Hixie's Natural Log

2006-05-12 12:40 UTC Late Spring 2006 Travelog: Part 7 (London Gatwick)

I'm at London Gatwick, a huge sprawling indoor metropolis that defies comprehension. Why would a human settlement on this sort of scale have so little in the way of residential areas? Why are there no roads, with walkways being used by humans and vehicles alike? Why are most trading posts offering copious quantities of narcotics and bottles of a broad range of liquids, none of which have any obvious use? Why are there screens showing complicated grids of numbers and letters? Why does a disembodied voice repeatedly say things like "for security reasons, please do not leave baggage unattended — baggage left unattended will be removed or destroyed" (is theft and vandalism so common that the governing body feels the need to warn people of this over and over every day and night of their life?), as well as sometimes muttering incomprehensible static-filled soliloquies, or requesting that an individual or other go to some place or other, threatening that some foul fate will befall their luggage? In fact, speaking of luggage, why does everyone drag large bags around with them as if they were their sole possessions? Do they not have homes?

It is indeed a baffling place. It has redeeming features: seating is ample, it is well lit, amenties are signposted, food is widely available, 802.11x networking coverage is ubiquitous. People seem to walk everywhere, which is a welcome change from California where everyone relies on their planet-destroying cars for transport. Crowds form around desks that (in so far as I can determine from their signage) are responsible for arranging escapes (though they use the word "flights"), but the crowds are always peaceful. It is not clear what these crowds hope to learn, as they do not seem to be listening to anyone in particular or receiving any particular attention from the uniformed staff. Nor is it clear who would be escaping, or what they would be escaping from.

Everyone in this place known as London Gatwick carries identification, though, unusually, the identification papers are of a wide variety of styles. Nobody appears to have any outdoor clothing, which leads one to wonder about whether or not they ever leave here. There are many homeless people sleeping in the seats, in uncomfortable-looking positions, clutching their aforementioned bags, regardless of the time. Yet nobody seems disturbed by this, nor are there any state-sponsored programmes that I could see to address this problem.

I won't be here long — I am just visiting between here for a few hours on my journey from Amsterdam to Inverness — but I hope to visit this town again soon, for it is most unusual compared to the places where I have lived.