Monday, August 3, 2009

Could've Been Worse

Today Aunt Becky (neither yours nor mine) asked for travel nightmare stories so I’ll kill two birds with one stone; chronicle the events of my trip and write my blog:

Once upon a time, dear readers, my younger brother found the love of his life and proposed marriage. The young woman, we’ll call her “Charlotte”, was (and continues to be) from Little Chalfont, Buckinghamshire, England. We were all thrilled; she’s great and it meant a trip ABROAD.

A lot went right. My parents were in a horrific car (truck) accident less than a month before but had no more than a few scars to show for it by then. My parents, husband, four kids at the time, and I made the long flight over without a hitch. Unfortunately, we walked right into a heat wave. It’s not often hot there. Air-conditioners aren’t common. And please, no offense to anyone likely to be offended, but showering daily just isn’t the done thing. Yeah, we probably overdo it stateside but in a heat wave, it’s just a courtesy to those around you.

We were spending a night in London before hopping the Tube to Little Chalfont and my dad had a reservation for us at a hotel a block from Kings Cross station (insert obligatory Harry Potter references here). Seemed convenient, if small compared to my ugly American idea of a hotel. But okay, we’re ABROAD. Things aren’t the same when you’re ABROAD. So we walk in, up and around a narrow set of stairs to a teeny office. Dad had his paperwork in order (as always) with all possible “print for your records” papers in a manila folder marked “ENGLAND”—he makes these folders for everything. Still, even with all the proof in the world, the staff of this little hotel had no idea we were coming. No room in the inn. Well, almost no room. There were two tiny basement rooms across the street. So we haul our stuff over, and did I mention we’re sweating? A lot? Well, we were.

My dad and I are both pretty claustrophobic and these tiny rooms totally freaked us out. I didn’t want to even be in them if it wasn’t to go to sleep. And let’s not forget no a/c. Remember, we’re ABROAD.

But hey, it really was a great trip, mostly. Soon we were on the train to Little Chalfont where the living is easy. Charlotte’s parents have a B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L home with charming grounds; a proper English garden. It was warm but it was the country, not the hot, sweaty, stinky city. Total paradise. We stayed at The Crown in nearby Amersham (one of the hotels in “Four Weddings and a Funeral”) and our rooms there were just right. The wedding was lovely and a great time was had by all.

When the festivities (with a day-long farewell BBQ the next day) were done, we all travelled back to the CITY. To the same teeny hotel rooms. We had some sightseeing to do. It was still pretty warm and the rooms were still tiny but we didn’t have much time to fuss about it. Just fitting in what we could and then heading home. That’s where things got ugly.

First of all, let me say that British Airways sucks. I’ve never dealt with such rude, rude (I guess I could dig out a thesaurus or find one online) people. We arrived at Heathrow three hours early but could not check in till two hours later. At this point we were informed that our flight was overbooked. Too many butts for the seats. I know this happens and I know why it happens (mostly because certain folks with the clout and mileage book multiple flights then cancel all but one when they settle on a time that works for them). Still, I figured we’d get on the flight. We’d booked our flight in October! And guess what? We did. Every last one of us except the husband person.

What? I wasn’t flying with four little kids sans husband. And did I mention there was a 1 year-old involved? No way. We tried to explain. He’s with us. Seriously. But no. They were having none of it. At all. They assured us they would send him on the next flight. Dad was so mad I was sure he’d say the wrong thing and get himself kicked off the flight too (which, by the way, my uncle did on an entirely different flight coming back from the wedding. For, apparently, making comments regarding the tardiness of his flight and speculating that perhaps the crew had spent too much time at the pub. I guess that’s a no-no).

So we flew back to Sea-Tac without Michael. I was so, so tired. And after an international flight you don’t just hop off and drive home. Lots of lines, checkpoints, etc. And then there’s that pesky hour or so drive back to Yelm.

In the meantime we’ve got Michael slated for the next flight out (headed, unfortunately, for Vancouver BC). I’d say he was probably enjoying some kid-free time but oddly enough, he’s not like that (I’d be heaving an epic sigh of relief and enjoying some me-time but I’m totally selfish that way). So anyway, his flight arrived but something was wrong with the air conditioning system. Tick, tick, tick. Running late, they just missed the last flight to Sea-Tac by 15 minutes (are flights not held anymore?). A shuttle was supposed to take them to a hotel for some food and rest but only arrived after several calls and an hour’s wait. And although promised food (it’d been hours since they ate), there was nothing but vending machines. The next morning they left but after circling Seattle in the fog, turned around again. Back in Vancouver again, Michael and a few others who needed to get somewhere down the I-5 corridor rented a car and drove. 38 hours later and we finally got him back. So many promises were made by British Airways at Heathrow, but the only one kept was the compensation required by law.

Rereading this, I sound like such a big whiner. No hang-overs, no pneumonia (Aunty Becky reference) and it could have been so much worse. We could’ve been staying at Kings Cross a week later: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4661059.stm.
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1 comment:

So, what do you think?