Monday, August 12, 2013
JOURNEY FROM THE CENTER OF THE EARTH
The journey started late. Edward was going to be at the office at 1pm, and load our bags into his car, so that we could get to the airport by 2pm. Of course, Edward knew that the journey from the office to the airport would take about fifteen minutes, but he also knew that by 1pm, I would be an absolute nervous wreck. He arrived at about 1:40, and I bid farewell to Dana, who was going to miss me.....as he would have to do my job as well! Going through security was very painless. We bought lunch, and I ate my hippy salad (almost a chef's salad but with walnuts) at the gate, and Samantha saved her sandwich for the flight. Our gate in Houston was occupied when we landed, and we had to wait for a few minutes. When it became vacant, there was a baggage cart sitting, unattended, in our space! Our pilot was either very patient, or could not find the hooter on the side of the cockpit steering wheel, as we sat and waited for the driver of the vehicle to return and move it out of the way!. We de-planed at Houston, and re-planed in a different terminal. Samantha was in charge of the hand luggage, and placed our small cases in the overhead bins, as requested. Unfortunately hers was not as small as mine, and the attendant was slightly short of patience. 'Get that bin closed, or I will have to check your bag', was probably a little abrupt, but it would appear the centre compartments were not as wide as those on the sides, and the cabin was full. A slightly more compliant lady took the offending piece of luggage, and found a space in the business class section. Shortly after the doors were closed, and the safety speech was given, Samantha pressed the button for my TV to eject (as we were in the exit seat) and started to sing, 'I'm gonna get you into trouble'. She was laughing so hard, that I was amazed the stormtrooper, anti-bag lady did not come and read her the riot act! I chose to ignore her and look out at the runway. We appeared to be going in the opposite direction from all other planes, and I went into panic mode, surprising enough, for the first time! Being married to an ex-air traffic control commander, I am often told (when watching anything aeronautical) how important it is to fly into the wind. 'I want to go the same way as the other planes', I wailed, much to the amusement of my daughter! We turned just in time to take off! Not having had the opportunity to use my miles to upgrade, I was in a seat without a footrest. It did not seem strange to me to want to try and find something that would be suitable to use to elevate my feet. Once we had taken off, I failed to see the amusement when I took out the child sized beach chair, which I had purchased, and set it up in front of my seat. I had also bought a giant baseball, (two feet in size) in case the chair was not suitable, and intended to blow it up, half way, to use as a cushion. Samantha declined any form of ottoman, and just wanted me to inflate the ball so we could play 'catch' with the rest of the plane passengers. Unfortunately, the 767 is more antiquated than the 777, and the archaic entertainment system was a little disappointing. Perhaps I have been spoiled, but being that we were on a trans-Atlantic flight, I was rather surprised that the choice of movies was so sparse, and the videos were not 'on demand', as on other flights. However, I put my feet up, and ate my dinner, and waited for the 'empties' to be collected before opening my picnic dessert of yoghurt and a packet of raisins. Samantha declined the pack of raisins I had bought for her, and just wanted to 'play ball'. Despite the fact that the curtains were drawn across the galley, to separate us from the upper class, the 'restrooms' just on the other side of the barrier were not as conveniently located for those who travelled in style, as they were for the rest of us. As the attendants left their jump seats to cater to the needs of those who had paid extra, the lower levels made their way to the facilities and by the time they exited the smallest room on the plane, it was too late for the staff to react. Presumably it was not a problem as, after the original announcement, we were not 'reminded' to 'use the toilet in your designated section'. The only advantage to not having free flow entertainment was that it forced me to sleep. I checked the night sky once over the ocean, for the Northern Lights, but they did not appear, and before long the sun was rising above the clouds, and the night was left behind. With the previous evenings dinner of the now famous 'beef or chicken' options having been removed from the trolley, 'coffee or tea', was offered and the Stormtrooper (who could have been a gold medal discus thrower in any competition) threw trays, frisbee style, through the plane. I caught my miniature croissant, and some melted butter. (I know! Soft butter on a plane...an anomaly!) and placed it on my collapsible table, before swallowing the morsel almost whole. As the crew came to clear the cabin before landing, the Stormtrooper whisked through asking for all discarded items. As she looked across our area, she jumped back in fright. 'What is that?', she shrieked, as she pointed to my makeshift footstall. 'A chair', I answered quite bemused. She breathed a sigh of relief. 'I thought it was a cat or a small dog', she said. I thought of ways I could possibly have got an animal on board without anyone noticing, let alone getting it through security. I know small animals are allowed on internal flights, but with the restrictions on hand luggage, it would be quite difficult to smuggle one on board. We landed early. As we exited the plane, I smiled sweetly at the Stormtrooper, and then called to Samantha, 'Did you remember the cat?' I did not turn to see her reaction! Friday morning was not the best choice of arrival time, as all usual suspects called upon, were working. Richard had arranged for an acquaintance, who works for a private car hire firm, to pick us up. I called him when we exited customs, but his phone went directly to voicemail. Being back in England, the panic had subsided, and I was attempting to work out the best alternative route back to my mum! My number must have been recorded on the driver's phone, as he called shortly thereafter. It appeared he was suffering from a puncture, and was unable to loosen the wheel nuts in order to change the wheel. It took approximately five minutes for him to give me a second by second account of his calamity, and let me know he would call back in three minutes. Although very sympathetic, my first priority was to get on the road and out of the airport. Fortunately, as descriptive as he was with the repair of his car, he was punctual. Three minutes later, he called to let me know that he could not loosen the last nut on the wheel, and would be sending a colleague. Fifteen minutes later, we were on the road. With the rocky start to the morning, it was probably a little optimistic to think that it would be the right road! After a couple of miles, I asked the driver if he knew where we were going, as I had not seen signs for the motorway for several minutes. It was a surprise to the driver that we were not going to a big fancy hotel in Central London, but to an octogenarian grandma in a small village in the countryside. We were, obviously, at the point of no return, and would have to continue along the busy roads until we could hook up with a motorway, which was several miles off! I was able to direct the driver from the appropriate exit, where the road we needed to take down to the centre of Radlett was closed (why not!) and then around all the country lanes and roads which eventually led to our destination. After a cup of coffee and a piece of toast, I unpacked, had a shower and fell asleep for an hour or two. The next ten days were going to be very busy, with a lot to accomplish before returning Stateside. I hope to be able, before I return, to report ....... another story.