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Tuesday, 27 November 2012

(Nearly) Up In The Air

Travelling with a laptop always has its beginning and its end, and I rarely spend much time on this in this blog. For one thing, it’s the most mundane part. Whatever the airport; whatever the destination; we still have our check in, our security process and potentially the inevitable ‘random’ screening. Then the trawl to the gate, and, finally, the wait for the plane…the flight attendants…Medallion members. Those bastards.

Today at Heathrow, ah beloved airport, they had really laid on the full experience. A bland, neon-vested chap described calmly to those 200-300 back in line:
 “Ah yes, well you see, we have 4 flights leaving within ten minutes of one another.”
Indeed? Well, that explains it then. What other possible explanation could there be for the delay? Or what solution? Nothing like, say, putting extra staff on the desk to offset the busy time? (We could all learn something from Tesco…sad to say.) Or, again, allowing silver medallion members to check in with Sky Priority agents? No, let’s just do the sensible thing. Remove all sense of a formed queue and allow the casually homicidal would-be passengers to form ever increasing lines of confusion. Did I say lines? Clumps, clusters, huddles of disaster may all be suitable synonyms.

In flight

And oh, the airport. Where else to find 200 identically dressed mussed-up-do blondes wearing Uggs of dubious authenticity? And jogging pants from Juicy or similar. Children who bring the art of screaming to a new decibel and pitch; parents who find arguments the best for of airport conduct. Or aimless discussions about when the plane will leave. Or what zone they are in. Or whether the announcements are really working. Or what time is it in America. Or whether they should have filed ESTA before travelling. Love-struck couples soppily kissing their farewells. [oh dear, talking about myself again.]

I love to wait in line. I do. I am British, after all. Where are the passport control people? There they are. They’re changing their mind about whether to continue working or go for tea. (Why are we wasting time on such question? Tea. In fact. Of course. Good decision.) Where are the security people? They are chatting. As I love to do when at work. No, in fact I have nothing better to do…I mean, who does?

I also love the security screening. It’s right up there with my favourite ten pastimes. Like listening to UB40's Red Red Wine and learning how to Morris Dance. I personally love to spend time behind the small group of individuals who still break with tradition and remain deaf and dumb to signs of guidance. “I have to put my laptop in a separate bin?" "I have to remove my belt?" "What’s that you say? My shoes?" "Ah, yes, I forgot about the toothpaste. Good point. And the razor. I meant to put it into my suitcase, I really did. What on earth is it doing in there?”  For these people, I would happily invest in a syndicate to implement Up In The Air’s security scene as compulsory viewing. Never mind the flight safety video. You’ll be preparing them for safety far better with a long-overdue lesson in airport etiquette.

Eventually reunited with functioning films...

Of course, it’s important to be at the gate on time. One risks missing out on the full waiting experience otherwise. Like when I arrived this morning. I am generally an obedient person when it comes to following transport instructions. One never knows when one might be left behind. So naturally it was with a cold sweat beading on my forehead that I marched down to gate five at 9.10am this morning to board my imminently departing flight at 9.25. The sweat trickled more rapidly with the calm at the gate. Had the plane already left? The patiently-seated few were surely the three-hours-early crew for the next flight? Such a waft of calm rested on the entire area of gate 5, that I wondered whether my eyes were deceiving me. Not getting any older, after all.

Two exciting trips to the accessible toilet later, am still no wiser. At this point, shaking with the consumption of additives + caffeine (diet Coke Zero and Kettle Chips) and dangerously close to the end of my range of Scramble with Friends contests, I am praying to the Delta Gods to save me please. And at last, an hour and a half later, it was answered.

Gratuitous George Pic. Well, why wouldn't I?

Fortunately, only a few restarts of the on-board in-flight entertainment system and I am free to watch my films of choice. Shame Up in the Air isn’t on offer.

The Delta crew provided me with the following delights today:

On takeoff, I learned I had a malfunctioning TV / sound system - absolutely unforgivable on long haul flights. After a 15 minute reset the sound was still providing screeching in my ear rather than anything resembling a film dialogue, so after yet another reset I was blessed by moving into a seat next door with functioning sound. Which was great until the flight attendant leaned across me to speak to my seat-mate and spilled water all over me. Thank you, Delta, for the miles you gave me to say sorry. And thank heaven for small mercies like these.

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