McDonald's doesn't count as McDonald's if you eat it in an airport. That is a true fact. The shame doesn't count. The calories don't count. None of the usual rules apply. This is guilt-free gorging.
You're allowed to eat Macca's at any airport in the world. You're allowed to eat it at whatever time of day or night that you like, and you're allowed to skip all of the authentic local cuisine you really should be trying.
This is reliable airport comfort food. It will taste the same and it will make you feel the same everywhere you go. And no one is allowed to tell you that's a bad thing.
This is a little theory I've been working on recently. I came up with it as I stood at an airport bar at six in the morning and ordered a coffee to try to get myself going and glanced over to the guy beside me and watched as he sipped contentedly on a gigantic beer.
No one was giving him a second glance. There was no social disapproval. No judgement. The guy was having a 6am beer and that was just fine. I swiftly changed my order.
So here's my theory: airports don't count. You're in international waters in an airport terminal. You can stage the proverbial monkey knife-fight and no one is allowed to tell you it's not OK.
Start with the fast-food gorging. Yes, technically you should probably have a salad, or seek out a sample of the local cuisine as you would anywhere outside the terminal, but have you tasted the food at an airport? It's terrible. Almost everything is bad. At least if you have McDonald's you know the brand of bad you're going to get.
And anyway, if you try to eat local specialties it will give you a false impression of what that country out there through the windows is all about. With a few notable exceptions – hello, Tokyo Haneda and Singapore Changi – the country's finest purveyors of delicious cuisine are not operating inside the airport terminal. So you can just forget it.
The calories don't count either, for reasons I'm yet to decide, but you'll just have to trust me on that one.
And what about day-drinking? Not a problem at all in an airport terminal. Sure, you just woke up and left your house about an hour ago and the sun has only just risen, but everyone thinks you're some hardy jet-lagged world traveller who's in transit on the way back from Frankfurt. You deserve that beer! And anyway, it's probably about 6pm back in Frankfurt, right?
Airports have duty-free, but they're also duty free. As in, you have no duties here, no responsibilities. Pretty soon you'll be encased in a large metal tube flying 30,000 feet above the Earth, with no email or phone reception and no way for anyone to get in contact with you. So go on, have a morning beverage. Indulge yourself.
Of course, airport designers are well aware of their guilt-free international-waters status, which is why they put so many shops in there, shops you would never normally dream of wandering into. Maybe I'll just have a quick look in the Coach outlet, you think when you have nothing better to do. Can't hurt to just check out Gucci. And those electronics look interesting.
All of a sudden you've made a rash couple of purchases of expensive kit you'll never actually wear or use, because airports don't count. Everyone knows that.
I love this about airports. We're supposed to hate these experiences of air travel, to dread the queues and the delays and all the stuffiness and expense, and I really do despise all of that as much as the next traveller.
But the secret to success in these places is to embrace the anything-goes phenomenon. Eat whatever you like, calories be damned. Go to Macca's or Burger King or some terrible pizza joint and never tell a soul about it. Enjoy the faceless anonymity that the airport experience brings. No one here cares about you – they're all in their own private hell.
Have a beer at six in the morning. Have a glass of champagne at 10. Indulge yourself with an overpriced anchovy with smoked tomato sorbet at Movida in Sydney – or whatever the equivalent is wherever you are – because who cares, it's tasty and you need to feel good.
Movida breakfast, anyone? Photo: Pat Scala
Go shopping. Sit there with your headphones on and don't talk to anyone. Do whatever it is that will make you happiest, regardless of the place or the time of day.
Airports suck, and sometimes there's only one way to make them better: indulgence. So, do you want fries with that?
What's your airport ritual? Do you have any secret shames? Any untold indulgences? What's the best way to get through the airport experience?