Well, wasn’t that a horrible trip home. All I can hope is that my luggage has a better trip. Mind you, I reckon 22 hours in a cargo hold is infinitely better than the seats in the Etihad plane I was in from Melbourne to Abu Dhabi.
This might be quite a long post…
It all started well enough. As I was preparing to leave Mum and Dad’s, we had a phone call from Col’s asking if they could pick me up a bit earlier than scheduled. I was actually quite glad about this because Virgin Australia had spent the weekend installing new software and were advising passengers to arrive a bit earlier than normal in case of problems. So, I hopped on the bus and off we went.
At Brisbane I checked in without too much fuss only to be told that my flight was delayed by about 40 minutes. I asked the woman checking me in if this would cause a problem with my flight out of Melbourne. She checked the time and said it would be fine, after all the plane wasn’t leaving till 11pm. Without getting into the stupidity of the ongoing Queensland stupidity of not having daylight saving, I told her that Melbourne is an hour behind.
She looked mildly concerned and told me the quickest way of getting from the domestic terminal to the international one in Melbourne. She also checked my suitcase right through to Heathrow, assuring me it would be fine. She even showed me the ticket that said so. How could anything, possibly go wrong, she said, smiling.
As I sat in the Virgin flight, waiting for it to leave the terminal, her words came back to me. There was an announcement by the captain, saying we would be delayed a bit longer because the Virgin staff couldn’t print something off because of the software upgrade and we had to wait for the paperwork.
It occurred to me that this is a pretty pathetic excuse for keeping a group of passengers on a plane but it was made and we were forced to wait. They must have managed to find a working printer with toner and the proper software because eventually we taxied away from the terminal and out onto a runway…where we sat for another long while.
Eventually we arrived in Melbourne. My two hour wait between flights had been eroded to almost nothing. I took off for the international check-in desk, hoping I’d still make it. There was no-one there apart from an angry little man with a telephone in his hand. He brusquely asked me if I was Mr Cook. When I gasped that I was, he asked me, quite rudely, why I was so late and that he was in the process of taking me off the flight. I explained it was the fault of the Virgin flight and he became slightly more reasonable.
A very pleasant woman then took over and checked me in, telling me where to go and advising I run. She also gave me a priority card to get me through security and customs ultra-fast. I thanked her and bolted.
That little priority card was brilliant. It pushed me ahead of virtually everyone. I went through everything that normally takes an age, in about 5 minutes. I was amazed. I then took off for the departure gate.
It’s a little irritating that departure gates are located the other side of duty free shops. Obviously, they want to grab your attention before you fly out but when you’re in a hurry, having to run through them because they’re in the way, is a right pain. Still, run I did and I arrived in time to join the rest of the stragglers.
The plane I travelled on for the longest leg of my return flight home was so uncomfortable, I think the seat bruised my bum. Now, I’m someone who moves about a fair bit so I’m wondering how the people are who just sit and wait. I’m certain they’ll not get over it.
Don’t you just love the first announcement you get on the plane?
“If there is anything we can do to make your flight more comfortable, please do not hesitate to ask.”
Okay then, for starters, stop the guy to my left continually snorting like an old warhorse with swollen adenoids, stop the annoying child in front of me saying “aeroplane” with a constancy that defies imagination and, while you’re at it, shoot the legless bastard who designed the seat I’m in!
Speaking of children, I must say I felt very sorry for the business class passengers as I passed through their luxurious pods. They were all settling down to a comfortable trip, exchanging worrying glances as a family of three sat amongst them. Their worry stemmed not from the parents but from the small child who was bouncing around on his seat, clearly ready to cause as much disturbance as he could while his mother and father ignored him.
All I can say about the almost 16 hours I spent on this plane is that it was awful. It’s truly amazing what humans subject themselves to in the name of capitalism. Abu Dhabi couldn’t arrive quick enough.
Sadly, it took almost 16 hours, most of which I was awake for.
Then, you arrive at Abu Dhabi and, in true bureaucratic brilliance, you have to arrive through one gate then walk a few miles, go back through security (it’s not like you’ve had the opportunity to acquire anything harmful) to then walk the few miles back to the gate next to the one you just arrived at. Insane. Mind you, the walk is a welcome relief after the numbing the seat subjected you to.
The final leg wasn’t anywhere near as bad (if you ignore the guy sitting next to me who broke wind every ten minutes with a regularity and potency that made me wonder if a change of diet may be recommended before his guts give up on him completely) and, thankfully, only about seven hours long. Although, the stewards were having a rather hard time of it getting things to the passengers, in particular my breakfast.
One weird thing happened on the way to the loo, at one point. As I approached the end of the aisle, a young lad collapsed. He seemed to be about 16. He was only about ten feet away from me. He’d been standing in the exit space and just fell like a sack of spuds. Suddenly passengers were jumping up and diving towards him.
“I’m a medical person,” shouted one woman as she started to check for vital signs.
“I’m a doctor,” shouted another woman as she straightened him out in the confined space.
“I’m a doctor too,” shouted two more who stood and watched, offering advice to the one at his head.
I managed to get by them as they went to work on him. It looked like the sort of crowd you see in an operating room.
I have no idea what was wrong with this kid or why he collapsed but the medical attention he received was extraordinary. It was as if the plane was carrying members of a medical convention who were bored with the in-flight entertainment and welcomed the chance to practice medicine on someone.
By the time I left the toilet, he was up and wandering around again, happy as Larry. Very odd. I’d have thought it was all a dream except sleeping on these planes is something denied to people with ordinary legs.
We finally and thankfully landed at Heathrow and I made my way to the baggage area only to wait, disappointed, as my bag failed to materialise. Eventually I hunted down someone who looked like they should know what I had to do in order to locate my belongings.
“Are you Mr Cook,” he asked and I nodded. “Your bag is still in Melbourne. It will arrive on this plane tomorrow.”
Didn’t I just know it.
I filled out a form and they assured me my bag would be delivered to me at home as soon as possible. I can only hope. Especially since there’s an awful lot of packets of Tim Tams in there that I’m eager to reacquaint myself with.
I stepped out of terminal four into a glorious 2°. I stopped caring about the trip and the bag and everything else. I was home. And it felt good. I started caring again on Woking station when I realised I was frozen because my fleece was in my bag and all I had on was a t-shirt. At least I’d worn jeans and not my shorts or things could have been a lot worse.
I was home for a short while when Nicktor turned up. He’d missed me A LOT! Though, it must be said, we had the shortest Nicktor Night ever as the jet lag started to get to me and snoozed through quite a few minutes of Outside Edge.
Bed felt very good at 11:30pm. Nicktor said I started snoring before I hit the pillow. I wouldn’t know. I’d fallen asleep before I’d laid down.