Only 8 weeks, but a lifetime ago, on September 10, I went so far as to boldly suppose the ordinary and known world of my life extended to here as well. Here being the Admiral’s Club in London Heathrow airport.
We entered the sliding doors, showed our cards to the guardians, and were accepted. They looked a little suspiciously at my backpack, few others here carried them, but we quickly added (had they ask with words or their eyes?) that we were walking the Camino de Santiago, The Way, the pilgrimage.
Oh, of course.
The Admiral’s Club was a secluded holding place, a complex maze of ports. Of Entry and Exit. Ports of working. Of sleeping. Ports of lounging and watching screens.
Ports of eating and of course, of drinking. To enter the eating and drinking realm you simply circled behind the marble counter, passed the beautiful deep sinks and stood in front of the glass doored refrigerator. Inside were mesmerizing palm size ice blue, green, and citrine metal holding a single gulp of tonic water, bitter lemon, or soda water. You simply took one of these jewel encased liquids, closed the door, and then stepped back for the suave and tony Italian man who smelled like Adonis to select. I thought; one? Why not two. These are small. So you opened it again, and took another. Then one more; they were so pretty! Why? You could. You had arrived. You were privy to do this, in fact, upon further inspection, you owned this place. (Isn’t this a silly conclusion? But it truly felt that by helping yourself, that you had established ownership. But really, over what, a silly refrigerator?)
A nice little Indian lady wheeled her cart by and picked up one of my cans of Brit Vic soda water. How could I tell her I had lined three up beside my glass because I loved the colors together? She didn’t say a word, but the question was in her eyes – the same way the Entry Desk had looked around their computers. Okay, maybe I had taken three because I was thirsty, too. But not, certainly not because I was greedy. This pilgrimage was about needing less. Doing with less.
I was sitting at a marble-like table in the main circle of the lounge area, enjoying the view of this little world of excess, how everyone was silent and either helping themselves and or being in the service of helping others. How did it all work exactly? This balance of excess and humanity? In this close proximity I could watch. Carefully. This is what writers do.
Further along from the refrigerator, the spacious counter offered a tower of French, Italian, and Australian whites, the wine bottles plunged in giant clam shell as if for Poseidon and Bacchus and Dionysus, a giant glass clamshell so large you could hear the uncertainty of ice and glass and water as they adjusted to a bottle’s removal and then the tightening crush of relief when the bottle was plunged back in the slurry of ice, spilled wine and water.
Space was everything here. Well, no not space – distance. That's it exactly. Through silence there was a distance. Distance between the staff and the passengers. Between bottles and glasses. Between entry doors and ports of working. Ports of entry.
Freedom to choose was part of the contract, too. People were free to monitor themselves. Because after here, you boarded a plane, scrunched together, took a deep breath. And went on.
And that’s how we entered The Way.