One thing that really buggered me off last time I visited England was the fact that we had to fly to Heathrow airport. Heathrow for those not familiar with it is like a giant greyhound bus station packed with sun burnt prematurely bald English soccer fans, Asian businessmen a small smatering of Hare Krishna book pushers, homeless hippies and at least 3 nuns reading Agatha Christie books. The journey from Heathrow to my parents house is one of the most miserable experiences you could ever imagine. You can get to their humble abode either by a series of filth ridden, rickety tubes and trains or in my Dads car with him driving. I prefer the former because at least the train drivers typically travel somewhat faster than a snail across salt and you don’t have to watch out for white van drivers or deranged truckers trying to run you off the road.
We hadn’t been to England in four years for a number of reasons a) My family keep coming here to go to Disney every time I am off work. b)The exchange rate is terrible so my mickey mouse money is worthless there c)Because due to my own self importance I think my visits should be a major event like the Olympics and come only once every four years although hopefully without condemnation from Richard Gere. Since our last visit a certain airline had started flights to Stansted which is about 20 minutes drive form my parents house which means only a 2 hour round trip with my Dad driving.
The thought of flying direct from Orlando to Stansted seemed too good to be true … and it was… thanks to probably the worst airline in the world. I know lots of people complain about airlines but my last trips with Airtran and Maleev had gone very well and I naively expected the same treatment from the airline I shall refer to simply as Crankey Yankees but was I in for a surprise.
The intial arrival at the airport went fairly smoothly and after brushing off the saliva that was propelled in my direction by the phlegmatic check in clerk I was only moderately irriritated by the mute security officers who communicated only with eye rolls and sighs. On arrival in JFK I was surprised to see that the weather forecast which had predicted “sleet and rain” was a little off track. In fact we landed in a scene reminiscent of the opening part of the “Empire Strikes Back”. Everything was covered in feet of snow which meant the Wookie ground crew were working over time as their human counterparts sought shelter. Now I am not an aeronautical engineer but I did think that it might be a good idea to remove the 4 feet of snow that buried our plane before we took off. How wrong can you be ? The staff told us the flight was running on time. The only qualm I had at this point was that for some reason they had separated our party. Someone incompetant or evil (Darth Vader ?) had decided it would be a good idea for my daughter to sit by herself three rows away from my wife and I and between a couple of geriatric brothers from Guadalope who couldn’t speak English. After being told by the stewardess that we couldn’t switch seats we soon discovered that the airline used a lottery system to decide on seating and NOBODY was placed together with their own groups. Despite protestations from the cabin crew we revolted and everyone amicably moved around until we were back alongside our own families. There were one or two suicidal teenagers and lecherous old men who were less than happy about being reunited with their kind but for the most part a degree of relief descended across the cabin. Just then the captain spoke. “Ladies and Gentlemen we are waiting to be de-iced but we will lift off on 15 minutes. Until then I will be turning off the AC because of the fumes from the de-icing process.” We didn’t realise it at the time but this was the start of an Andy Kauffmanesque comedy routine that would last for four hours in the hot sweaty confines of the dingey plane. Without fail and without a hint of a laugh the pilot repeated the same line every fifteen minutes for the next two hundred and forty minutes. To make the situation more humourous from his sick point of view he kept the “seat belt fastened” sign on the entire time to ensure that all the incontinents on the plane could add their own fresh scent to the already stale air. I thought at first we were on an episode of “You’ve been framed” until I saw the headline of the “Sun” newspaper being read by the guy next to me which read “Beadles not about.” With him off the suspect list I figured this must be the work of either Fox TV or former presidentail candidate John Kerry. There is no reason to think that John Kerry would have the ability or desire to delay a flight but since I routinely blame him for everything I decided to stick him with this one as well.
I was in the midst of suffocating myself with a “complimentary blanket” when we finally took off. I would have been dead already but for the fact that my obviously second hand blanket had a series of holes on it that were either bullett holes or evidence of a new breed of polyester eating maggots. The ironic thing was that I had spent all day saying private “Hail Marys” to myself and praying that our plane would not crash but by the time we were airborne I was so so sick of being on board that I viewed a potential crash differently. “Shit happens” I thought to myself as the engines stuttered away from JFK.
The rest of the flight was pretty unpleasant. The stewardesses were not the Hollywood variety of old. Instead the blonde hair and tanned skin were replaced with wrinkles and toupees. The glistening white smile was replaced with a raised middle finger. The passengers were made to feel about as welcome as a Bill Clinton speech at a Hillary rally. Finally though as my ninth set of earphones packed up during my third viewing of “What’s new on CBS this fall” I saw a glimpes of green outside the window. We were finally there. This was it. This was England. God save the Queen ………
To be continued ……..