Tag Archives: united

When a (wo)man is tired of London…

19 Apr

“Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” — Samuel Johnson

I wouldn’t go as far as to say I’m tired of London, but it’s certainly grinding on me lately. The crowds of tourists have been giving me a mean case of pedestrian road rage (yes, that’s a thing), and it’s taken everything I’ve got not to body slam a group of Spanish high school students blocking the entire pavement in the park whilst I’m running. Things that used to be a happy coincidence — like just happening to catch the Horseguards changing of the guards when trying to get to St. James Park have become a huge nuisance. There’s always something going on near our flat in central London, whether it be Mary Poppins filming or an alt right protest (and anti-alt right protest and a huge police presence just in case the two protests clashed).

So while those crowds of tourists who walk at a snail’s pace and stop sporadically for selfies couldn’t be more chuffed to be in London, I am so looking forward to heading to America tomorrow. I’m looking forward to driving again, to running in my parent’s subdivision with no chance of getting trapped behind tour groups and slow walkers, and, of course, seeing family and friends. I’m starting in Milwaukee, then heading to Chicago, then finally to Cincinnati via my old pal Megabus (please no explosions this time!).

I just checked in online for my flight and was surprised when Delta informed me the second leg of my trip might be overbooked and asked me if I’d be willing to accept a voucher to go on a different flight. (A new process in light of the recent United fiasco, perhaps?) The kicker is they asked me to bid with the voucher amount I’d be willing to accept — $200, $300, $400, or $500. I opted out since I have a non refundable hotel reservation to make, but I wonder what kind of person bids $300? Whoever bids the least will be the first to be bumped. Presumably someone who for one reason or another doesn’t really want to take the flight will bid $200, but anyone who’s smart would go for the max. Who bids $300 or $400? I’d really love to know.

Here’s hoping for smooth traveling (I’m flying Delta, but wearing leggings) and as mild a case of jetlag as possible!

london pug bus

At least I saw a pug bus today!

Reporting live from Newark Airport yesterday

25 Nov

I’m writing this from American soil — Newark Liberty Airport. I was not supposed to have time to sit down and bang out a blog post. But I sailed through customs, dropped my bag off again, then gazed at the board to double check my Cincinnati flight, and there it was in red letters — CANCELED.

Up until then things were going swimmingly. My bag was 53.1 kg (.1kg overweight) and they didn’t bat an eye. No one gave my clearly overexpanded wheeled carry on a second glance. And to top it off, there was only one empty seat on the entire flight, and it was next to me. What did I do to deserve such blessing from the travel gods? Sure, the entertainment system and movies were rubbish, but as far as long-haul flights go, it was a relatively good one.

And then I got to America. After waiting for an unusually long time at the service desk, they informed me I was booked on the next flight to Cincinnati — leaving in over 4 hours. They told me because I was delayed for more than 3 hours I could get a free meal voucher from the service station. But they did not bother to tell me where the service station was. So I went up to a random United employee and asked. She directed me towards the exact agent who issued me my ticket. So I asked another guy. Same thing. But he said he would try to help me, and put his lackey on it. I have no idea who that guy was or what his job title was, but apparently he was a big shot. We chatted about London and the Bengals while his colleague struggled to get my voucher.

“It’s not much, like $7, but it’ll get you a free cup of coffee,” he told me.

His colleague finally returned with the voucher — and there were 2 of them.

“There’s two?” I said, thinking there was a mistake or reprint.

“Now you can get a whole cup of coffee,” he said with a wink.

Whoever that guy was, he was a shining example of what an airline employee should be. Friendly, helpful and efficient. And then I headed to security and met his exact opposite.

“Bag,” the guy said, pointing at my overexpanded carry on and then gesturing to that metal “will it fit?” guide.

“I know, I know,” I said, “but I’ll just gate check it.”

“No gate check.” he said.

“I’m going to Cincinnati and the plane is small so they always gate check all the wheeled bags,” I tried to explain.

“No gate check.” he said, motioning again to the metal guide.

“Just zip up this expander,” his colleague finally said, stepping in to help.

I knew it wouldn’t zip with my coat in there, so I opened the bag, took out my dressy coat, put it on underneath my puffy coat, zipped up my bag, and had a mental breakdown.

I have no idea what happened. One minute ago I was fine — I had $14 airport dollars burning a hole in my pocket and just got off a transatlantic flight in which I had two whole seats to myself. But something about that guy, the whole TSA charade and the thought of killing 4 hours in the airport after killing 8 hours on a flight just got to me.

I trudged through security, stripping off my two coats, trying to keep it together because if there’s one place you don’t want to appear mentally unstable its in airport security. I somehow got TSA pre-check (maybe because I already cleared security at Heathrow?) so I didn’t have to remove my laptop, shoes or liquids, which is good because I was such a mess I didn’t even think to. I wheeled my bag over to an empty gate, pulled myself together, and stuffed my coat back into my carry on and re-expanded it. I then got out my laptop, started watching a movie, put on my proverbial big girl panties and sucked it up. There are far, far worse airport situations to be in and being that it’s almost Thanksgiving and all, I should just be thankful that my coats, jumbo bags and I are safe.

Update: Half cup of coffee guy wasn’t kidding. I’m convinced Newark Airport’s food prices are based on the fact that at least 80% of their customers are using airport vouchers or company expense accounts. For $15 I got a small cup of berries, Greek yogurt, a small bag of popcorn and a chocolate bar.

Update 2: My overexpanded bag fit in the overhead. Suck on that “no gate check” guy.

The effects of afternoon tea on jet lag

20 Jan

I bet whoever came up with the washer-dryer combo unit thought it was the greatest idea ever. Heck, I thought it was the greatest thing ever when I first saw one. And then I used it. I believe Ron Swanson said it best:

ron swanson half assMy clothes aren’t that clean and are still damp despite being in dryer mode for 2 1/2 hours, but hey, at least I have one less appliance in my flat, right?

Since I used the word “flat” and am complaining about laundry, you are safe to assume I made it back to London in one piece (and with all my luggage! Which was inspected by the TSA twice, since apparently not that many people travel with jars of Peanut Butter & Co. and a julienne vegetable peeler.)  I am now deep in the struggles of remembering what my daily life is like when I’m not struggling to fall asleep and then forcing myself to wake up. I remember I used to love grocery shopping and did a lot of laundry, so that’s what I did today, and I should probably get some work done, but these sheets … so warm and clean!

I got a FitBit Force watch for Christmas, which thanks to a major back order, arrived two days before I left. It’s a nifty little contraption that measures the amount of steps you take, miles you walk, and hours you sleep, which is especially fun to track when jet lagged. Thursday night I logged 2 1/2 hours of sleep, which is a new record for plane sleeping for me, thanks to this gloriousness:

empty airplane seats

I always say I can’t sleep on planes, but what I really can’t do is sleep sitting up (I originally typed that “sit sleeping up.” Yeah… can you tell I need to sleep up soon?) I purposely chose this row of empty seats and then obsessively tracked the seat map on the United app to make sure nobody booked a seat in my row at the last minute. The downside of flying during the winter is the high chance of mechanical problems or weather cancellations, but at least the planes from the US to London are rarely full.

On Friday night I logged 9 1/2 hours of sleep, and thought I was back on track. But then Stephen and I went to afternoon tea at The Dorchester to celebrate our anniversary. It was lovely — the food, champagne and tea… lots and lots of tea, which it turns out doesn’t go well with jet lag. According to my FitBit, I was “restless” for an hour and a half before finally falling asleep on Saturday night. No more guzzling nearly two pots of tea for me.

I’ll end with a couple photos I took at the afternoon tea before I start talking too much about sleep, laundry and grocery shopping — or, my luxurious London life!

afternoon tea dorchester

afternoon tea dorchester cake

Well, at least nothing blew up, or 2014 so far

15 Jan

Four hours ago I was on a plane pulling away from gate A13 at the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky airport, headed to DC before connecting to London. I had my new headphones on playing the perfect takeoff song (since small electronics are allowed during takeoff now, thanks Obama!). I was ready. I had said goodbye to my parents and Squirt at the airport, put my just-under-50 pounds bag on the scale, and made it through security.

And yet now I am in my childhood bedroom in Kentucky, lying on the sheets I had to fish out of the laundry bin because I was supposed to be halfway across the Atlantic now. And all I can think is “Well, at least nothing blew up,” because that is my new standard — buses run late, planes get delayed or have error messages right as the pilot begins to take off, forcing you to return to the gate and miss your international connection, but as long as no one gets hurt and nothing catches fire, it’s OK. Things could be worse.

I have adopted this mindset thanks to the events that went down nearly a week ago. I boarded a Megabus — what was once my favorite mode of transportation — to Chicago, where I was to have a splendid weekend with friends and a reunion with my former college roommates. While it was still a relatively splendid visit, what time I was not spending with friends I spent shopping for things like underwear and deodorant because I arrived in Chicago five hours late (after leaving on time) with nothing but the pug sweatshirt I was wearing. Because my bus caught on fire and all of our luggage was destroyed.

I’m still amazed by how calmly I — and everyone, really — handled the situation. Things could always be worse, but this was a pretty bad situation and I didn’t break down. I got on another bus to Chicago without really thinking about it. In the news footage I’m smiling brightly. Maybe it was because I had nothing else to lose.

(“Anyone want to put anything in the luggage compartment?” our new driver asked. We could only stare at her blankly then laugh.)

The long battle to replace my belongings and receive compensation from Megabus has begun, and I’m sure it will be a long battle, but I’m thankful that no one was hurt. I love my things — probably more than the average person likes a pair of pajama bottoms or an umbrella — but it’s only when you see giant flames shooting out of a bus that you were on just minutes ago that you can truly say things can be replaced, life is what’s important.

Maybe there was a reason my plane had an error taking off this evening, maybe there wasn’t. I can only hope I can get to London safely tomorrow. A delay I can handle, but I think I’ve reached my limit on losing precious belongings this month. I’m not superstitious, but if I have one more traveling problem it’ll be hard not to think I’m wearing my unlucky travel pants or I somehow upset some karmic balance.

2014 can only get better.

 

 

 

I’m back in London and won’t blog about grocery shopping

3 Jul

It’s 64 degrees and raining on 3 July. That can only mean I’m back in London!

Things went relatively smoothly on my trip. My suitcase was a half a pound overweight but the kind people at the United counter said they’d let it slide. I had to connect in Newark and since I was paying for my flight with reward miles, I was given the worst possible seat on my short flight. (At least that’s what I believe.)

It was the very last seat on a very small plane. I had the deafening sound of the engine to my left, and the constant traffic and smell of the toilet on my right.

Cincinnati from the worst seat on the plane. That engine is why noise-canceling headphones were invented. Thankfully I bought some during my USA! USA! Buy Everything! rampage.

Nice view of NYC coming in to Newark.


The statue of liberty. And then my camera battery died.


I usually connect in Chicago for nostalgic reasons, but finally realized it’s much smarter to actually connect in the direction of travel. I believe Newark was a Continental hub, so now it’s United. I have to say the 777 was pretty awesome. I say this just because it had on-demand movies and TV shows instead of just eight continuously playing movies like United has. I watched programs the entire flight because I have trouble sleeping on planes. For me, sleeping on a plane is similar to a dog sleeping on a couch — you can never fully relax because someone is always walking by and there’s always the prospect of food coming, and you don’t want to miss food, no matter how crappy it is.

Our flight was delayed 90 minutes because the plane was late getting in. When I arrived at the gate there was a huge line (I’m sorry, must get back into “queue” mode) of people. For awhile I fought the peer pressure — they’re not boarding soon, why should I queue? — but eventually succumbed and got in line. Several people approached me and asked what the line was for. “I have no idea,” I said. “I just succumbed to the peer pressure and got in line because everyone else was.” No one seemed to find that answer satisfactory so the British guy in front of me chimed in with “passport check before boarding.” I was relieved to know my waiting had a purpose.

It was nice to see Heathrow fully decked out for the Olympics, with registration tables set up and even a separate passport check line for athletes. But since my flight was delayed, we arrived a little late, which is the worst possible thing when coming into London. Several (OK, it seemed like 10) other giant planes must have gotten there around the same time. I always decide to use the bathroom after I clear immigration so I don’t lose my space in line. Once I saw the passport check queue — the mother of all queues — I started to regret that decision. The entire area was full of people and the queue stretched back along the wall. I kept marching on, thinking I would find the end of it soon, but it kept going. Eventually an employee stopped a group of us as we reached a hallway and let people cut across. “What is going on?” I wondered. “Why aren’t they letting us join the queue?!” Then she finally flagged us down the hallway, and I realized maybe there was a second passport control with no line. That could happen, right? No. It was another line. A queue to join the queue. Why did I not go to the bathroom earlier? Luckily they had a lot of immigration officers working so I made it through in an hour. It was a really long hour though. Most lines are bearable because you think about how much fun you’ll have on the roller coaster at the end of the line. There was no roller coaster, though, just permission to enter the country and grab your bag. It felt like the Line Ride on South Park.


My building’s porter greeted me on the street corner and helped me carry my bags in from the rain. “Kentucky?” he said. “They have good chicken, right?” We then talked about the weather, as is required in Britain. “Wow, it must have been hot there, like 80 degrees?” I was impressed with his Fahrenheit usage. “More like 100!” I told him. He then welcomed me back to English weather — slightly chilly and rain, rain, rain.

Once I got upstairs I had the classic jet lag battle of basic needs, in which eat, sleep and shower duked it out. Sleep won and I took a three-hour nap. I then drank some Pepsi Max. Who would have thought that very magical drink that helped me not pass out at 6 p.m. would keep me from sleeping at a normal time? Rookie jet lag move. I feel slightly more together today, though still a little hazy.

And I think I will stop there before my blog becomes about grocery shopping again. (I wore my Chicago snow boots because I don’t have rain boots and my feet were really hot and uncomfortable and the walk seemed longer than usual because I was spoiled driving to Kroger, and…. OK, I’ll stop.)