...or being Leon Campbell. Being 18...or being 83. Switching my gender as I switch my nationality. That's what I have been doing for 3 days over the last months now.
You wonder where this magic trick is possible? It's Heathrow airport, or to be more precise, on trial days for the new build terminal 2 which will be opening in June 2014. Until then the processes are tested by volunteers. I signed up and was immediately accepted which made me quite happy as I never stood a chance when Terminal 5 was opened six years ago.
The first and second time I was pretending to be a passenger that has to check-in. I went through various scripts, sometimes I was an old Japanese guy flying to Tokyo, another time I had to pretend to be a young Irish woman flying to Paris with overweight baggage.
staff: Good morning Sir! Where are you flying with us today"
me: Umm...hmmm...(checking my script)...ah...Corfu!"
Once I got a script involving two people and ended up doing the check-in round with another man which, after we quickly read our adjoined scripts turned put to be my grandfather...from Africa...and I was his grandson. It is quite funny to stand at the buffet afterwards introducing a complete stranger to your husband as your grandfather!
Last time was the biggest trial yet with 1400 poeple taking part in total. After some issues with my visitor pass I was "landing" on a flight from Duesseldorf (on the first day of the opulent Lufthansa strike...oh the irony) and eventually picking up my one piece of hold luggage before filling in my feedback forms.
It's fun, it's slightly absurd, it's entertaining, it's important (well, at least a teeny tiny bit), it's exciting to see the huge variety of people taking part and it's nice to get goodie bags and as much free food and drink as you want.
I simply love airports and could waste entire days just sitting somewhere with a coffee and something to write and just watch, soak up the atmosphere, dream and feel inspired, motivated and happy.
When studying in Mainz I often took the train to the airport instead of home when uni finished early and spend a few hours at McDonalds watching the planes go by while writing in my diary.
As someone who probably doesn't qualify as a proper frequent flyer compared to some business people, airport convienience and practicability is nevertheless something close to my heart. I have been member of the customer panel of Frankfurt airport for years and since then I cannot walk through a terminal without looking out for illogical signage, trip hazards or bad service.Looking forward to more trials to come!
If you are interested then have a look here and maybe it's not too late yet to sign up for the last big trials in May.