A few weeks from now if you ask how our trip was I will probably do a nano-second review of the overall experience and give you a simple response that it was ‘great’ or ‘good’ or ‘interesting’. The truth is somewhat more complex. Travel is hard work at the best of times but it is more difficult on some days than others. Case in point was a particular 36hrs that began last Friday as we left, or tried to leave, Dulles airport near Washington DC.
It had been raining but not hard enough to be alarming. Still when we got to the gate there was delay in boarding due to a very wet and leaky seal between the bridge and the side of the plane. An attendant stood with an umbrella to shelter boarding passengers from the excess water flowing through the gap. So much for high tech solutions!
Once on board we hoped the pilot would be able to make up the lost 15 minutes, but if not, we still had an additional hour forty five to get us through security at Heathrow and onto our connecting flight to Berlin. And then we waited… and waited on the Tarmac. Finally after an hour fifteen minutes of waiting we took off. The flight was good, we slept a few hours of the 6 hr flight, and the pilot had, indeed, made up half an hour of time. We thought that with just over an hour to make our connection we might just squeeze through. And then we circled… and circled, and lost the half an hour of time we had gained, before finally landing. At this stage, with just 35 minutes until the gate closed for boarding our connecting flight, we knew even if we could make the flight, chances are our bags would not. Ugh. When we deplaned there was an ‘express attendant’ with our flight number there to assist us getting through security and to show us to the gate. He knew the short cuts and got each of us an ‘express’ pass through security and told us he’d be waiting for us on the other side of security. Only trouble was… he wasn’t! We waited five minutes but no Andy. Don’s very sore foot (from gout or arthritis, we aren’t sure which) slowed us down but we proceeded with haste toward the gate. It was a fairly long way but we made it just as the last 10 or so passengers were boarding. We could breathe a sigh of partial relief at this stage, but given Andy didn’t make it to the gate with us, we were pretty sure our bags hadn’t either.
Tired from the all night travel and the, so far, less than smooth trip, Don and I realized once on board the plane that our seats were not together. He was in seat 1F and I was in seat 1A. We were on opposite ends of the row and with an isle seat on the inside of each of us. Being too tired to be ‘fussed’ I pulled out the British Airways magazine to read and figured I’d move over to sit near Don after the flight took off, if no one sat next to him. Less than a minute before the crew closed the door to the plane, out of the corner of my eye, I was aware of a male figure getting on board and sitting in the aisle seat next to me. He immediately put his worn suede chukka boots on the bulkhead wall (presumably to keep it from falling down, because I doubt he sits at home with his feet on the wall… but then who knows, maybe he does) He was very, very engrossed in his Blackberry, to the point of almost being rude to the flight attendant. Finally I glanced over to see the person and it was… are you ready? The actor, Hugh Grant! I was trying to be very cool but all I could think of was here is this A-list actor sitting next to me and I have had 4.5 hours’ sleep in the last 36 hours, have virtually no makeup on, have been in the same clothes for 24 hours and am looking decidedly ordinary! Am sure that’s what he was thinking too! The flight attendant called him ‘Mr. Grant’, which seemed to annoy him, since he had obviously boarded the plane at the very last minute to avoid being recognized or having to talk to anyone. He seemed almost anxious or perhaps just hates flying. It was clear he did not want to have to talk to anyone. Fair enough, I’ve often felt that way on an airplane so I would let him ‘be’. Truth is I would rather have him ignore me than see me in my current state. I stole a look or two at him and he is as good looking as you would expect, if only he would have kept his boots off the wall. (a pet peeve of mine) He drank diet coke, and water, if you are interested, and didn’t eat breakfast! And neither did I if you are even slightly interested. I’ve never in my life seen someone SO engrossed in their Blackberry. Again he seemed annoyed when the attendant asked if he wanted breakfast. Maybe he was waiting for a message from Liz that she and Shane Warne had split, who knows! When he got off he (of course) did not collect a bag and he whizzed through the passport check so quickly he must have had a special pass or something us mere mortals aren’t privy to! Outside we saw a camera man chasing him and people taking his photo as he hastily headed away from them. Sadly, Don and I also did not collect bags, because they were on a different flight! They arrived at the hotel a few hours after we did, thank goodness. The next day my charger and converter plug mysteriously went missing from the desk in our hotel room. After a fretful half an hour or so the maid came to our door holding said items. The tour bus left us stranded at the Brandenburg Gate due to an ‘Occupy Wall Street’ demonstration… and Don’s foot was very sore. The bus eventually collected us about 45 minutes late. So when you ask me how our trip was, I will probably say it was great, because, as annoying as these things can be, the diversity is, after all, why we travel… new sights, new insights and experiences, and new stories to tell, both good and bad!
Footnote: as I am sitting here in the British Airways lounge at Tegel Airport about to publish this blog, I look up and who do I see entering the lounge? ‘Mr Chukka Boots’ himself! This time I am my ravishing best right down to the red lipstick and crisp Brooks Brothers blouse. Still he cannot be tempted away from his blackberry. Go figure!