As I mentioned before, I spent the last two weeks in California, in a combination work and little bit of play trip. The great part about this trip was both the Critter and my bride got to come with me. The bad part of the trip was, even though the Critter at 3 years old has more stamps in her passport than I did until I reached 30, and is quicker than the stewardess to tell me that the 'seat-belt light means you've got to put it on now, not when you feel like it, mister' - she's still 3 years old. It's pretty much a 12 hour journey from San Francisco back to the farm, even when everything goes right. And let's face it, a 3 year old has the all the patience of a ferret with ADD.
The trouble with traveling through London in the summer is the tourists. Mostly American. Probably perfectly nice people that I'd love to split a banana sandwich with under any other circumstances. However, when they're in Heathrow, something seems to bring out the Complete Ass in people. This includes the people that work there, incidentally. Cram that many people in that small a space, and some kind of self-paranoid hive mind develops, which I am normally powerless against.
But this time I had the critter. Crying 3 year olds aren't just a pain in their parents ass, you see. They're also a weapon. Seriously. They should make you license these things. They get you to the head of the line. They get a you sympathetic ear at the ticket stand. They empower you with the noble right to give withering glances to the poor, sad, lone business traveler who places his need to make a living over my need to get through the line quicker because I have a tired monkey on my shoulder.
I promise I will only use the Critter for the forces of good. Or personal advancement. But that's pretty much the same thing in my mind.
Even so, we made it back about 6 hours late and without any bags: Heathrow is a beast that must be fed.
We landed about 15 minutes behind schedule (a virtual miracle), and waded our way through a sea of Iowans gawking at all the people talking with funny accents to the connecting terminal. At passport control, we were behind the 42-man South African Irish Regiment (I'm so not making that up), meaning we made it to the gate about 5 minutes before they were going to close it and pull away. Phew.
Except... 'I'm sorry, we can't check you on the plane. We don't think your luggage will make it, and you can't go without your luggage.'
Ouch. So we're checked onto the next flight, scheduled to leave four hours later, and spend a delightful morning entertaining the Critter at the airport. Fortunately, she thought it was hilarious to run laps around the gate waiting area, while I sat in the middle with a undiluted caffeine drip plugged into my forearm.
We make it to Manchester almost exactly 5 hours after we were originally scheduled. Standing at the baggage claim, it takes about 10 minutes for the name being called on the paging system to register through the haze my mind had sunk into.
'We're sorry, Mr. Grady - we think your bags are still at Heathrow.'
'You think they're at Heathrow?'
'Well, we know there are three of them there. How many did you have?'
'Hmm. The other one must be there too, I'm sure.'
'Let's stop and appreciate the irony. You told me that, even though I was standing at the still-open gate for the original flight, I couldn't get on because you couldn't guarantee my bags would make it. So you asked me to wait five hours to get on the next flight. And my bags didn't make it.'
'That is ironic, isn't it?'
Truthfully, I didn't give the lady at Manchester too much of a hard time - while she was the face of BMI at the moment, and I could tell she expected a beating, it wasn't really her fault. And by this time, the Critter had worn herself down into a 3-year-old shaped puddle on the floor of the baggage claim area, and home was a short car ride away.
The bags did make it the next day. All four of them. Ain't travel fun?