The Great North American Airport Tour

Remember how I wrote about my difficulty flying? Well…

On Tuesday I began what came to be The Great North American Airport Tour. Starting off in Santa Barbara Airport (SBA)–a place I hadn’t flown into or out of since I was seven or eight–I embarked at 2:25pm flight to Los Angeles. Most of the transit time involved taxing to and from the runway and gate. We were only aloft for twenty minutes.

Once in Los Angeles (LAX) I met Theo for a beer and a scrumptuous plate of ahi tuna tartar at Encounter Restaurant, the occupant of the Theme Building–that splendid representation of Mid-century modern architecture that sits inside LAX. I hadn’t been up there since some time in the 70′s when I met my Dad and step-mom while they were in transit. I highly recommend popping up there for a drink if you have the time. But I digress…

The almost six o’clock flight to Heathrow took off without a hitch. I had planned to get a good three or four hour nap while on the plane and then stay up until eight o’clock or so that evening after arriving at Heathrow just after noon. This was not to happen. While I was dozing, the Captain told us that the plane was being diverted back to Chicago so that an unruly passenger could be removed. What I heard was that she actually hit the captain. (I believe he had gone back to deal with her because she was pushing people around.) This is what the Chicago Tribune says. The upshot was that they had us wait on the plane for about forty-five minutes and then they cancelled the flight.

I had never been to Chicago. I would love to see it sometime. Standing in line at O’Hare airport (ORD) along with almost three-hundred people in the middle of the night is not the best way to appreciate it.

Fortunately, two months ago I had upgraded to a my cell phone to a Droid. This meant I was able to email my sister-in-law and brother-in-law in London (who were planning to meet me at Heathrow) and tell him there was a little hitch in plan. In fact, I emailed them at every step of the way as the story unfolded. I was also able to post on Facebook which made the whole ordeal quite a bit less lonely what with friends liking and commenting on my updates.

Finally, I got to talk to a Customer Service Rep at 5:20am or thereabouts and she put me on  a six o’clock flight that would take me to Dulles (IAD). That gave me fifteen minutes to grab something to eat (United gave me a small voucher) and get into a new line.

Flight number three was amiable. A number of us from the LA plane were on it. By now we were all talking to each other and commiserating–that’s what standing in line together for three hours will do to you. On our descent one of the passengers started a loud rather incendiary tirade. He got up along with the two men who were escorting him from one prison to another (as it turned out) and the stewardess freaked out because of course they aren’t supposed to be standing up having a dispute while the plane is landing. That was Incident #2. Exhausted and somewhat punchy, those of us who’d started in LA simply couldn’t believe it. Fortunately, his escorts were able to get him off the plane so we didn’t have to wait for a security team to do that.

Thirty minutes later, we were on our last flight. Set to arrive at Heathrow (LHR) at 9:55pm–only a bit more than nine hours late and  a full twenty-four hours after starting out from SBA. On that flight, I realized how tired I was when it took me fifteen minutes to notice that I was watching Madagascar 3 in German. I don’t speak German.

My dear sister-in-law and brother-in-law had met me outside customs and helped me get my Oyster Card (for the Tube) and navigate my way to their flat in Kensington where I’m staying. I’d had perhaps three hours of sleep in the past thirty-two hours and probably couldn’t have found my way on my own.

And now that I’ve successfully managed to stay up past 9 o’clock on my first full day here (pix on my facebook page) I’m going to bed. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.