Coming back from Buenos Aires last week, I was forced to endure a layover in Lima, Peru, that began between 3 and 4 in the morning, and ended at 6 p.m. I thought, after that 15 hour layover, I would never want to return to Peru — Machu Picchu is on the bucket list, sure, but maybe it can just be seen by people who are not me, you start to think. But then, on my way to my gate after a full day of hanging out in the LAN (by the way, eff you for the layover LAN!) “VIP” lounge, I saw the gift shops.
Table runners! Bright patterns!
But I wasn’t as enthralled by the very stereotypical view of a certain place and its culture as I was at the prospect of finally leaving it. After layovers that long and an airline staff as uncertain about your flight/future as many of us are about why everyone is making so much clothing with cats on it these days, just realizing that you finally get to return to the Motherland is as momentous as actually momentous things are, like salary increases and getting engaged.
But I learned a lot on this 15 hour layover. About other people (annoying, elitist, bossy)
About myself (able to endure it without yelling at anyone or acting in a way that I’d
later find embarrassing). About airport lounges (free food, free booze, and — so awkward but necessary – showers).
It’s funny what happens to people who find out, amongst a group of strangers, that their seven hour intercontinental flight has been canceled at 3 in the morning, after four hours of delays, with no discernible answers to any questions like, when can we get on another flight? Will we retrieve our luggage? How do we get the fabled voucher for the mythical hotel? Is there even time to go to the hotel? Why is this happening to me? WHINEBITCHWHINE?! Etc.
Certain people like to claim a ranking status amongst the group early on. First to make a small scene of himself is Joe the Adventurer, wearing a safari hat, loose khaki pants, and an army green button-down, and growing a pretty lush beard. He wants to show off just how adventurous he is and, being so adventurous, unmoved this whole ordeal. We had flown from Chile, but now we’re in Lima and he doesn’t need schedules or rules or answers to more than one question: “Just tell me where the hotel is and when I need to be back and I’ll get a taxi and get there on my own,” he announces, grinning, to an airline employee but really, everyone within earshot, as though he wants us all to know he’s loose and cool enough to hang with Peru, skin an alpaca, climb the Machu Picchu. He wants us to think, “Ooh, maybe he’s been here before ooh!” But forgets its 4 a.m. and, oh right, no one cares.
Next to seek distinguished status in the distressed crowd is Patty McBossy Pants who wants to be at the center of “whats going on” so she can announce it to people and complain loudly about it for all to hear, as though she’s the trumpet blaring from deep within the exhausted semi-consciousness of all of us. “They don’t know if we’re getting our bags,” she practically shouts, throwing her head back and hands up dramatically for the benefit of people nearby, who she wants to trick into believing that she has real knowledge and facts about the situation at hand. You know this character – one or two followers will typically crowd around and kvetch with her, conferring authority on her where none exists, totally getting her off on this crisis that has already made a 20-something girl start crying in the corner.
Eventually Patty McBossy Pants loses sight of her voice — that of the people! — and
reveals her fatal flaw: an interest solely in herself. “Can you at least get the bags of business class passengers?!” she moans, realizing that even she can’t pretend to know the answers to all the unanswered questions. Well this why no one liked you in high school, lady.
And then there are the translators, eager to interpret Spanish for anyone who doesn’t
speak it ( like me) and who fall somewhere between showoffs (those who want to translate for people so badly, that they interrupt any white person talking to a Spanish person and start translating the English into Spanish, even if the person they’re talking to speaks English) and actually helpful people (who translate only when asked or when they detect a particular difficulty communicating).
After a few really super fun hours of waiting in lines around people like this, I wrangled a pass to the Lima airport lounge, which wasn’t nearly as nice as the one in Santiago, though they do have a bartender that will make you a pina colada in a blender, which is nice. But it’s like a daycare, because there are a lot of loud children and adults with no inside voices in there, probably because there are so many missed connections in the Lima airport, and maybe everyone whines and bitches about lounge access until they get it since it’s so annoying to miss flights there.
Yet the lounge must be nice if you just have an hour in Lima. They have free endless food, a machine that makes fresh orange juice (but good luck finding an orange in the basket next to it that isn’t green), and the bar, as I mentioned. And, if you’re situation is really dire, showers! It’s incredibly scary to use the shower, because it’s like a bathroom for one person with a door that you think is locked but there’s no way to know for sure. So, if someone walks in on you while you’re taking a shower in the stall with the glass door, you’re in front of the airport (just the lounge, yes, but still) and god, embarrassing.
But once my flight was about to leave, and I moseyed through the gift shops on my way to the gate, I started to warm up to the idea of Peru again. All those colorful fannypacks and socks and alpaca stuff! I’m like a cat that sees a sardine hanging at the end of a fishing pole, really — it doesn’t take much to get me excited about something and yet, it does?
When I finally walked down the jetway, I felt spirited enough about Peru (but mostly leaving it) to play Chariots of Fire in my brain.