January 05, 2010

Man Flew

Evidently the universe, having been robbed for two years running of its usual opportunities to inflict travel-related misery upon me on my birthday, has decided to extract the karmic balance several times over this month. (I’m not sure what I did to deserve such bad travel karma in the first place. Did I oversee the galley of a slave-powered longship in a past life? Did I take the piss out of Skymall one too many times?)

I declined to rant about my trip home on the 23rd because I figured nobody wanted to hear about it, and it seems even less relevant now, so long story short I eventually got to Edinburgh seven hours late that day — which was pretty awful, though yesterday certainly tried to trump it.

So I wake up at 4:30 a.m., having not fallen asleep until probably 2 a.m. in the first place, in order to catch my cab, which — and perhaps I should have seen this as the omen that in retrospect it clearly was, and stayed in fucking bed — didn’t turn up because of heavy snowfall (by Edinburgh standards) the day before. Only when I was halfway to my dad’s, on foot, to help him dig the car out, did the taxi appear, so I turned around and hoofed it back to my mum’s. And after that, everything seemed to go smoothly: I got to the airport in plenty of time, had a delicious breakfast, breezed through security, and arrived in Manchester for my connection to Newark a full ten minutes early!

And that was when, at 7:45 a.m., after I had already been awake for three hours (AND MADE MY INITIAL FLIGHT!!!), the airline staff decided to tell me that the Newark flight, due to leave at 9 a.m., had been delayed until 3:20 p.m.

Now, rather hilariously, Continental doesn’t have a dedicated customer service desk beyond security at Manchester, and the people at passenger assistance — who, bless ‘em, did a great job, considering — were telling people to call the airline. So I did, three times, and each time, somehow, got the same lovely old Jewish woman, who by our last call was recommending books and assuring me that soon we’d be boyfriend and girlfriend, but was unable to do anything else except tell me that there wasn’t any other way to get to Boston unless I wanted to pay for a first class ticket on another airline (and with Manchester airport as my oyster, why would I ever do something like that?).

So let me tell you about Manchester airport: it caters pretty much entirely to the worst stereotypes of British holidaymakers you can imagine. Consequently it is full of places to buy cheap booze, and slot machines, and not much fucking else. The choices for food in Manchester airport are as follows: a Burger King; an Americanoid restaurant with an improbable name like “Frankie and Dino’s Bad-a-bing-bam Steak and Burger Diner Extravaganza”; a canteen-style place serving full English roasts; and a sandwich place offering fresh, handmade sandwiches (all of these, by the way, also served lager, with the exception of Burger King). If that doesn’t sound Dantesque enough to you, please also consider that every few hundred yards there was, for some reason, a Dance Dance Revolution machine wired to play “Cotton Eye Joe” on endless loop, which constitutes an odd sort of white noise that was drowned out only by the constant swish of shellsuit leg against shellsuit leg.

If I seem to be getting a little bit too bourgeois here, you’ll have to forgive me: sitting in an airport at nine o’clock in the morning while people chug lager around you and then decant themselves onto planes bound mainly for Mediterranean islands isn’t good for a lot except reminding you of class boundaries. Still, I did my best to find a quiet corner, and started on my book, and eventually dozed off until noon when I was paged by the customer service people. I was dreading some new wrinkle, like, that Newark had dropped off the face of the earth (a good thing under any other circumstances) and that my flight would instead be landing in Savannah, Georgia, from where we would be transferred to a 1979 John Deere combine harvester and towed to the Massachusetts border.

But it turned out they merely wanted to give me a meal voucher to compensate me for all the inconvenience, of which I had apparently suffered only £4’s worth. Armed with my bounty, I set off to find myself some lunch, and by the time I was finished eating I had to get in line for the extremely “friendly” extra security pat-down and, eventually, onto the plane.

The sun had just risen when I landed in Manchester yesterday morning, and it was setting as I left. There aren’t many more depressing ways to end a seven and a half hour delay in an airport than getting on a seven and a half hour flight, but after that the rest of the trip did, at least, go off without another hitch, and they even cut my wait in Newark down and got me home only six hours behind schedule. So I guess nine hundred words is about as much as I can reasonably complain.

And now, I resolve never to fly anywhere ever again.

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