I was sitting by the departures gate at Munich airport where 20 minutes earlier, I had been butt naked.
OK, perhaps I hadn't quite been sitting on the linoleum covered chairs in my birthday suit, but I had only been around the corner.
My flight over to Germany from Japan had been uneventful, with the singular exception of the quantity of dry Asahi beer cans the elderly Japanese lady seated next to me managed to consume. She also appeared to have zero ill effects from this venture, talking non-stop to her friend for the entire 12 hours and only rising to use the bathroom twice. I'm pretty sure than in an anime show, this would have been warm-up act to introducing the lead villain. I left the aeroplane directly.
… And ran into three signs all telling me to take a shower.
Supposedly aimed at business men attending meetings directly after long-haul flights, Terminal 2 in Munich Airport has installed showers. For 15 euros and a 20 euro deposit, you get access to one of 6 bathrooms with shower, towels and soap as well as the usual toilet and washbasin.
Was this a premium rate for a fairly basic service? Yes.
Did I go there largely for the novelty value? Absolutely.
Although to be fair, I probably stank too; if not of travel sweat, then of second hand beer fumes.
The transaction of money for bathroom key was conducted with the austere German efficiency that makes you think you've agreed a contract for life insurance as opposed to a quick freshen up. I signed the appropriate form, handed over the pool of Euros I'd discovered in my desk drawer than morning and followed the signs around the corner. En-route, two more posters assured me I'd made the right choice. I avoided eye contact with my fellow passengers incase they did the same.
The bathroom itself was a basic but functional affair. There was a neat pile of white towels and a single soap dispenser that produced an all-in-one mix for body and hair. I briefly thought longingly of the Japanese hotels and onsen with their bathrobes and large containers of body wash, shampoo and conditioner. But on the other hand, I did have privacy; the equivalent in Japan would undoubtedly have been a communal pool of hot water in the centre of the departures lounge.
Scrubbed clean, I stepped clear of the shower and eyed the clothes I'd dropped artistically in the corner. Since I had my luggage with me, it would be quite easy to don fresh garments, but I'd counted everything out carefully with the assumption that I'd simply degrade into 'hobo-fresh' on Thursday. Admittedly, I'd also almost forgotten to pack trousers but I see that not so much as poor planning, but an admirable desire for my upcoming conference talk to be memorable.
Somewhat ironically, this wouldn't have been a problem had I been 7. Throughout my childhood, I painstakingly packed undergarments for every day I was to be away followed by a 'spare pair in case of accidents'. As I got older, my parents found this more and more amusing, possibly due to my encouragement that they show the same care when preparing a suitcase. Clearly, however, I was planning for the day when I'd wish to spontaneously take a shower at the airport. Sadly this helpful tendency had been squashed out of me, so I shook out my clothes and put them back on.
While admittedly I used these showers largely to tick ' stripping off in an airport ' off my bucket list, I do now see the attraction for business men. Aside from the basic hygiene improvement after a long flight, I felt awake, refreshed and free from the headache that typically develops after sitting in dry air for so long.
So my advice after a long haul flight? Get your kit off.