Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Is anyone even remotely interested?

On our day of departure, we got up at 6 in the morning. Met Robb & Lewis in the lobby at 6:30. Paid our bills. Said our good-bye’s. Robb got teary. I cried in the cab as we left. I hate saying good-bye.

Robb & Lewis were headed to the train station. They would train back to Vienna, cab to the airport there then fly home via Copenhagen back to Van-groovy. Lewis was most excited to visit a jacket he had his eye on in the duty free shops in Copenhagen. I had been referring to is as “Coat-enhagen” all trip.

Lyle and I were doing an extended day of flying. Budapest to Munich. Munich to London. London to Chicago. Chicago to Los Angeles. 5 airports in 30 hours. Makes me sick to type it.

In Budapest they checked our bags all the way through to LA. Poorly. When we arrived in Munich we needed to re-check in for our flights. Lyle asked them to look over our baggage tags. Lyle, being the former travel industry insider thought they looked odd. Sure enough some flight numbers were wrong. All the destinations were right. Numbers wrong.

The very helpful gentleman at American Airlines was able to catch all our bags and re-tag them before our flight. Whew!

When we arrived in London, oh horrid, hateable Heathrow, we needed to change terminals.

Heathrow is a ridiculous rat maze that even the people who work there can’t understand. You get off your plane, you begin hiking. You travel a mile or so then descend to a bus stop. Before you can exit the building, you must show your ticket and identification. Next you take the bus to the new terminal. Get off, shoe your ticket to some one at the door and head up, head in. Hike a mile or so, go through security where you will need to show your ticket and your identification.

As you enter security, they have a staff of 5 people screaming (not figuratively, literally) “ONE BAG! ONE BAG! ONLY ONE BAG ALLOWED FOR CARRY ON!!!”

We had checked all requirements prior to travel. This one was not listed. We have 3 bag between two people. We explain we are in transit and will be getting on an American flight to the states. They do not have this restriction. They do not offer to converse. They merely shout (now within about a foot of me), “ONE BAG! ONE BAG! ONLY ONE BAG ALLOWED FOR CARRY ON!!!”

Lyle starts to shout back but I stop him. I’ve been waiting all trip for my next move.

You see, I carry this lovely cashmere throw with me when I travel. It’s lovely. It’s dark brown, it’s warm, it’s nicer than any blanket in any first class cabin. I take my cashmere blanket out of my bag, stuff some of the third bags contents into my bag and Lyle stuffs the rest into the computer bag. (Oh yeah, we had 3 small bags. As opposed to the woman behind us with a carry on steamer trunk - apparently allowed) Finally, I took my blanket and threw it around my neck like a GIANT scarf wrap, put on my sunglasses and proceeded.

Lyle was appalled.

As we left the shouters, “ONE BAG! ONE BAG! ONLY ONE BAG ALLOWED FOR CARRY ON!!!” I told them (unpleasantly, I’m sure), You know, I’ll just get through security and expand right back to 3 bags. You’ve done nothing here. I will carry on three bags.


“Yes, I will!”


“Yes! I Will!”


Now, I’d had it. And Lyle was dragging me away... “This conversation is ridiculous! Go back to 3rd grade! Tell Susan during 4th period that I’m not meeting her after school!”

Then we entered the abyss known as the security waiting line.

Oh look, that couple has two children, two strollers and about 8 bags. That woman has one bag and four shopping bags. That woman has two extra shopping bags, that man a carry on bag and a shopping bag... Oh, I get it. If you buy duty free in the airport and you are helping the airport make money you can carry on the gross domestic output of Somalia on board. But not us. Not our three wee little bags.

We made it through security. On the other side there was an American Airlines desk that had a sign saying if you were not a US citizen heading to the US you needed to check in at that desk. Lyle stopped to check in. I began to re-pack back into three bags. (You knew I was going to. If anyone from Heathrow is reading this, TAKE THAT and THAT!!!) Then they asked for my passport. “But I’m a US citizen,” I sputtered (still smarting from my "bag nazi" altercation). “Just give it to me,” said Lyle (clearly still concerned they would come and haul me away for my grade three comments).

We were checked in for our flight and now headed into duty free in Heathrow. Everything expensive. Bought CD’s in the Virgin store.

Now time to board our American Airline’s flight home. Hiked out about 2 miles to the gate. At the entrance to the holding room was a man who checked our tickets and ID. Took two steps to a man at a desk who checked out tickets and out ID. Took three steps to a woman at a turnstile who checked our tickets and out ID. Waited in the holding room that was being kept at a comfortable 900 degrees and watched people slowly strip off their winter layers. Then perspire excessively prior to boarding.

Finally our boarding call! Walked up to ramp and there was a man who checked (say it with me, our tickets and ID). We walked down the ramp eager to be on the plane, but first, the flight attendant needs to see my ticket. “Where do you think I’ve been that I could get this far and still not have a ticket? Or even the wrong ticket?” I just need to see it sir” I’d do anything to get on that plane.

Ladies and gentlemen, communism is not dead. It is alive and thriving at the London Heathrow airport. No one goes home without a job.

Oh, and speaking of security, I had my 3 ounces of allowable liquids in my 1 quart clear zip lock bag in my carry on. Out of 7 passes through security in both direction, I forgot to take it out of my bag all but once. Of those remaining 6 times when I didn’t take it out, only once did they stop and ask me to take it out. One time, I admitted that I had forgotten to take it out after I was through security, “oh that’s okay, never mind” they told me. Security at the airport is a farce. Designed to make you THINK they are doing something while in fact it is all smoke and mirrors.

Our flight connection in Chicago was delayed for over two hours and we wound up arriving back in LA about 1 in the morning (instead of 11 at night) and we got home about 2 am. Only 36 hours after we had gotten up that morning.

Remind me why I travel???


Rachel said...

Well.....YOu have been traveling a lot lately. It might be getting to you.

Jim said...

I think I mostly write this to Rachel... Hey Helen!