In Need of a Fascinating Read? Get a Copy of A Week at the Airport: A Heathrow Diary10:01 am
I love people-watching, and one of the best places to do it is at an airport.
The rush of emotions as long-lost friends and family see one another after a long time, the way people wile away time in between flights, how they carry themselves, what they wear - it's all so darn captivating.
Renowned author Alain de Botton has been observing folks all of his life, it seems. He has been studying the way we work and live and writing about it in a very original way in books such as The Architecture of Happiness and Essays in Love. But I think it's his book A Week at the Airport: A Heathrow Diary that is the most absorbing, that gives the most in-depth look at how people are in a specific environment.
In the summer of 2009, Alain de Botton was invited to, as he explains "spend a week at Terminal 5, situated between the two runways of London’s largest airport. This artist, who was sonorously to be referred to as Heathrow’s first writer-in-residence, would be asked to conduct an impressionistic survey of the premises and then, in full view of passengers and staff, draw together material for a book at a specially positioned desk in the departures hall between zones D and E."
It is there that he spoke with staff, passengers and other folks in Terminal 5.
Now just imagine for a moment, if you can, working in the middle of a gigantic airport terminal ("the size of 4 football pitches"). At a lone desk while people go on about their business. Would you be able to do it?
It is a fascinating idea and Alain does a tremendous job of pulling you in, making you feel like you are right there with him.
His writing is sparse, but nonetheless astonishing:
"I showered, ate a fruit bar purchased from a dispensing machine in the car park and wandered over to an observation area next to the terminal. In the cloudless dawn, a sequence of planes, each visible as a single diamond, were lined up at different heights, like pupils in a school photo, on their final approach to the northern runway."
He witnesses exquisite life moments that we pass by everyday, but rarely stop and take stock of - a beautiful woman breaking down, a man who missed his flight by just a little and a man who has been thinking about his vacation for what seems like forever.
He introduces us to the terminal's staff and shows us corners that go otherwise unseen.
It is a remarkable, heart-stopping account of human nature and the striking photography by Richard Baker make it even more stunning.
I would like to say more about it, but at only 112 pages, I'd rather you discover it on your own.
Buy it now. For yourself. For gifts. For everyone you know.
This is one book you'll never forget.