rdmaughan had to leave before I did, so he said goodbye for himself and grey_lady. Just as I closed the suitcases and got the last ones down from upstairs, the_magician arrived to take me to the airport. He was kind enough to detune Melody (my guitar) for me while I packed up the computer and power supply. We staged all my bags, got them into the car, and I locked the Maughans' house and returned the key through the mail slot.
Next it was the drive to Heathrow, complete with square trees. I'm told this is a unique British phenomenon. It was amusing. I checked in, got a "hearty breakfast" and finally got up the guts to try British coffee, which was not the rotgut I was led to believe. It was just strong, which was not a problem. Properly configured (milk and sweetener), it was fine.
I then browsed the shops at the airport, aka "one last chance to have the tourists part with their money," then went through security to the gates. There was a huge duty-free shop with lots of overpriced goods. There were other shops selling stuff I was pretty sure I couldn't take to the US. I just looked, rolled my eyes, then went to my terminal to await boarding my flight. I had to go through yet more security, but eventually got to the lounge area for my flight.
This flight was more crowded. I was crammed in next to a guy who seemed determined not to move. I tried finding a seat to move to, but the arms on the seats in the bulkhead row didn't lift up, making them useless for sleeping, so I was stuck. Uck. There were also no movies I wanted to see going this way, so I tried doing some arranging on my computer, then tried sleeping. The diabetic meals on this flight had some kind of "mystery sauce," and since we couldn't guarantee they didn't have mushrooms, the crew instead brought me some cheese, crackers, and fruit -- and I was happy. What we couldn't figure out is why the diabetic meal had a salad dressing with "high fructose corn syrup" as the first ingredient, while the "normal" meals had oil and vinegar. Yeesh.
Once the plane landed at JFK we had to walk down long corridor after long corridor to the long US Customs lines. This was about the worst immigration I'd had to deal with. I waited forever, got past quickly, then had to wait and wait for my luggage to come off the carousel. Then I had to go through another check where I got pulled over to be asked about my "food." Nobody made me open any suitcases. I could have lied and smuggled in contraband and nobody would have known. Yeesh.
The airport was under construction, which meant I had to leave the customs area, go outdoors and through another airport entrance, and then through the stupid TSA checkpoint again to get to my flight. Once in the terminal area, there was nobody selling real food.
My flight was supposed to leave at 4pm, but the plane had problems with its gas gauge, so we were deplaned, then had to wait for another plane to arrive. We all tried to get food in vain. The TGI Friday's satellite was only selling booze. I was ready to keel over. Eventually the bartender agreed to sell the hot dogs there. They were awful, but it was food. The head guy even showed up at the gate; I managed to talk him into giving us free drinks on the flight when we eventually did replane and became instantly popular with the rest of the passengers. :-)
During this interlude I tried to contact dimakoi but to no avail. I then text-messaged Warren with the flight info. I tried phoning him, but I got his voice mail. Feh. My friend Kristin was conscious and was text-messaging me in real time, so that was a relief. I told her about the plane situation, figuring she'd get dragged into the loop if Warren couldn't get ahold of dimakoi.
When the plane we were supposed to get onto had hydraulic problems, they had to get one from the hangar. That was when they finally gave us meal vouchers. We had $10 to spend in less than half an hour, and we had to go in and out of the TSA checkpoint to do it. Ugh. I choked down a smoked chicken quesadilla at the main TGI Friday's. By the time we were ready to board, the bulk of us on the flight felt like old friends from running into each other during the 4.5 hour wait.
Needless to say, we all took advantage of the free booze. I had a small bottle of chardonnay. The guy next to me had scotch and soda. The Good Stuff was gone by the time the attendants had made their rounds. My dinner was the same mystery meat, way too much unsalted rice, and salad with sugary dressing I'd been given on the way out. I ate the meat, left the rice and salad, and ate the roll and the melon I'd had for dessert.
The movie on the flight was one I didn't care to see, so I again tried doing stuff on the computer. I was very fatigued and tried sleeping a little. I also tried walking around a bit because my legs felt very water-logged. Eventually we landed, and I saw I had text and voice messages indicating Warren was instead picking me up -- at midnight (yes, the flight was that delayed). I phoned Warren, who was waiting in a nearby parking lot, to let him know I had landed safely and was waiting for my luggage. Eventually I collected it, then called him, and he picked me up.
Warren loaded my suitcases into the trunk, then told me he expected me to drive him home and then drive myself home and unload my car. Uh, right. I eventually emphasized to him I was in no shape to drive. that there was no way I could lift the suitcases out of the trunk by myself, and got him to drive me home and get my suitcases out.
At that point I was exhausted and collapsed in my nice, clean bed with my nice, fluffy doggie who missed me, touching base with the folks in #filkhaven to let them know I'd arrived safely.
In all, it was a pleasant trip, too short, and I want to go back and see more.