We're off! An auspicious start -- in our (OK, I'll admit it, I'm not proud -- in my) excitement to get going, we arrived at the airport 1 ½ hours before we can even check in. That doesn't sound too bad, until I add that it's six hours before our flight is scheduled to take off. The British Airlines counter doesn't even open until 11:45! Did I mention that the flight doesn't leave until 3:15? All in an attempt to get an exit row seat for Mark.
Yes, she adds dramatically , this was all for Mark's benefit. Yeah. Right. I was so hyped up to leave that I was practically vibrating. I think I was awake at 6 a.m., which is practically unheard of for me, the Amazing Breakfast Troll.
I've checked the packing list 10 times. I've readjusted the luggage. I'm fidgeting. Mark is very calm. He's also very amused.
I may have to wallop him.
The idea of all of this waiting, of course, is to get an exit-row seat. We figured if we went 6 hours early, they'd probably have one free. Mark--at 6'4"--will be a pretzel if we don't.
The woman at the counter told us they won't be open to check in until 11:45 -- so we're camped directly across from the opening in the line. We'll be first in. A yuppie couple stood in line for 10 minutes before the woman deigned to tell them the same thing, and they didn't take it as well. They stomped out. Then, an older couple with enough luggage for six people stood there. I kept leaning over to look every five seconds to make sure that they didn't check these people in before us. A huge group next to us was heading to Mexico on one of the charter flights. Five kids. Wow.
Mark's gone for playing cards. I'm still watching that British Airlines counter like a hawk.
The counter for BA is still closed, but one clueless guy is piling all his luggage up and waiting in line. Another man and two grown kids get in line behind them. I wonder if we should tell them it will be another 30 minutes, but he looks like one of those over-wound, tense, watch-checking kind of people. The second man walks to the edge of the counter and peers around, like maybe all the clerks were crouched behind the counter. He looks down the hall -- maybe they're in the bathroom? Finally, he actually knocks on the door and has a very animated conversation with the surprised staffer who answers it -- he goes through the same pantomime everyone else has: he says something, the polite BA staff point to their watches and shake their heads. Not until 11:45, sorry. Gesture, Repeat.
We met a very elegant couple; British, from their accent, while we were waiting. They were passing through London to summer in Spain. They winter in South Africa. You know, I'd like to be the kind of person that gets to winter somewhere. Not surprisingly, they were in first class. I can't imagine why they'd summer in the heat of Spain and winter in South Africa (where it's summer)...don't most people go to cooler climes for the summer? They have a daughter in London, and were going to spend a few days there. They were very nice, in that ever-so-polite, upper-crust kind of way that very rich people have when dealing with those less well off. After sharing the basic pleasantries, they pretty much ignored us.
The counter opened, we sprinted to the 'first available attendant'. We did get an exit row seat! I was so relieved. Mark says that I visibly relaxed and we got on with our check in. I hadn't signed my passport. Off for food. DIA is an enormous airport, which has actual shopping areas and some pretty nice restaurants. OK, it's still an airport, but you can certainly kill a few hours wandering around.
The security people hand inspected the film (yea!) and we stowed everything in a locker near the gate before heading off to find something to eat -- in the four hours we had before the flight leaves. We tried to contact customs about registering the camera (quite a few of the books recommended doing the with new equipment to make sure we don't get slammed for duty fees when be bring it back in) -- no go. The only office is in another airport. I can't figure out why -- people don't land from international flights at Jefferson Country Airport. Bought books.
The flight was long, but BA is pretty comfortable so I can't complain. This is the longest flight (9+ hours) that I've ever been on. Each seat has it's own little TV screen, and we were able to stretch out pretty well. Mark's TV screen didn't work, and the purser gave him this teeny bottle of champagne for dinner, and also gave us a full size bottle when the flight was over, 'for the inconvenience'. Mark read the entire time, when he wasn't sleeping, or he watched my TV. He still got sound, just no picture. We just had to coordinate the channels.
The little screens also have a channel for current position, which tracks the progress of the plane: airspeed, outside temperature, and elapsed time. Mark thought this was so cool. I told him I didn't really want to know when we were over water.
It got stiflingly hot, and I couldn't sleep -- not that I can ever sleep on a plane anyway. I bitched a lot, then took as close to a bath as you can get in those teeny little bathrooms. Just sort of splash all the sweaty bits and wash your face and hands. It helped. Why does sitting on a plane make you feel so grimy? It's not like you do anything.
As we neared Gatwick, they gave us 'landing cards' to fill out, which we had to give to the passport services people. No problem. The passport services guy was pretty dour -- 'Business or holiday?" Holiday. "How long?" Three weeks. "Coming from?" Denver. Didn't even crack a smile.
Gatwick Airport is confusing. You land, intending to take a connecting flight and instead head for 'Baggage' to go through customs (since this is your first entry into the UK). Not very intuitive. We went the wrong way at least once before figuring it out. Of course, they are in the middle of renovations and there was tons of construction going on. We sailed through 'Nothing to declare' in customs with the horde of people that came off our flight. No one talked to us, I didn't even see anyone, just a winding corridor and a few signs. Everyone was very helpful, even the poor maintenance man we accosted when we got lost.
I can't believe they x-rayed our film! Security was very emphatic that everything be x-rayed, no exceptions. Hopefully it will be OK -- even the newsgroups say that less than 400 speed film isn't harmed by normal airport x-ray machines. We'll see. Mark finally let them x-ray it, but was very clear that they'd have to deal with me if the film fogged. Phbbbt!
We met a very nice gentleman on the plane from London to Edinburgh, one Richard Brown, a vet from Huntly, which is near Aberdeen. He told me his favorite things to see and where to go -- he waxed rhapsodic about Torridon Loch and the area around it. He told us about driving customs and roads to avoid. He was exceptionally nice. He even gave us his phone number and office address to call if we were in the area and either needed help or advice.
©1999-2001 R. Fingerson
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