Stansted airport.

My plane is late. Very late. I've already had something to eat, read a free copy of Time Out, smelt all the perfumes in the duty free shop, read the backs of all the books in WH Smith, decided I'm too old to go into American Apparel (1) and watched the girl in Sunglass Hut clean at least half the shelves in the shop. And there are still two and a half hours before my new estimated time of departure.

Next to me there's an old man. Older than me. Late sixties, early seventies. He's sitting on his own. He looks sad. Maybe he's on the same flight as me.

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He's probably just bored. I get up, go for a cup of tea, come back. Wonder if it would be too gross to bite off the big bit of dead skin that's still attached to my formerly poisoned finger (2) in public. Two hours, 20 minutes to go.

I get to thinking about how much time I've spent waiting on trains and boats and planes in my life. Days at least. Maybe months.

What would you do with all that time if someone were to give it back to you? What if someone - God, I'm guessing, or Christopher Lloyd's mad scientist in Back To The Future (3) - said: "Here's that three months, 27 days, five hours, 36 minutes and 17 seconds you spent in transit. No, don't thank me"?

You'd just fritter it away, wouldn't you? You'd just end up watching Bargain Hunt on daytime telly, or wandering around B&Q and Ikea again (now if you were to add in the time you've wasted there …).

That's the thing with New Year resolutions, I reckon. They're about trying to imagine ourselves as better people, living more fulfilled lives. But is that realistic? Don't we have to accept that sometimes life is just … well, Stanstedy?

The old man's son has turned up. He's not alone after all. I begin to imagine a happy family life for him, one where he's surrounded by people who love him. Or will once he gets on his flight. If he ever does.

Because that's the thing. To reach these more fulfilled lives we fervently promise ourselves every New Year we still have to spend our time in life's equivalent of the departure lounge.

Even if you want to live life in the fast lane you probably have to wait for a bus to take you to the track. And it will be late. And overcrowded. And possibly smell of pee.

One hour, 35 minutes to go. Maybe I could stick my head around the door of American Apparel. An alarm won't go off, will it? "Arrugah! Arrugah! Middle-aged man on the premises."

I'll see you in the New Year. Oh wait, you're already there.


[1] Because at my age wandering around American Apparel would look slightly creepy.

[2] It's much better, thanks for asking.

[3] There are other fictional characters available.