So I'm at Heathrow Terminal 5 with 12 hours to kill. I have a book I want to post and the post office is at Terminal 3. "I'll just pop over there quickly and do that," I think to myself, wistfully. I wander back to security. No way out. No guy at a desk. I ask someone and they say you have to be escorted out by customs, and while I think this an unnecessary flourish on Heathrow's part, at least I'll get to feel kind of special, I think.
I go to the assigned desk to get my escort. "You just missed the escort," says the desk Johnny. "The next one is in an hour." He also says this to the woman next to me, who thinks she has left her credit cards in her car and whose situation demands a little more urgency than my own. We have no choice but to wait an hour and come back, literally trapped in the terminal against our variously intent wills.
An hour later, a group of expectant escapees gather around and a young man called Armando comes along with a clipboard. We have to state our reasons for leaving (which range from "I think all my credit cards have been stolen" to "smoking") and then it appears that the group has one too many members (Armando can only escort six people per hour from the terminal) and a couple have to split up so one of them can retrieve something from their car.
50 minutes after asking if I could leave, I'm in the group of chosen people being lead through a maze of secure corridors, our boarding passes checked three times ON THE WAY OUT and around a maze of back passages. This is all before we get to UK Border patrol - the only really necessary secure line needed, surely? Armando herds us like a concerned shepherd, only allowing us to leave the group when the signs to our various destinations are clearly visible. It's like being on a school trip with the world's most micro-managing teacher.
Eventually I am given free range, and having completed my business, I return to T5. Getting back in is a darn sight easier than getting out. T5, I've always sung your praises, but I didn't realise you could get so clingy. If you love us so much, set us free.