Waiting at airport
I rush to the airport to arrive before the flight was due. To my disappointment, it's been delayed by half an hour.
I browse through the latest bestsellers in the book store. What is so special about these books that give them top shelf space and long shelf lives? If I read enough of these books, shouldn't I be able to deduce the success formula and write one myself?
Half an hour later, I glance at the arrival screen above. The flight has been delayed again.
I look through the magazine section. What am I missing from not reading newspapers everyday and not following the news?
Constantly conscious of the time, I stop browsing and walk to the passenger gate.
I look at luggage tags for a sign of British Midlands. The tags all say LHR. I know it's London Heathrow. I can never see the small print, if it exists, of the departing airport. So I have to guess by looking at what people are wearing and eavesdropping on their accents. It's never easy to figure out where people are arriving from.
Suddenly I hear applause and cheers. A young man had approached his girl friend with a bouquet of flowers and is now giving her a passionate kiss in his arms.
Who are these cheerleaders? They are the parents and family of a group of youngsters who went to Israel. Must be some kind of kibbutz, I thought. When their kids finally show up, there are more kisses and hugs. The airport becomes congested, and I can't see my friend.
How I loathe going to the airport to wait for someone! I can't read without interruption. I have to keep looking among strange faces for that familiar one. If I arrive after the plane lands, I can't be sure that I've missed my friend. In such times, I regurgitate Bayesian probability.
What is the expected duration of queuing for immigration, waiting for baggage claim, and going through customs? This depends on how many other planes are arriving around the same time. What are the factors that contribute to a delay? What is the optimal ratio of planes to passengers to flight controllers to prevent a delay? Given all these factors, what is the probability of a plane arriving late? Soon I get lost in my mental musings.
Ah! There he is! He has turned left to look for me at Costa coffee where I usually sit. I am unfortunately on the opposite side. I wave and shout his name. He doesn't hear me. Oh no! He looks disappointed. He is about to leave.
I cut through the crowd and catch him just before he disappears.
3 August 2004 Tuesday