This morning I’m returning to the US after several days in the UK, specifically IBM’s Hursley Labs near Winchester. It’s been a good trip but as it wound to a close I began to turn my attention, and my anxiety, to the flights home.
I’m not afraid of flying, that’s not the source of stress. Rather, I hate dealing with long lines at the airport and the people ahead of me who are seemingly rebooking travel for 50 of their relatives. Because of this, I like to get to the airport early.
My first flight today leaves out of Heathrow Terminal 3 and goes to Chicago. When I can, I try to stay near Heathrow the night before flying so I don’t have to worry about travel problems on the roads or trains due to accidents or strikes. So last evening I checked into a new-to-me hotel, the Heathrow Hilton, near Terminal 4. This is a very nice, very modern hotel, though I was shocked that they still allow smoking in some of the rooms. My room was designated as non-smoking, but that familiar acrid and nasty smell wafted down the hallway as I got to the door.
The Chinese restaurant in the lobby was quite good and I turned in relatively early after doing some email and reading (Mercury Falls by Robert Kroese). My flight leaves at 1:15 pm so I left the hotel a few minutes after 9. In the past, I’ve taken the Hotel Hopper from my hotel to the terminal, but there was a walkway from the Hilton directly to Terminal 4. So I walked, and I walked, and I walked. The walkway is an enclosed elevated tunnel with occasional windows that give you a peek at all the traffic below you.
I arrived at Terminal 4, got on the elevator to take me down to the train that would take me to Terminal 3 (or on into London had I not been paying attention). I got off, realized I was on the wrong floor, smelled yet more cigarettes, and finally made it to Floor -1.
I then started moving swiftly toward the trains since the next one was to leave in 4 minutes. Perhaps I was too swift, because I got caught up somehow in the luggage barriers about 40 feet from the train. I went splat on all fours, banging my knees on the ground. After thinking “ouch” my next thought was how I was going to maintain some level of dignity as I got myself up, dusted off, and onto the train. Some very helpful security guards asked if I was ok, which I was, if a bit sore, and I got myself to Terminal 3.
In the old days I was Executive Platinum on American Airlines which gave me all sorts of perqs including being able to check in at the Business and First Class counter. Alas, I am only a lowly Gold member now having not travelled enough in the last year. So it was with great pleasure that I saw that I could check in at a kiosk and skip the long line with the 50 relatives who needed rebooking. That took two minutes.
Then it was on to security which used up 10 more minutes. So all in all, it took me less that 45 minutes to get from my hotel to where I am now, having breakfast in a restaurant (Eggs Benedict, Diet Coke) inside the terminal. Perhaps my anxiety was misplaced, though my back does feel a bit sore from my spill.
However, I’ve travelled enough to know that each positive experience only partially offsets the negative ones. So my fingers are crossed that the remainder of the trip goes reasonably well and I get home safely around 1 am.