Wednesday, August 10, 2016

England, 2016, Part 3: Wednesday (I think) Flight

My connecting flight to L.A. was blissfully uneventful, and after the tense GYRATIONS of the afternoon I felt that my trip had finally begun.

But that didn’t mean that I was out of the woods yet: This connecting flight wouldn’t really count until I had, you know, CONNECTED.

So I exited from Southwest in the domestic terminal in LAX and somehow had to get to the international terminal and find my next flight. But everything in front of me was shepherding me to Baggage Check (not necessary) Dodgers merchandise (Eeewww!!) and Ground Transportation (Good lord, I hope not). Nowhere was there a place to go for Connecting Flights.

As the English say (in a prissy accent): It just isn’t DONE.

The Catacombs beneath LAX
So I asked those fonts of information, the janitors. Bingo. “You can wait about 10 minutes for a shuttle out here” He said, pointing to an anonymous unmarked door (How would anybody ever know to go…..) “Or!” his buddy piped in (Why does it take two guys to empty the trashes?) “You can go back there, take a right, veer left, take the second blue door on the right and head down to the TUNNELS.”
“Yeah!” The first guy continued. “Follow the the first all the way to the end and then take a right and take the other one to the end. You’ll be right in Bradley.”

I thanked them and headed back to the blank door, which, yes, lead down to a looooong tunnel. As I schlepped my non-rolly luggage along (no moving sidewalks down here in Steerage) I had plenty of time to consider: I can’t be the only one to come in on a Domestic flight and leave on an International one. But LAX is going to great lengths (tremendous lengths, in fact), to treat me (us) as personas non grata.

The Travelators inside "Bradley"
(from Wikimedia Commons)
My only conclusion was that (prissy accent): It just isn’t DONE.

And who was this Bradley? And why was it necessary that I be IN him? I hoped he was cute, at least.

Turns out ‘Brad’ was the Honorable Tom Bradley, former Mayor of L.A. whom the International Terminal is named in honor of. Ah, got it. 

Made it to my gate! Why isn't everyone excited?
A few miles of moving walkways (or “Travelators” in the Brit-speak) and I was in front of my gate. All of the hostesses were blonde, smiling and whiter than the underbelly of a newborn gosling. Ah, Norwegians. I had made it - with 20 minutes to spare!

I was the oddball among my fellow passengers though. Even though I had just walked a few miles with 30 pounds of luggage I was energized and psyched to have pulled off this little bit of two-city derring-do. Everybody else though had just been sitting around this gate for 90 extra minutes while their flight was delayed. 

So I was happily bouncing off the walls and also suffering the dead-eye gazes of 300 proto-zombies. Rather like my life in general, now that I think about it.
London skies (duh) and Sonia Henie's tail (on the plane)

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is a wiiiiide-body plane, with 9 rows of seats back in ‘Middle Passage’ class where I was. I was in the middle third across, next to one of two aisles, my seatmate across the seats was dead asleep before we took off, and the middle seat between us remained empty. About as good as you can get in such cramped conditions.

Plus, seatback video display! The pre-flight slideshow was a nationalistic set-piece about everybody’s favorite Norwegians: 
  • Henrik Ibsen, playwright and poet (I couldn’t tell you a single couplet, however), 
  • Edvard Munch, who painted that Scream painting that looks like a post-apocalyptic “Home Alone” poster, 
  • Sonia Henie, ice skater back before they were all Cirque De Soliel acrobats, and 
  • Must have been a boring movie: Faceplant!
  • Edvard Grieg, who composed the incidental music for Ibsen’s “Peer Gynt”, the most familiar melody of which is…..well, lets let Edvard describe it himself: “I have also written something for the scene in the Hall of the Mountain King – something that I literally can't bear listening to because it absolutely reeks of cow-pies.”*
And that was it, just the four, over and over again as the plane filled up. I watched several times through however, sure that eventually they would get to everybody’s current hero from 1,100 years ago, Ragnar Lodbrok. But alas, this was a Viking-free flight, which was probably a good thing.

From the seatback - halfway there!
Thankfully once we took off the seatback slideshow gave way to a full smorgasboard of entertainment choices, which I was grateful for. 10 hours of a four-slide slideshow would have had me hallucinating about Sonja skating to Grieg’s music for Ibsen’s play ‘Peer Gynt’ while I lost my mind ala Munch’s ‘Scream’.

And during my ten hours of cushy incarceration the Dreamliner flew almost 8…..miles……high, trotted along at nearly 600mph and whisked me 5,500 miles over Canada, Greenland, Iceland, and the Atlantic Ocean - which seemed almost as big as Hudson Bay.

Two hours of naps and 17 crossword puzzles later I am suddenly in London, where the local time is 2:30pm and the REALLY local time (in my head) was 6:30am.

Uh……No more plane. Need…….train. Huh……train sound like plane. Need…….sleep, but sun say it morning. This place all wrong.

I stopped at an ATM (Cash Machine) to get some money (Bills) and then bought a cookie (Biscuit) and was handed a fist full of coins (Quid). 

I got in the line (Queue) for Customs (Passport Control) and studied the currency (Pounds). No, I am not seeing double: the Brits (God’s People) use 8 different coins - twice as many as we Americans (Provincials) do. AND, they all have the same nice lady on the front side. Ai-yi-yi (Blimey!)

Passport control was NOT happy that I was 
  • traveling alone, 
  • had not checked any bags, 
  • was carrying several loose bags, 
  • was meeting someone from yet another country, 
  • who was allegedly my wife and yet did not have the same surname as me, 
  • my legal name was different from my professional name, 
  • Not kidding - that was in my pocket by nightfall
  • and I certainly looked like an Irish (IRA) man (Terrorist)

I looked dubious (Dodgy) and they were suspicious (British).

But having failed to intimidate me - I kept falling asleep (Kip) during their stern questioning - they reluctantly let me enter England (Britain) / The UK (The EU) / Britannia (The Empire)

And now, in this quasi-catatonic state, with a butt that is still asleep, a brain still full of fleecy white Icelandic clouds, and an extra 8 pounds (3.6 kilos) in coins, I must instantly master the UK Railway (Tram) system, in order to propel myself from London Gatwick to London London (London), which is 30 miles (48 kilometer) North (North).

Got it! Go!
God (David Beckham) help me!

On to PART 4!

Angus McMahan

*From Wikipedia. Grieg also describes “In the Hall of the Mountain King” as ‘Trollish’, which for a Norwegian is the ultimate burn.

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