12/21/06

A Shower is Civilization

We arrived in England yesterday, but because flying eastbound always feels like one giant 48-hour day, it feels like we only left Madison yesterday as well.

In the future, we will remember that orange alert days mean leave eight times as much time to check in -- or else fly with British Airways again. We arrived at O'Hare at 3pm, turned in our rental car, took a shuttle to the terminal, navigated to the check-in desk to drop off our checked luggage, shaved about twenty minutes off of check-in because we did it online the day before, lost about ten minutes because I left behind the credit card we'd used to buy the tickets, put the bags through TSA, and then went to stand IN THE QUEUE FROM HELL. The line to get through pre-boarding security was at least two hours long -- and no cool roller coaster at the end of it! Just grim-faced government security employees with only five X-ray gates. FIVE.

We had been standing the line for about 25 minutes, corraling two very bored little girls and realizing that our boarding gate would close in 15 minutes, when an angel of mercy delivered a Christmastime miracle. A representative from BA started at the back of the line and began polling passengers: "Anyone on the 5:30 flight to London?" Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. She wound up pulling about 40 people from the queue and ushering us past the other several thousand people waiting ahead of us. One guy behind us said that her strategy did nothing to induce us NOT to be late in the future. Show up late = get in ahead of everyone. But we really weren't late. Just not early enough.

After getting our free pass, we still had to wait for X-ray gates, take our shoes off, take the girls' shoes off, do the thingie with the liquids in baggies, and not lose anything the process. Keven managed to DROP HIS GREEN CARD, but in a second Christmastime miracle, a very nice young British dude gave it back to him. Past security, we loaded all of our carry-ons like pack mules, put the girls on our shoulders, and hoofed it to the gate -- which, of course, was Gate #21 of 21 at the very end of the terminal. Once in our seats, we literally waited five minutes before the plane started to back away from the building. Just like that. I've never cut any flight so close, but about 40 other people were in the same situation as us. If they hadn't have pulled those people, they'd have flown with a rather light plane.

Flight = cool. Individual TVs. UNLIMITED ALCOHOL. In an age of cut-backs in American flight perks, it seems the Brits have actually stepped up their service and freebies to compete. I am so glad Keven suggested we spring the extra $150 (that's all the more it cost) to buy direct through BA and go with them. The service was incredible, the girls slept somewhat, no one melted down, and all was good. I am happy to say that my two minions are properly trained to TVs. They sat glazed-eyes and content, munching grapes and watching a hefty ration of individual cartoons.

The landing was a bit of a mess. Fog has completely sacked in the city -- I know, surprise, fog in London. But this is bad. We landed just fine, but shortly thereafter, BA canceled all of its flights leaving Heathrow. People have been stranded there for two days now with no more take-offs permitted. Lots of angry foreigners who want to make it home for Christmas. We got very lucky, which if you're counting, is Christmastime miracle #3.

Otherwise, little girls who wake up automatically at 7:30 every morning do not do well with jet lag. Last night was difficult, and today remains up in the air. I took a lovely shower last night, a simple act that marks an exit from the realm of traveling and a return to the world of civilized adults. We watched British comedies last night, drank copious tea, ate chocolate biscuits, and generally recovered. In a nod to the olden days, Linda brought us tea in bed this morning to wake us up. She used to do this years ago when Keven and I first started dating. That is the strangest thing about coming back to their house. Ten years is a lot of time to create time capsule memories -- first dating, various return trips, all the way up to our last visit two years ago when Ilsa learned to walk in their foyer. This place is heavy with nostalgia for me.

Today, we'll continue getting the girls past the jet lag and probably do a bit of shopping -- a present for me (a nice sweater, so they're taking me shopping instead of trying to make a guess at what I want), food goodies, and maybe a chance for the kids to talk to Father Christmas. We'll see what their mood is like when we get there. Trevor left this morning to drive to Kent. He'll bring back his mum, and she'll stay through Boxing Day at least. Tomorrow, we all go on a Christmas-themed train ride, and then Steve, Silvia, and her parents will drive down on Christmas Eve. Full house!

5 comments:

Ipsrich said...

BA v United/Delta/USAir/American/Continental/NWA - no competition whatsoever. Just wait til Virgin start flying to Chicago next year too...

Have a great time in the UK - and a wonderful Christmas - and see you in WI soon???

Tess said...

I'm glad you made it! Your post was giving me flashbacks to last Christmas, when security at St. Louis refused to let us cut in line and let us miss our flight... and also to the time I dropped my tickets in Heathrow and didn't realize until I was paged. Have fun on your trip.

Jessica said...

Have a great time! Please have some chips for me. I so miss them...

Anonymous said...

Hey L+K we got your card, would love to see you, can't find your numbers, give us a call.

Andrew + Kara

carrie_lofty said...

A + K:

I e-mailed you with the Loftys' home phone (using the only addresses I have for you both). Otherwise, e-mail me: contact AT carrie lofty DOT com