How long is a piece of string?
You tell me. The British Airways member of staff at Heathrow who felt the need to ask a line of weary, and by then furious, passengers this, beat a retreat after asking. So perhaps she never found out the length of string.
What we wanted to know – although it wasn’t actually me who asked – was how long we’d be there for. She couldn’t very well know this, but her reply might have been more tactfully phrased.
‘Did you see how the lights in the corridor came on as we walked along?’ asked the excited Resident IT Consultant. By the time we walked this particular hotel corridor belonging to Sofitel, I was past noticing anything, least of all the illuminations.
Here is a travel moan especially for Candy Gourlay, who claims to like this kind of thing, and for Hilary McKay and her darling, darling Rose,* who – almost – kept me sane, when I had nothing to eat on our British Airways flight other than a Virgin Trains mini-portion of dried cranberries.
I could have had the Ratburger. No, my apologies. It was the dead bird, wrapped. Again.
The Ratburger* was the book by David Walliams, so delightfully read by small child in the immigration queue at midnight. It warmed a Bookwitch’s heart to witness this. Not that I’ve read the book, but any reading under traumatic circumstances is good. He (she?) ought to have been in bed.
That went for me too. My body-clock was an hour ahead and I’d gone without a meal for too many hours. If you don’t count the train-related berries. Sometimes it’s a good thing I squirrel small items away in my bag.
The fact that I had walked round Gothenburg airport staring at the cinnamon buns and bananas for sale should have told my inner witch that I’d be regretting not buying them, very, very soon. And I did.
Terminal 5′s holding area for the seriously delayed is entirely food free. I suggest they put in a vending machine if they are ‘entertaining’ quite that many irate travellers on a regular basis. It might almost repay what they have to fork out to put people up for the night.
Once we actually got to Sofitel of the corridor-lighting cheme, I had very few bad comments left to make, having run out of both steam and a reason why. But I suppose I’d like to have received advance warning that the corridor-light nerds mentioned earlier would also sneak around in the middle of the night, turning off the bathroom light if you don’t wave your arms enough. Or whatever the weary traveller is meant to do to stay all lit up and happy.
Other than that, the hotel was pretty good. Glad I wasn’t the one paying.
So, back to BA. They are usually pretty good, too. Hence me turning my back on the cinnamon bun. I was certain they’d feed me adequately. And if they ran out of everything, as they did, I had expected the usual BA good manners, and maybe even some initiative, finding me a bread roll from ‘first class’ or something. What I got were two crew members who firmly believe chicken is practically vegetarian.
And then we had me, who stupidly believed that once we got to Heathrow, having missed our onward connection – despite being misinformed by the chicken fans on board that we should leg it, and we’d be successful – I’d be sorted soon-ish, and I’d come face-to-face with some food. The queue moved one metre in the first hour. Staff left for the day as we stood there. Fellow (hah!) delayed passengers queue jumped merrily until the annoyed father of two small children told the last one to try it to go to the back where he belonged.
String-woman could have been gainfully employed doing some queue order-keeping, and not left it to the tired and worn out. Her colleagues worked hard, but why it should take staff, who presumably do this every night, quite so long for each passenger, I can’t work out. Maybe the Resident IT Consultant could offer his services to improve the software they use.
Eventually – two hours later – we emerged carrying two new boarding cards for the day after, one hotel voucher, two emergency overnight packs and two M&S vouchers to make up for the hotel not serving dinner after midnight. I say emerged. What I meant was we then joined the Border Control queue, the UK and EU light version, which lasted a mere 25 minutes. But at least the child in front had The Ratburger.
Mercifully this migraine trigger fasting failed to give me one. Must have been the train cranberries. Small, but good. We repaired to our Sofitel room, gobbled down a half past midnight M&S dinner and fell into bed for all of five hours.
Now that the queue is merely an unhappy memory, I mostly object to being kept in the dark. In the bathroom. With no warning. (Although if the free wifi had materialised, I wouldn’t exactly have objected.) Consistent and truthful information from BA would have come in handy, too.
On the final approach to Bookwitch Towers, the Resident IT Consultant walked ahead, to open the door and shove five weeks’ worth of books** out of the way. Which is why he wasn’t picked up by Little Flower’s grandparents and given a lift the last 300 metres. Little Flower’s Granny then proceeded to offer us some emergency milk at about the same time we discovered Next Door Neighbour has been mowing the grass in our absence.
So that was good. Very good. So was the fact that we survived the 25 minute taxi ride before the point where I didn’t buy a cinnamon bun. My last personal best was 30 minutes from School Friend’s house to airport. But a texting maniac who drives well past the legal speed limit can probably arrive before they left, if they really try.
* Reading is good for you. Especially when under stress. In queues. That kind of thing.
**Might tell you about this some other time. Right now all but Candy are snoring from sheer boredom. Sorry.
(But surely BA have stats on their passengers’ fondness for cheese sandwiches and make more of them? Dead bird isn’t all it’s made out to be; wrapped or not.)