Forty-five minutes before they are supposed to arrive and I am sitting in Traffic on the M23 stuck and not moving. The cause for the standstill is not apparent. All I can tell is that the traffic is stretching out in front of me with no apparent end is keeping me from getting to Gatwick.
I am not really worried about getting there late; I would however like to be there when they get out of Immigrations and Passport Control. I have about nine miles left to go (and then have to park) and when I get there I was hoping to have a cup of coffee before they get in. (Good thing I built that extra half-an-hour into the time they told me it would take…)
The cause of this issue is never to be known to me. I crawl to the junction for Gatwick and end-up in the parking garage just in time to watch Dad and Flo land. At least I assume that Northwest plane that swooped down as I was pulling into a space was Dad and Flo. There are very few flights from Gatwick (or to it) that come via Northwest. Since this flight was a Northwest plane and it was landing about fifteen minutes before the time they should be here.
The coffee counter help is, as everyone seems to be these days in the Food Service Industry over here, a foreigner. I believe she is Polish, but she could equally well be from any of the other Baltic region countries now a part of the European Union. When she takes my order, I can tell she really doesn’t understand the concept I am trying to get across.
"Ice." I say for the third time. "Can you put a few ice cubes into my coffee?"
"Eh," She repeats for the third time. "Do, eh, you want, eh, iced coffee with your hot coffee?" She starts (once again) reaching into the refrigerator for a bottle of pre-made iced coffee that looks like chocolate milk.
"No." I try a different tack. "I want my coffee warm. Please add Ice to the hot coffee to cool it down. I want it tepid."
She makes a face at me and turns to consult for the third time with her colleague in a language that may (or may not) have been Polish. I look at the arrivals board outside the doors to the duty free. The flight from Minneapolis arrived half an hour ago and there is still no notation that the baggage is ready to be claimed yet. Good. It may take another half hour just to get my coffee order.
"Is this to carry away or to drink here?" she asks, her consult over.
"To go." I say, not thoroughly sure of what I was going to get. I have to make a few more directions as I am keeping an eye on the board and finally, an entire scoop of Ice into the scalding hot coffee later, the coffee is ready to take away.
It is really fun to watch people at airports. They get tense and cross for reasons that still mystify me. I can understand people being so when they have just flown trans-Atlantic flights with a plane full of screaming children or rude strangers, but presumably, the people now waiting in the arrivals area have just driven in from their homes here in London and should be fresh and ready to start their days (it is, after all 10:00 am!) and this tired and cross attitude should not be so evident. Perhaps Douglas Adams was right. The airport itself makes people tired and cross.
I am getting a bit cross myself because their plane, having landed more than an hour-and-a-half ago, Dad and Flo still have not arrived. It NEVER takes me more than an hour to get through passport control. Has there been some problem? Has someone mistaken Dad for a Drug Mule? Is Flo getting into trouble for trying to smuggle in Granola Bars?
No. There was just a problem with there being a thousand people in line ahead of them. Dad and Flo emerge from Customer and Passport control looking forward to their first day in London. It has taken nearly two hours since they touched-down, but Dad and Flor are officially in the UK. It is going to be a great trip because aside from a few tourist destinations that are definite "musts," and a party this coming weekend, there is nothing on the agenda! I am very nearly officially on vacation!
I hope that wherever you are, your week is ending as pleasantly!
Don Bergquist - 28 July 2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK