Monday, October 1, 2007

The Return

I'm back. Actually I've been back 9 days. I have just neglected to blog. There's so much to talk about too, but let's start at the start. The trip back was the usual chaos: Sitting next to selfish pigs; queuing for hours at security; waiting in vain for my didn't bother me that much, except for the selfish pig. He was a moron. It's a simple rule: The unfortunate sap in the middle seat gets as much of the armrest as he needs. No arguments, definitely don't spread out to take the whole armrest in a posture that is clearly uncomfortable for you, and if you do, don't act all offended when I whack you, repeatedly, with my elbow in an attempt to drink my tea.

Anyway, the moron isn't the point of this post, the point is that my trip back was fun and it was fun because I decided it would be. In London there was a girl whose job it was to tell people the policy about only taking one bag through security and onto the plane. This task fell to the same girl on both my outbound and return legs, so I presume she does this every day. People would walk up with two bags, she'd say "You can only have one, and it has to fit in that space over there" and everyone would say "but they let me take two out of Houston (or Muscat or Dubai)", and she'd have to say "well, you can't take two through London". A stupid rule perhaps, but she didn't make it up and she's not responsible for it not being communicated to the airlines in Houston (or Muscat or Dubai), who should warn their passengers about it when they still have the rest of their luggage to dump stuff in and they're not tired and grumpy from a long flight. I carry one bag, a small rucksack, so I didn't have a problem here and I sailed straight through with a smile, but seeing the amount of crap this girl had to take off almost every other passenger that came through I decided that, since I was in a good mood, I would spread it around as much as I could to the people who have to deal with us traveling grumps. Next up was the metal detector / x-ray line, so I was ready, shoes off, laptop out, phone and coins in hand when I got there and I walked through without a beep, only to pulled aside for a second check. Okay. The guy starts to pat me down and runs his hands under my armpits, which are not as clean as they were 15 hours ago when I last showered. "Sorry about those", I say.
"Don't worry", he laughs, "You're my first of the day".
His colleague laughed as well and said "You're nothing compared to some we see".
Two days made slightly brighter for the price of one joke about my personal hygiene. Not bad.

The people in the duty free shop were relentlessly cheery anyway, and didn't need any help from me, so next up was the security guard at the gate. He looked like he would be a bit difficult to force a smile out of, but looking at my passport he opened with "I recognize that place of birth".
"Really?" I said, "Stornoway? From where?"
"It's always the last place on the weather reports"
"Yeah, and I bet it's always forecasting torrential rain too"
"Seems like it," he said with a chuckle, "have a good trip sir"

The cabin crew on the plane were pretty happy too, or at least pretending to be, but I still raised a laugh by proving myself to be a complete idiot by ordering a cup of tea and saying yes to milk and sugar even though I drink it black.
"I said yes to milk and sugar, didn't I?"
"I'm a moron, could I have a cup of black tea, no sugar. Maybe I should switch to coffee and try to wake up a bit?"

A woman traveling on her own with a toddler, a big bag and a pushchair tested my limits by opting to get on the escalator to baggage claim behind me instead of using the lifts three feet away. The toddler was out of the loaded down chair, which the mother was having trouble controlling and the kids' bravery deserted her a little bit as she started to retreat from the moving stairs and her already descending mother. As the mother looked helpless, I grabbed the chair from the front, but before she moved to rescue her kid, she took a moment to yell "grab it from behind!" at me. Easier said than done when it's taking up almost the entire escalator, so I didn't bother. "Get behind it", she shouted again, in case I was one of them foreigns who didn't understand English unless it was delivered at high decibels. As I was already at the bottom of the escalator and was now deftly maneuvering the stupid thing out of the way and struggling mightily to maintain my good mood, I revised my decision to offer a piece of my mind and instead smiled and said "don't worry, I'm stronger than I look". She smiled back and offered a mild apology, which I waved away.

The last test was the baggage claim office, where a rant was already in progress by the time I arrived and, I found out later, had been going on for 45 minutes. The man had travelled this airline "a lot, especially recently" and could not believe that "they" had lost his bag. Except they hadn't. Like mine, it had simply not made the short connection from Dubai to London and would follow tomorrow, or the next day. The ranting man, like me, lived in Houston and, I would hope, did not have all his clothes in the suitcase. His dirty underwear turning up in two days should not, you would think, have put him in the frame of mind where the most sensible thing to do was shout at a woman who had not and never would tag, handle or even see his luggage, but whose job it was to make sure he did get it at some point. As he finally gave up and stormed off, with the copy of the airlines luggage compensation policy that he had demanded, I approached the counter and asked "Is anyone who comes in here ever having a good day?" This raised my last laugh of the trip from one of the poor sods who have to put up with thousands of grumpy people being herded through their workplace every day.

I have decided that, though I may not always manage to maintain it, traveling with a cheery disposition is going to be my default approach from now on. I recommend you try it.


Alex&Fi said...

Admirable, truly admirable. I do
try and retain my patience and a smile when travelling but it's not always easy. Like when you've arrived in London after a 5 hour flight + 2 hour delay and you have to wait 70 minutes for your luggage to arrive on the carousel because the baggage handlers forgot about it.

I don't think I could have stopped myself saying something to the woman on the escalator. You're not supposed to take pushchairs on for a reason!

Vikki said...

I'm just not going on a plane again. You've got to come and visit us here!

Jen said...

Some days are good & some days are bad. I try for more good, than bad, but sometimes the bad outweighs the good. This is especially so whilst traveling.

And, I'm with you on the whole middle seat thing - people just don't care though. Thomas always gives me the window/aisle and he suffers through the middle seat while the person on the end (thinking that since Thomas is a rail of a guy) takes up the entire arm rest and then some. Making the husband squeeze into my side. This guy even sat like the typical guy with his legs spread open, which then went into T's seat space once again. He never moved the entire trip back from Wyoming! I felt awful for Thomas who never said a word until we got in the car.

This year alone the airlines had over 400,000 pieces of baggage lost this year. Up 100,000 from last year and, according to the morning news, they have yet to straighten this out before holiday travel.

I don't like flying like I used to & I haven't even gone international (unless you count Mexico).

Ian said...

Alex or Fi: Not saying something to the woman was tough. She actually ended up in the baggage claim place after me, so had a chance to apologise again. I guess she wasn't having a good day either.

Vikki: We will, one day. One day when we have enough holidays that a detour to the East coast is not a logistical impossibility.

Jen: Thomas should do what I do and accidentally whack the inconsiderate swine with his elbow every time it looks like he's falling asleep.

Alli said...

Way to have a positive attitude!!!

I don't know how you did it. When it comes to traveling, I am not very tolerant and thus it is now difficult for me to be the happy traveler. I'll have to take your lead on this.

Good job!