Early in the morning, the platform between tracks six and seven at London Paddington Station has an otherworldly air about it. No, there is no door leading to a hidden kingdom. What’s notable about this central London gateway are its two streams of travellers: the people on their way to and from Heathrow Airport.
The airport-bound stream is (mostly) freshly showered and coffeed. This crowd strides purposefully toward the silvered carriages of the Heathrow Express. These people have a journey ahead of them – the beginning of a trip, or the start of the return home.
Coming head on, loping at a lesser pace, is the disarrayed parade of the recently arrived. The hair on the backs of their heads is flattened, the telltale sign of a night spent sleeping sitting up. Business class passengers look only incrementally fresher. Their hair is flattened on the side, the luxury stamp of sleeping horizontally. Oh, and their luggage is generally spiffier, ornamented with airline tags named after precious metals or gemstones.
It’s easy to notice how different these two groups look. I wonder, though, how their thoughts differ. This narrow platform is a place of many beginnings and multiple endings.
Who is anxious to be leaving? Who is excited to have arrived? Or is it the other way around?