En Route

January 14, 2009

Heathrow Airport, London, UK

Wednesday, January 13, 5:37 EDT (Sarasota), 10:37 GMT (London), 11:37 CET (Italy)

No matter how many times you “cross the pond,” the experience is different. Perhaps one day I’ll manage to sleep on a flight, but this time followed what seems to be my routine: watching a movie then closing my eyes and pretending to sleep while actually just thinking. This flight I started out with three seats to myself, but then a man from the front of the plane came and took one, so that I couldn’t fall asleep across three seats as I’d hoped. Oh well! I watched “Eagle Eye” during dinner—I don’t recommend it—and then “Flight of the Conchords” in the “morning.” At least the flight was quiet and uneventful, and less cold than I’d anticipated.

Please excuse the following generalization. The British: efficient until their machines break down. I arrived in Dulles at a quarter to nine, ran to where I hoped my gate was (it wasn’t on any of the monitors because the monitors only showed United flights and I was transferring to British Airways), found two people at the counter and told them I needed a boarding pass and was flying through to Rome. I was informed briefly that my flight was two hours delayed and they were putting me on the flight leaving right then at 9:15—an hour ahead of my scheduled flight. I was handed two boarding passes and shepherded to the plane; thirty seconds later, they closed the boarding door. I was somewhat shocked and amazed at this display of efficiency, and grateful that they found a way to let me leave so as not to miss my connection.

At Heathrow, I saw the darker side of British efficiency. After deplaning and riding the shuttle bus to the terminal, I followed signs to a new feature: passport and boarding pass control and screening—for those going to connecting flights. Last summer I was able to walk easily from one gate to the next; now you have to go through extra security. And, apparently, the elevator from this floor to the one above where the gates are was broken, so there was an extremely long line… that led to another long line above to pass through the security itself. Ugh. At least I was arriving an hour ahead of schedule thanks to my earlier flight, so I didn’t have to worry about missing my connection.

Now I’m sitting here in Heathrow bemoaning the lack of free wi-fi by typing this, my first post! My roommate, Sara, is probably somewhere in central Europe trying to get to Rome… her plane to Dulles was delayed (de-icing) so she missed her flight to London, and now, instead of arriving at 7:30am, is going to get there around 7pm. Alas. But in five hours time I should be in Rome, and then it’s only a half-hour or 45 minute shuttle ride to my new apartment! I hope our third roommate is there. I’m excited!