Saturday, January 03, 2004

January 3, 2004
Our baggage finally arrived late last night (1;36 AM.). All six pieces had made an extraordinary tour of their own, careening from Valencia to England, then on to Seattle, back to JFK in New York and a final ping pong bounce back across the country to Phoenix. Somewhere along this cargo hold tour someone or something smashed our bathroom bag which had two gift bottles of Spanish olive oil wrapped in bubble wrap. One made it, the other didn’t and the broken bottle of olive oil ruined everything it touched including the Navajo weave bag itself which we have had since we were married in 1979 (it did fry up rather nicely though). Everything else appears to be okay, but I haven’t opened up the rodeo posters or the Mamie Van Doren cowgirl stuff yet.

Omens: Three women, perhaps oracles of the New Year if you are suspicious, led us on our wild New Year’s Day journey. The first, a pretty, Spanish ticket counter attendant at Valencia Airport assured us our six bags were checked all the way thru to Phoenix.

But when we showed up at Heathrow’s Terminal 4 after a 22 hour layover in London, the British Air ticket counter attendant told us we’d have to go to Terminal 1 to get our bags because they weren’t checked thru. We weren’t overly worried because it was then only 11:40, and our flight didn’t leave until 1:10 (actually everyone in Europe uses military time: 13:10). We stumbled along, thru the maze of underground hallways, tunnels and took a train, and finally talked to an Iberia agent, in terminal 1 and she simply picked up the phone and re-routed everything (or so she assured us). This led to an obvious question: couldn’t the British Air attendant at Terminal Four have done the same thing, and saved us from having to meet Evil Woman Number Three?

Having gotten our baggage back on track (or so we thought), we back-tracked down into the bowels of terminals 1,2,3, down two flights of escalators, squeezing through zig-zagging tubes (wonderfully parodied in the movie Brazil) and back onto the underground train platform, where we spied a train to take us back to terminal 4. As I approached the first open car, a woman in an official looking train uniform peeked out and said, and I quote: “Hurry and get on, the door is closing.” We jumped on, and just as the door started to close, Kathy said, “Terminal 4?” and Evil Trainsplotter said, “No, this train is going to Paddington Station (fifteen minutes away in London proper).” Kathy tried to pry open the door as the train picked up speed and then reached for the panic button (literally) to which Evil Woman said, “Don’t you dare touch that!”

What could we do? Actually we started to laugh. There was only one other guy in the whole car (a skinhead with obvious brain damage from last night’s partying, or maybe he just hated us) and so we both took a row of seats and looked out the window and enjoyed the scenery, still thinking we might make it back in time.

When we finally pulled up to terminal 4. it was 13:03 (1:03) and we started to make a run for it. As we ran by our friends at the ticketing counter of British Airways, Kathy stopped and had them pull up the flight on the computer and the woman (not evil, just doing her job) said, “The door is closed. You won’t make it.” When we tried to explain our frustration with what had happened to us (okay, Kathy used the F-word and the S-word) I finally said to my wife, “Hey, hey, we don’t need that kind of talk.” Actually, I felt exactly like her, but I had just read two different signs on the counter that said they would not tolerate “abuse” by angry passengers and I thought of all the Time and Newsweek reports on “Air Rage” and I knew that Kathy was flirting with the major plot point of Adam Sandler’s movie Anger Management. The woman behind the ticket counter thanked me (for chastising Kathy) and began to talk only to me, which made Kathy even more angry, but she did back off, but maybe that’s because I had stuffed her head under my coat.

They re-routed us to Seattle, with a connecting flight on Alaskan Air into Phoenix. But instead of a ten hour flight, it would now be a 14 hour flight. When we got to Seattle, landing in the middle of a freak snowstorm, we got caught in a classic Catch 22, when a representative from British Air told us our baggage hadn’t made it onto the flight (after all that!) and Customs wouldn’t let us out of the baggage room without our baggage. Now we were in danger of missing the connecting flight. Customs made us wait until every bag was claimed, and I’m saying to the British Air agent “Hey, you lost our luggage! Why are we waiting for something that isn’t coming?!” She finally got on her radio and we jumped the long line and ran out into the snow. Literally.

We made it onto the Alaskan plane with seconds to spare, then waited on the runway for an hour until the de-icing guys got around to hosing us down. As our friends in Canada might say, “It was the second hosing of the day for us.” As we took off for the third time, in the third country, in 24 hours I looked at Kathy and said, “We’ll always have London.” We cried ourselves to sleep.

"A good marriage is the union of two forgivers."
—Ruth Bell Graham

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