London: Trip There, Thursday 3/28/19
Richard and I spent a long weekend in London, mostly to see a stage production of *All About Eve,* also to see some friends, also to just get away. Our trip there was rather epic.
5:10 AM: I got out of bed. Richard was already up.
6:15: Got in an Uber to go to Newark.
6:48: Arrived at Newark.
7:12: Got through Security, went to Forno Magico for breakfast.
7:32: Our food arrived.
7:42: Our coffee arrived.
7:51: We paid the check and went to our gate.
8:08: We got a text from United: “Our maintenance team needs to service an indicator system on your plane prior to departure. We’re sorry for this inconvenience, and we’ll provide you with an update when we receive more information.”
8:10: “Your 930am United flight to London is delayed because we are addressing a technical issue on your plane. Your safety is our priority and we’re sorry for the inconvenience. UA934 now departs at 645pm and arrives at 558am.”
8:14: I broke out the smelling salts. Oh, the groaning and bellyaching at our gate! Richard went to Customer Service to bust some heads. I sat with the bags.
8:22: The guy at the gate made a regretful announcement about our rescheduled flight. He said there was no plane available for a switch and that our plane couldn’t leave earlier because of a curfew issue in London. I didn’t quite follow that, but why would he lie?
8:31: Richard returned. We shared our non-updates with each other.
8:33: I got in line to get some food vouchers. The young Englishwoman ahead of me was full of salty language.
8:40: I arrived at the desk.
ME: Hello. I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this, I’m sure it’s a big headache for you.
HER: Thank you, that’s very kind of you to say. I’m sorry for YOU. I’m giving you $60 in food and drink vouchers, you can use them anywhere in the airport. We’ll send you information after the flight about how to ask for reimbursement. I’m very sorry about the inconvenience.
ME: Could we get a pass to a United lounge?
HER: No, I’m sorry, we’re not allowed to do that.
At this point she looked up to witness my stricken countenance.
ME: Is there a place where we could check our bags?
HER: No, I’m sorry, that’s a security issue, there’s no place for us to store your bags. You’ll need to keep them with you.
Another look up and a short silence.
ME: Is there any chance our flight will leave before 6:45 tonight?
HER: Honestly, it’s extremely unlikely.
HER: Is there anything else I can do for you?
ME: No. Thank you.
Richard and I reviewed our options about what to do with the next nine hours. It would cost over $200 round trip to go back home, and we’d only be home for a few hours. There was little point in going into Newark - - it would, again, cost quite a lot, and let’s not forget, once you get there, it’s Newark. So we decided to stay in the airport.
We walked to another part of the terminal and found a quiet-ish place to sit down and charge our devices. I had the bright idea to use Richard’s Samsung tablet to watch something on Netflix. I won’t give the blow-by-blow, but let’s say it took a while to set up our Netflix account on the tablet, and then (after 15 minutes on the phone with a surly customer service agent at Samsung) we gave up because our Phillips headsets weren’t compatible with the Samsung tablet. It was panning out to be a very special day indeed.
We called our friend Barbara and sang “Happy Birthday” to her. Our harmony was a little off, but that’s to be forgiven under the circumstances. We called my mom who was full of regret and compassion, bless her heart.
How about some photos of me looking cranky?
11:05: We went for a little walk, then parked in another quiet-ish spot. Richard bought a giant Twix bar, which always helps.
We brought up Netflix again and decided to watch an episode of Jerry Seinfeld’s *Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.* We chose the Ellen De Generes episode. It was cute, funny, and informative, though it was annoying to pause it every time there was an overhead announcement. Often in loud English followed by loud Spanish. We sat there for a few more minutes and lost our patience. It was 12:27.
We went over to the Customer Service desk. Richard was understandably irate (“with a small i,” he just told me) and asked that they give us a hotel room for a few hours. Which they did. Also $40 in meal vouchers, for the hotel.
We had a little trouble finding the Air Train. Typical. But we got out to the sidewalk and waited for our hotel shuttle. There were a few already there, they picked up their people and left. Other hotel shuttles came and went, but no sign of ours. We estimate there were about ten or twelve other hotel shuttles that drove by, but never ours. Every hotel you could think of. I said to Richard, “If a shuttle labeled ‘Interlaken Resort and Country Spa, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin’ pulls up, I will not be surprised.”
But then finally ours did arrive and we were at the hotel at around 1:15. The staff was cute and helpful and it felt really good to stretch out in our two beds and not have to listen to all those announcements in loud English and loud Spanish.
We went down to the bar for lunch - - Richard had four pulled pork sliders, some grapes and melon, and a sparkling water, I had a pulled pork quesadilla, a bag of Fritos, and a Coke Zero. We went just over our $40 allowance, which was just fine.
We went back up to the room, fell asleep for a few minutes, and watched a tepid episode of *Ellen.* Back on the shuttle, back to the airport, back in the security line, back at our gate. I sang to Richard, “It seems we’ve stood and talked like this before…”
5:15: We used our $60 in vouchers for wine.
Richard had a pinot grigio, I had a Riesling. Not as sweet as I like, but it shore hit the spot.
5:31: We got a text saying that they found us a new plane. Hm, quel perfect timing!
6:25: We started boarding. We all got settled, everyone was thrilled to finally be on the plane. Richard and I looked through our movie options and chose *Green Book,* ironically the only Best Picture nominee that we hadn’t seen (ironic because it ended up winning Best Picture). The mood was buoyant, people were all excited that we were finally leaving.
6:53: The head customer service agent at our gate announced that there was a mechanical problem with the aircraft we had just boarded, and we would all have to get off. Oh, the groaning! The hollering! The shaking of fists! All of if from me.
7:10: We moved to our new gate, new departure set for 8:00. Richard and I decided we’d had enough time sitting down and we might as well stand in the Group 2 departure line with the other yahoos. We did our best to keep our spirits up by amusing each other. Richard did a small Charleston, always a hit.
7:40: Richard said to me, “There’s this guy over there who keeps looking at me. I think it might be Beej, a guy I dated about 32 years ago. Oh my God, he’s walking over here.” It WAS Beej. The two of them hadn’t seen each other in about 15 years, what a hoot.
Best of all, Beej works for United - - he was a flight attendant when they were dating, now he’s a trainer for flight attendants. He collected our boarding passes and moved us from Economy to Premier Economy, which is a small but significant upgrade. Beej now lives in Paris but does the flight from New York to London quite often. He and Richard exchanged cards and we promised to visit the next time we were in the other’s home city. Running into Beej was really and truly the ONE bright spot in the day.
8:10: Our departure time was updated to 8:30.
8:25: Our departure time was updated to 8:50.
8:35: We started boarding. Our departure time was updated to 9:05, with an expected arrival time of 6:00 AM London time.
I predicted that there would be cheering and applause when we finally took off, but there was none of either. Says a lot.
Dinner was delicious - - Richard had some kind of vegetarian thing, I had chicken with rice and four cheeses. Richard had little trouble falling (and staying) asleep, I had more difficulty. It was hard to get comfortable.