Posts filed under ‘travel’

Twenty-Eight Hours Later

I do this for a reason. I want you to donate to a children’s charity and write to me. Please see the About Lesley page or read the instructions at the end of this post…..

I have been blog-quiet for a couple of weeks. This was not intentional. I was in the US with work for 10 days and my sleeping patterns and long hours always mean that the brain is used up during the working day.

I was therefore full of great intentions last Wednesday when I started my journey home. The plan was simple – fly from O’Hare to Newark at 4pm and then from Newark to Belfast at just after 9pm, landing home before 9am on Thursday morning. Alas, quoting the man with whom I share a birthday, the best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men gang aft agley; the reality was not that simple.

I had checked my flight and the weather before heading to the airport. They had talked about storms coming in from the East but the sky was blue and the temperature was in the 90s farenheit (did I say how lovely it had been to see blue skies?) and all looked well in the mid-West. I checked in and was relaxing with my book in Departures when a muffled announcement came over the tannoy. I wasn’t able to make out what they said but the fact that my fellow passengers immediately lifted their phones to talk about delays gave me all the information I needed.

When travelling I try to be very relaxed, you have no control over the situation. However, you also have to be canny. I noticed a queue for boarding at a nearby gate and it said Newark on the display. It transpired this was the delayed 1pm flight to Newark so I asked the attendant if there was any space. He smiled and said sorry and sent me to the Customer Services desk.

Oh, the Customer Services desk – a queue of about 300 people, 300 hot, sweaty people. I joined the queue figuring I wasn’t getting home in a hurry. It was a remarkably good-humoured queue, we smiled and chatted as we shuffled slowly along. I had plenty of time to call my colleagues still in the US and to let home know I wasn’t getting home as it took two hours to get to the top of the queue.

Then the fun began. I record as much of the conversation as possible as it was highly entertaining:-

Service Rep (SR) – And what is your final destination madam?

Me – Belfast

SR – Oh, I’ve never heard of that, where is that?

Me – Ireland, Northern Ireland.

SR – Oh, how lovely, my mum and dad’s best friends were originally from Ireland (conversation carries on for a while here)….. So, how are we going to get you there?

Me (with slightly surprised expression)- Okay, well, you could fly me to Dublin direct or send me to a mainland airport and then arrange a connection to Belfast International.

SR – You know more than me, I wonder what those airports would be?

Me – Dublin is DUB. UK airports include London Heathrow, Glasgow, Manchester. I know there are flights from all of those to Belfast.

SR – So, what one will we try?

Me – We could go for London Heathrow?

SR – Erm…..

Me – LHR is the airport code.

SR – (Types) – I could get you to there tomorrow on a direct flight. (Aside to friend) – I am working until 6pm but if anyone is rude then I am walking out. (Back to me) Now we need to get you to Belfast, do you know anyone who flies there?

Me – I promise I will be very nice and I know Aer Lingus fly from Heathrow to Dublin.

SR – Oh, you are great, I will help you. Aer Lingus? Erm…..

Me – Try EI, that is the airline code for Aer Lingus.

SR – Oh look, there is a flight at 9:30 daily. What date will you be flying from there though? I can’t work out these dates!

Me – If I am flying to Heathrow from here on the 19th, then I will need a flight on the morning of the 20th.

SR – I can do that!

Me – Excellent, thank you. One small thing, I had treated myself to a new economy flight for the Newark to Belfast flight, I assume you will give me the same for the Chicago to Heathrow flight?

SR – Of course. (Lifts phones, talks) I have you in 29A, that is new economy. ~(Hands over a boarding card and a ticket for the Belfast flight).

Me – Thank you. Now what do I do tonight? (You have to ask) 🙂

SR (very business-like now) – Oh, we won’t be doing anything for a hotel, this is a weather issue, you have to sort that out. I can give you this voucher for a bus.

Me – I will go back to my hotel near work. And my bag?

SR – It stays here.

Me – Oh, okay then.

I have shortened the conversation as there was much typing and consulting throughout the process and it took about 45 minutes. I am glad to report that one of my friends came to pick me up and take me back to the hotel. All my colleagues who were also out in Chicago were sympathetic but we all know that this can happen, we just hope it doesn’t happen to us. I think it was just my turn….

I had no bag but the hotel provided me with toiletries. However, I had been standing in that queue for two hours and no-one comes out of that feeling fresh and clean. I had no clean clothes for the next day and was too tired to shop. The answer was simple. I washed all my clothes apart from my jeans in my room and hung them up to dry as I collapsed into bed before 9pm. I thought that was plenty of time for them to dry overnight. And yet again it wasn’t that simple.

I woke with a start at 4am. I showered, checked my clothes and they were soaking. What to do now? I could turn on the heating to full and wait but that wasn’t going to work too well. At this time it was 5am and breakfast service didn’t start until 6am so it would be very quiet, not too many people about. The hotel has a laundry with dryers. So, commando was the only way to go. I put on my coat (at this point very happy that I had brought it) and my jeans and placed my damp clothes in a bag. I needed 6 quarters, I only had 2. So, I toddled to the front desk and asked for a dollar to be changed, avoiding eye contact on the journey. I then snuck round to the laundry and was able to dry my clothes. By the time I went down to breakfast I looked almost human.

Then into the office to surprise a few people. There was no point in lurking round the hotel and I had things to do. I also checked my seat on the flight and guess what, no New Economy seat. They placed me in the first row of economy and a part of me thought that a very cruel trick by United Airlines. I called the help desk and in five minutes had a new boarding card so at least was able to sort it.       I finished my work, was given a lift to the airport at lunchtime and am glad to report that I landed in London early the next morning. Nice to see all those welcome notices for the athletes:)

One other little tale from the flight to Belfast. There had been a lot of redirected passengers on my flight to London and a few of us were on the Belfast flight, many, many tired people who had come from further than me. I did note one couple who checked at the desk to ensure their boarding cards were valid, they were assured they were. We all boarded the plane promptly but didn’t move. I may have dozed off but was then woken by loud voices. A woman’s voice shouting ‘This is outrageous’. Much to-ing and fro-ing of cabin crew and 20 minutes later the couple was taken off the plane. I have no idea why this happened, I am certain it was not the couples fault and I had great sympathy for them. The lady stomped down the plane and turned round before she exited. She faced down the plane, shouted ‘Never fly United!’ and stomped off. That is what I call a classy exit.

We took off almost 40 minutes late but landed happily in Belfast shortly after. My bag of course didn’t come off the carousel so I went to baggage reclaim. My bag was there before me, had landed earlier that morning and I only had to wait another 20 minutes to get it.

And there we have it, twenty-eight hours later, I was home. Next time, please let it be like this!

I close, as always, with this:-

  • Please donate to a valid children’s charity of your choice.
  • Visit this blog and comment about your donation. Please also tell me what you wanted to be when you were 8. I still want to collect those tales and hope that some child will read about your words and deeds and want to do the same when they are older.

I will:-

  • Add your donation to the Totals page on this blog, totals are updated weekly.
  • I will also write some words about the current donations and the charity
  • Store all comments so that everyone can read them.

Thank you for reading.


July 25, 2012 at 9:23 am 4 comments

A Little Slice of Life, travel…..

I blog to get people to donate to kid’s charities. I don’t want money, I want you to donate direct to a children’s charity then write to me by commenting on the blog. Please read the ‘About Lesley’ section of the blog to find out why I do this; the Comments and Running Totals pages to see how far we have come….

I was travelling home from the US to Belfast a few days ago. I travel a few times a year to the US on business so am quite used to long-haul travel. My trip home meant 2 flights so I had to spend almost 4 hours in Newark airport. Airports are weird, fact. They are filled with excited holidaymakers, harrassed workers and people like me, trying not to count all the minutes that must past until they reach home again. You see smiles, grimaces and those who go within themselves to cope with the utter boredom.

I had already spent 3 hours on a plane when I reached Newark and with the thoughts of a 7 hour flight to follow I took a wander. I ended up in a bookshop as usual, this is always a good way for me to while away some time. I bought a couple of books simply because they caught my eye. If they are good they may be new authors for me, if not at least I tried a couple of new authors.

I then went back to the wandering. Knowing you will be stuck in a seat for hours will make you want to stretch your legs. However, this does get wearying when you are carrying two laptops in your bag. I take two laptops so that I have my personal and work machines, heavy but worth it when I can Skype home to see how all are faring without me. I am glad to say they do very well without me, they are well used to it now.

So, back to the airport routine. I found a bar and had my one small glass of wine. A gripe at this point, it was a very small glass of wine and it cost me nine dollars, what a rip-off! I took a seat, pulled out my book, not one of the new ones, this was the book in progress. This part of the routine allowed me to pass another 30 minutes of the wait. Once that was done, I took another dander around the concourse. You see so many faces that seem like mirrors when you do this. On holiday you are normally with loved ones and full of anticipation for the trip to come or happy memories of the trip just finished. When alone, all you notice are the weary faces with their laptops and blackberries and they all have the one face, the ‘are we there yet’ face.

Next was food. I hate airport food and have often wondered if the chefs are sent on special courses to make the food as dull as the wait. I knew it had been hours since I had eaten and hours before I would get ‘beef or chicken’ on the plane so I knew I should eat. I picked a diner at random as it looked reasonably busy without blasting sports or music at loud volumes. Looking back on it I wish I had gone elsewhere as this was one of the most depressing places I have ever been. I got a table and ordered a burger, this is always a safe(-ish) choice when in the US.

My burger and coke came and it was fine but I was distracted by one waitress. She was older than the rest of the staff and the short-skirt and tight blouse combo they all wore did not look comfortable. She looked so sad that it quite took my breath away. I saw her wipe the counter and place little sachets of mustard into dishes for the tables and then she took a short break. She came around the counter and sat on the end stool. I say sat but I mean slumped, her whole body looked both shattered and defeated. I don’t think I have ever seen anyone look so bereft. Thinking of it now makes me want to cry, she looked tired of it all, tired of life. I hope I am wrong in my reading of this woman. I hope that she has a happy and wonderful life and that only her work caused this visage. I never want to be that tired of life, I want to grasp it by the scruff and I hope you do too.

My travel did end eventually, I did get back to my lovely home. The jet lag is gone now too but that woman’s face still lingers in my mind. There will always be times when we are tired and sad but I hope that we will have memories of all good times to lift us and that is what I hope for the sad lady in the diner.

I close with my normal request to you:-

  • Donate to a valid children’s charity of your choice. It is easy to do – online, collection boxes, Give as You Earn. Any amount is important and I am delighted for one pound, dollar, euro, yen to reach a charity. Donate a present to a family or child that will not have the holiday season that you might expect and plan for.
  • Visit this blog and comment anywhere with the charity, amount including currency and please also tell me what you wanted to be when you were 8. I love the stories of childish ambitions.

I will then:-

  • Add your donation to the Totals page on this blog, totals are updated weekly.
  • I will also write some words about the current donations and the charity
  • All comments will be stored on the comments page so that you can see what charities people are interested in and also what a variety of 8-year-old ambitions we have already. I am looking forward to way more surprises from you all.

The steps are simple. Again, if you like the idea please tell others so that they will come and tell me their stories.

Take care of you and yours.


April 25, 2011 at 9:39 pm Leave a comment


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