The Unruly “Unruly Road to Dublin”

The surreal atmosphere of inhumane airport terminal design.

Something about the combination of Windows, or more properly, Windows Starter, and the limited computing muscle of the Toshiba NB505 netbook, and my iffy T-Mobile hot spot, not to drop brand names, but that’s how it is… Not to mention the glitch-inducing ambiance of SFO after 12 hours, 2 pat-downs, a $500 flight voucher – maybe it went to my head, so much money luck in a single day:

First: I accept American Airlines’ offer of a flight change in exchange for a voucher, then a woman pours Australian coins into my hands at the currency exchange window under the impression I was going down under. I made her take them back. Then the British Airways counterwoman gives me a $9 food voucher to soften the blow of a flight delay that means I won’t be touching down in Dublin until 8:30 pm Monday, a full 12 hours later than originally scheduled. And she puts me in the long-leg row, which, when I tried it myself checking into my original American Airlines flight, was going for $26.

The point is, I lost a whole blog post. It was there but now it’s gone. It was called “The Unruly Road to Dublin” and it wallowed in the minutiae of unforeseen changes in flight plan. I liked it. I worked hard on it. And now, you’ll never read it.

I could blame myself for its loss, but it’s more accurate to blame my relationship with my NB505, and the NB’s relationship to its own processor and software, not to mention the hypersensitiviy of its touchpad. And don’t get me started on WordPress, which provides me with a free blog platform not up to my exacting standards.

What I mean about the ambiance: right now there’s this loud, angry chirp sounding every other second somewhere beneath the cozy old jazz standards piped into this trying-to-be-a-nice-Italian cafe overlooking the tarmac where I chose to spend my $9 on a microwaved slice of cheddar-and-broccoli quiche and a cup of dragonwell tea.

It’s a crazy, disorienting scene here in-between flights…

IN THE EVENING

We’re climbing to wherever it is we climb to these days, is it still 33.000 feet? I ordered a whisky when the complimentary cart rolled up and was handed a mini Johnny Walker Red, which I’m sipping over the rocks and let me tell you, if there’s one thing that was missing from my delay-addled experience, it was the burning devastation of 5 cl of 40% proof. Over ice. Everything’s just fine now and I hope it continues thus. As long as nothing too meaningful’s required of me.

I think I’d rather travel than just about anything else. Physically, mentally, emotionally.

It’s very odd, these BA flight attendants sound to me German, French, anything but British. The Brit honeymooner I chatted with while we were all waiting to be able to board was definitely, recognizably Bri’ish. These flight attendants, I don’t know. Although, funnily, I do know one of them. He’s got wide-set eyes and pin curls, and I recognize him from some other flight, some other time.

So, what, you’re wondering, is the Unruly Road to Dublin? Well, I was due there at 8 am Tuesday, I mean, that was my booked-online reservation, interrupted by the offer to voluntarily not board American’s oversold flight 892, departing San Francisco at 10:45 after three hours at the airport, in exchange for a $500 voucher. The replacement flight, non-stop BA to London connecting to Aer Lingus sounded like an upgrade. That was before BA 284 was delayed 2.5 hours, disabling my transfer to Aer Lingus, bumping me onto British Midlands, arriving in Dublin at 8:20 pm.

LATER THAT SAME NIGHT

After that Johnny Walker, followed by a swift French Merlot, who knows, who cares? I’m tempted by Duty Free, I somehow love the idea of a shop suspended high in the sky, unbound by normal laws like gravity, but they never have anything I can justify the luxury of.

I have to say, though, the vegetarian option, or more properly, vegan, as distinguished from the vegetarian Hindu (something Julia Roberts might go for) was scrumptious. Planks of eggplant, undulating like a deep-sea creature in olive oil, accompanied by its tomato brethren. Similarly, the no-nonsense fruit salad: watermelon, cantaloupe, crenshaw, actually fresh. The salad was blah, but heigho. And, as a last act, a single rice cake, surprisingly effective. The tea, nice and strong, I hope doesn’t undo all the intoxication, so I can sleep a bit.

11:10 California time, daylight savings, what’s that for the Greenwich mean? 7:10 in the morning? If so, London is a mere 7 hours away. Am I ready? It’ll mean leaving Terminal 5 for Terminal 1, a daunting prospect.

NEXT MORNING

Finally got some sleep, after a midnight snack of hot tea washed down with Walker’s shortbread and Paterson’s Oat Bites, an addictive meld of oats, cheese and chili. How am I to go vegan when they keep throwing cheese at me? Even my mini-burger at Burger Joint yesterday came with pepper jack. Oops, I wasn’t going to mention that.

Now I’m on my third cuppa, have had my WC run, chatted with the charming young mother whose 8-month old daughter kept waking us up with, frankly, beautiful vocalise. The quality of her cry was sweet and pure, elemental speech, the emotional voice.

Folding away the table back into the armrest now for landing.

WAITING FOR BAGOT

The squeak of rubber as the baggage conveyor plates undulate serpentwise.

My seatmate, Alicia, had dilated eyes for take-off and an almost hysterical laugh such as I myself used to try to pull off. She was plain, still under 30, a bit round in the middle with well-toned calves. She put her own personal headphones on to sleep, having glued herself to the mini-video screen for most of the waking flight, and kept them on upon regaining consciousness, and when the attendant told her to take them off, Alicia seemed a bit grim. As she was closing her knapsack I saw the tell-tale yellow-orange prescription bottle being recapped. I’d pegged it for valium but now I think something harder, more routine, an anti-depressant. Something about her description of her vacation alone in the Greek isles, or that accompanying laugh, made it feel less wholesome, more desperate. I wish her well. She was a good seatmate, a fellow “female opt-out”, a San Franciscan.

I was semi-grilled by a lovely younger thing at Passport Control, who approved of my plan to sit in a pub in Dublin post-Oxford, before revealing the giveaway Irish syllable of hesitation, “em”.

After I get my bag I’m off to Terminal One if I can find it. Maybe buy a SIM card for my unlocked phone, and try to find a WHSmith, it’s been too long, even though I’m always disappointed in their paper products.

Are these really the contents of my mind? Not the most interesting ones, surely. Like my terror of Customs. Or the odd absence of a love object.

POST-CUSTOMS

I walked through the Nothing to Declare portal and clear through to the outer terminal. Now I’m sitting eating my first “traditional Welsh cake,” which tastes like a delicate sweet cakey pancake pocked with sultanas and currants, waiting for my doubled-bagged Earl Grey to cool down enough to sip. I’m having a hot flash, my first in a while.

Anyway, my bag didn’t appear, even though I’d been assured by the moon-faced British Airways woman, the sharp-featured cabin attendant, and the sympathetic Irish lass at Passport, I’d have to go through the in-my-mind hellish Heathrow treatment. But no, I’m checked-through to Dublin, I mean my bag is. I have yet to pass through security again. For which ordeal I’m girding myself with pastries and tea.

Nothing’s cheap here. Is it anywhere? 1.9 for a “large” tea, 0 for second cup of hot water, 1.15 for two Welsh cakes. I’m not yet able to translate that. The cakes are obviously the better deal but I must have my cuppas.

Fascinating trio at next table, middle-aged daughter and father gabbing away ’til the mother arrives and talk ceases. Then they photograph each other, then they start talking. I think Mum’s too astute for the other two, who simply don’t measure up.

Great to see the Brits in the flesh. And a real city. After San Francisco, that adorable village.

I think the whole point of the Unruly “Unruly” is it contained my anguish at having to be strip-searched by Londoners, a foundless fear, as it happens, so having it disintegrate isn’t so horrible. Nothing’s so horrible when I’m scarfing scrumptious tea cakes and slurping brilliant tea. Ta, London, it’s good to be back. Although, when you have to wait a long time a few times in succession, you develop a certain apathy, to the point where you could miss your flight, because you’ve lost the sense of urgency about moving on. I feel like I live at the airport.

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