Continued from Part-1
@ London Heathrow Airtport
I censored the story as requested and informed the lady @ the nearby desk, she made a quick check and asked me – “your flight from Dubai wasn’t late – how come you’re late?” I worked on the losing luggage part of the story and having to run around for it. She was convinced, the conversation was as follows:
Lady: You’ll need to catch the next flight.
Myself: and when is it scheduled for?
Myself: (what) Oh Tomorrow.
Lady: There is one from Heathrow to Chicago tomorrow at about 10:30 am, and another flight from Gatwick airport few hours earlier than that, moreover this is to your final destination – DFW, you can avoid having to travel via Chicago.
Myself: (After all the trip I had made around London, I would never want to step out of the airport, but what a show off I was – as though I was so very bothered of being late to work) Where is Gatwick airport? Is it close by? (I was hoping for an answer in the negative)
Lady: Yeah very close by – just catch a bus from here.
(Right after the train journey, now time for BUS – more so without being sure if cash was deposited into my card).
Myself: Thanks Madam, I prefer the flight from here to Chicago.
(I didn’t want to ask the next question – but )
Myself: Charge for cancellation and re-booking tickets. (as though I had all the cash in the world).
Thank GOD. Kis ne kaha baghwaan nahin hai.
But, now the problem was I had about 21 hrs or so to go for my flight. After all of my blunder I was shameless as ever to ask – will accommodation be taken care of. And the lady mentioned “Sorry sir, since BA was not responsible for this delay we cannot host you, Please check with VA”. Agreed, And I was off to check if VA would provide me a place to live for the night.
At VA, the guy helped me a lot to figure out the baggage and after all his efforts were wasted, he asked me to check with Emirates – but he also mentioned “sorry, VA cannot host you”. Thank You.
The worst of the help desk I faced was with Emirates, they were not even considerate, and were blunt and rude in the way they spoke.
I inquired and received the confirmation that the airport terminals would be open all day (24 hrs). And I felt, I had just found a large home, the corners of which I had no clue about.
Next, it was time to inform folks in USA (my colleagues) and India (home) about me being delayed by 24 hrs. I mentioned right, I had a calling card. It was now time to use it – and to add to the drama of the day, I find the card to have expired months ago (which was apparently overlooked by everybody – the distributor, the person who handed the card to me and by me). Grrrrr……
Okay no problem, time to make a call using the money card. At least I’ll know if it has cash. And what – the card doesn’t work. What just happened – I’ve no cash (Euros or Pounds), not so friendly world money card and an expired calling card.
I found an exchange place, I went ahead and got 20$ converted ( about 10 Pounds or what ever the conversion is), anything will do – after all I just wanted cash to make a call (and may be to munch something on). I made the calls and it was now time to “kill time”.
I walked around terminal 3, and now that I knew the direction of trains – I frequently commuted between Terminal 3 & Terminal 1. I was @ home in the train – after all, I now knew where the train was heading to. I was a master of Terminal 1 & 3. It was night and my stomach was growling. I wanted to check if my card worked anywhere. I stepped into a card shop & bought the cheapest of the cards (some London bridge stuff) using the money card & guess what – TING – it worked. Ha I was happy as ever I had been. I now bought some cookies (they accepted only cash) and that was my dinner. Also, it was time for the trains to stop functioning. I decided to stay put in Terminal 1 as it was more colorful.
I was here in Terminal 1 at arrival lounge, looking at all of the passengers (lots of flights were making their way in). I just sat around the folks who were waiting to pick up their near & dear ones, pretending to be waiting for some dear folk of mine who was just about to turn up and shout out “Hey Vivek”.
At about this time, a group of folks (almost all from India) heading to Wales University were arriving at the airport. The students were grouped and were waiting for other joinees. At this point, I decided to put up all of my experiences of the day onto my hand book (a small notepad). While I was deeply involved in my writing, I noticed some people peeping into my book – probably thinking of me as some movie’s story/script writer. With all the built-up frustration in me, writing about it seemed to be the only solution (I just wanted to share it with someone) and a bad stare at the peeping folks ensured they didn’t repeat it.
Almost all of the folks in Terminal 1 had cleared – it was just me and few other people (about 5-7) – not sure what they were doing there, waiting for some one or were they as lost as me. And here started the longest wait of my life.
It was freezing cold out there in London, and I had packed my jacket into the check-in baggages (as it was not cold in India), luckily I had a sweater which I hung around me all the time. There was no chance I could’ve stepped out – else I would’ve been moulded into some statue in ice. It was freezing and snowing.
I decided to get a nap – just picturize me finding a place to sleep just like how Tom Hanks does in “The Terminal” – looking around for benches and joining them (I didn’t break any though), the time must’ve been around 11:00 pm. I slept and slept and slept, and woke up to see if time had passed, and yeah it did – a whole 3 mins, 11:03 pm. This game of sleep, pass time, wake up continued till it was about 5:30 am the next day. And now the crowd was building up at the airport which was good news to me, that was better than staring at the watch. All this while I shifted through lots of places to get a nap (which never happened to be sound).
And by 9:00 am I got through my daily routines – but without brushing my teeth. It was stinking to the core :D. I headed to Terminal-3. Got through the security checks and I was in the departure lounge. An hour or so of wait & I would be headed to Chicago. And luckily, I didn’t have any more excitement during the wait.
London to Chicago on British Airways
I always wished for a mast mast beautiful person (the fairer sex I mean) sat beside me, but it had never worked that way in all of my flights – so far that is. And guess what – surprise surprise (which was totally unnecessary), a nice looking female (got to know she was an American – not blond) just about my age sitting on the seat beside me. Nooooooooo – I mentioned right – my mouth stinks – hadn’t brushed. I sat beside her, shared a “Hi” and pretended to be feeling sleepy (I sure was feeling, I think). We had some small conversations, I just didn’t have the energy (mouth problem) to keep the conversations longer. But then after a few hours had passed by, and few hours before landing I dug through the pouch in the seat ahead of me (the pouch was meant for me), and guess what I find – a tooth-paste & brush (ughhhh… why hadn’t I searched there earlier). I got through the brushing and soon as I had brushed I felt all of my energy and confidence getting back in me. I got to my place and saw the lady – beautifully Sleeping Zzzzzzzzz. I wouldn’t disturb her – gentleman you see. After she had woken up, we shared some longer talks and by then it was time to get down @ Chicago and head to Dallas.
Chicago to DFW on American Airlines
During the security check the guards were quite surprised to see me walk without any luggage, and inquired about it. (And many repeats of the story was done). I walked through to get my boarding tickets, the lady at the desk asked me the same question. And she informed that it was expected that the luggage would go missing while traveling on different flights. In fact, I was expecting the same and had packed some additional dresses (than usual) into my carry bag. (What more I had even joked about losing my luggage before I left India.) I then boarded the flight and was on the last seat of the flight.
To keep the adventure going, it turns out one of the engines of the Flight had gone to heaven, and we were on backup – but it would take a while before it comes up (about 1 hour), and we had to wait sitting in the plane. On the positive side, the adventure was not big – what if this adventure were to happen while in air (though backups are available – why want for it). During the wait I’ve no idea when my eyes shut and I fell into a deep abyss of sleep (a total dead body – something like Kumbakarna). I had no idea when the flight took off and reached DFW (the place I should have landed 24 hrs earlier).
At DFW airport I got my luggage loss complaint registered with all details of my bag (the looks, color, shape, size, etc..). They informed me the luggage should be at my place in about 3 days (and if it were not to arrive in say7 days – consider it lost -nooooooooooooo). And then I headed to the hotel were I was to be put up. All good, right now.
And after a couple of days of wait, I was beginning to lose my everything, patience included. The luggage hadn’t arrived, I made plenty of calls to the helpdesk (I think once it was an Indian who spoke, stereotyped or not – not sure) and they all gave the same info. “we’re yet to locate it”. The problem now was, as I mentioned before – I had packed the luggage, I not only had placed some money into the baggage – but had also with all of my “brilliance” placed my shirts in one of the baggage and the other baggage carried my trousers. And guess what the next day I receive one baggage with only shirts. Huh… some say “something is better than nothing”, that kept me happy.
After managing with the shirts & pants I had for about 8-10 days I received my other baggage with its handle broken (that is fine, as long as everything inside it was present). And like how every story we read in school books has a happy ending – mine had too – Everything safe in the baggage & the next day I head to office in a different pairing of shirt & pant.
It was later that I watched “The Terminal” and thought “what if I had to be put up in the airport for 8 months” – I would’ve gone crazy running between terminals 1 & 3 (but yeah, I would have got to meet Catherine Zeta-Jones.
On my fourth trip to the USA – I had my packing done with all of my experience and wisdom (that I had gained). If you have made it till here – I am sure you’re smart enough to learn from the experiences I have had.