at all. Some cheek-kissing (very social, not emotional), only one bouquet of flowers and several middle-aged man.
I realized then, that in Lisboa grandfathers play an important role in airports as the travelers’ ride home. For each travel agent there were at least five older looking men, and they all had something in common: infinite patience and a simultaneous discontentment with the airline service (which airline is irrelevant, for they all seemed upset). Some grandfathers brought with them one grandchild, but mostly were alone. I looked at them and noticed that besides the body language – arms crossed in front of the chest, attentive look, internal sighing for patience – the attire was similar among them. They all wore jeans, comfortable shoes, meticulously well ironed shirts (not plain, pastel colours and with checkers or crossed lines) and spectacles, of course. How can you spot the person who is arriving if you are over fifty and not using spectacles?
And then, as the passenger would arrive, these grandfathers broke their stern look for a quick smile, some gesturing right or left to indicate the exit. They would greet the traveler, take the trolley of their hands and lead them to the car. Unfortunately, I could not hear what they were talking about, but it seemed that there were some complaints about the airline and the latest update on current events.
It occurred to me that this kind of efficiency could be transformed into a bussiness: “Are you alone? Are you travelling to a foreign place? Grandfathers’ Arrivals provide you with a comfortable and homy escort from the airport to your final destination!”.
I can picture it now, side by side the travel agents, middle aged men with discreet signs “Ms. Soul flying from Heathrow”, and a small tag on their chest pocket “Grandfather Silva”.