I am a bit ashamed to admit this, but I can’t possibly be the only man who has instinctively gone into James Bond mode at an airport.
You know the scene: you’re wearing a close-fitting suit and a snow-white shirt. You hair has recently been cut and groomed. Your face is showing a hint of a tan, and an expensive Hermès scent wafts around you. The heels of your shoes make an appropriate clicking sound as you glide confidently over the wooden floor of Helsinki Airport.
Airport architecture can sometimes put a man in a strange mood.
This look doesn’t involve dangling plastic bags or sloshing beer around in a pint glass. And even if you’re not travelling first class, every airport has a stylish lounge-like corner which you head to purposefully. Opening the day’s Financial Times gives it all a nice finishing touch. The pink paper is sure to accentuate your international style. Then it’s time to board the plane to Torremolinos.
Airport architecture can sometimes put a man in a strange mood. The place where I have felt most like James Bond was at the small London City Airport.
On its cream-coloured leather sofa (for all passengers), Lisa from Sweden set me on a secret mission. Lisa was 80 years old and liked to crochet; even at that moment, her gnarled hands held a hook, and yellow thread ran smoothly between her fingers.
‘Sir, could you walk with me to the security gate and find out how you get through with a crochet hook? In English.’
My first assignment as a secret agent may not have been glamorous, but naturally I had to help the old lady, whose only language was Swedish. And more agent material was to come.
Small yet elegant, London City Airport featured a blend of wood, brass and glass. I recall there were only two security check points, and the atmosphere was friendly. In hushed tones, I explained the problem with the crochet hook to a pretty official wearing a necktie, and she presented a suitably secret-service-like solution. Next to the check point, there was a white vending machine where one could purchase a padded, stamped envelope for two euros, then insert the sharp object into the envelope, and drop the envelope into the adjacent mailbox.
Astoundingly simple and elegant. My first mission as an airport agent was successfully completed.
For some reason, my inner agent has encountered old ladies and vending machines at other airports, too. In Berlin, my assistance was needed because an elderly Finnish lady had left her son’s present in the taxi. We were close to the gate when she approached me.
‘You are almost as smartly dressed as my son, so I am sure you can find a suitable present for him in a hurry.’
Flattered, I interrogated the lady about her son’s style and habits, and eventually I settled on German design. He should have something from Berlin, a special design product. Something that happened to be available right next to us. From a vending machine!
A group of designers had adapted an old sandwich vending machine to create a dispenser for small German design items, to be purchased with a credit card. Modern and smart – perfectly in line with my agent activities.
I never found out whether the son liked the large porcelain nose that we bought him. I hope he at least wore glasses, as I believe the monstrosity was designed to keep them safe when not being worn.
Writer is a Finnish journalist who focuses on fashion and travel writing.