I recognise that distinctive flapping sound…
‘Tis the gently beating wings of my old guardian, The Fuckup Fairy. I ought to have learned by now it’s pointlss to try to get to airports.
Today, however, she’s pulled off a rare confluence of subtle cockups, and it would be both unfair & out of character of me not to share them all with you. Probably in chronological order.
You see, to get to Dublin, the combination of services I needed to make use of was:
- London Underground
- A train system of some sort
Stop. I know you’re going to tell me that Ryanair is a thinly veiled exercise in cynical sadism by The Architects of Misery and I shouldn’t be going anywhere near them… however the flight was booked by my employer, so that was largely a decision made for me.
Now, if we’re going to pinpoint the moment I heard the mellifluous tinkling of fairy dust being sprinkled over my life it would have been Wednesday afternoon when the Dublin Office rang and told me to come across for Thursday & Friday, as months beforehand I’d booked a ticket to see Russell Brand on that Thursday night. So that was the end of that.
Oh yes, another important point is that following some conversations with colleagues of mine I thought I’d try out the validity of the adage “dress for the airport”, so rather than slumming it in my usual t-shirt, trainers & combats, I’ve gone suited & booted in the hope that it’ll invite less suspicion/hassle. No chance of an upgrade on Ryanair of course, but hey. Plus it makes my laundry situation less complicated for a few days.
Back to the trip in – my relationship with London Underground is a tenuous one at best, but the trundle from Camden to London Bridge wasn’t TOO arduous – a little slower than normal, but I’d built in contingency time. You’re probably thinking “London Bridge?? Why aren’t you going to Victoria for the Gatwick Express??”. I find myself now thinking the same thing, however at the time foremost in my mind was the regular reports by Chisel of how rubbish the Gatwick Express has been of late, and the oracle of transport told me that I could get the Southern Trains service from London Bridge in about half an hour, for a fraction of the cost. What could POSSIBLY go wrong?
Upon arriving at London Bridge rail station at 8:16, I learned that the Southern was leaving at 8:19, and try as I might to convince the ticket machine to issue me a ticket in some kind of speedy interval it seemed almost attuned to my thoughts – perhaps the touchscreen can sense the electrostatic pulses running through a stressed fingertip, or maybe it’s just aware of the urgency with which you’re stabbing the screen in the vainest of attempts to try to convince it that you require something of it. At any rate, I got the next Southern service at 8:30; no big problem there. EXCEPT as it turned out it went via Wyoming and Petragrad, and eased into Gatwick at 9:20. Clearly NOT the half-hour train.
Problem – my flight’s at 10:00, and LyinFare (see what I did there?) are militant about check-in closing 40 minutes before departure. I gave it a proper go of sprinting up to the desk, and arrived at the desk as the guy had started packing up. “Can’t check in”, he says, “check-in’s closing”. “If it’s closing that means it hasn’t closed yet”, says I, “Check me in!”. He keys my confirmation code, then says I haven’t paid for airport check-in, and I’ve got to pay a fee of £10… only I can’t pay that here at his desk: I’ve got to go over to the service counter, and judging by the length of that there’s no way I’ll make it over & back before he closes check-in.
A brief linguistic tussle at the Ryanair counter (as well as forking out the requisite £10 for airport check-in fee, plus another £70 for a replacement ticket) and I was booked onto the next flight at 13:30. Perhaps a spot of breakfast now, seeing as I have time on my side? Hmm… what I could have sworn was specified as a ham and mozzarella panini arrived as 2 slices of cardboard held together by a micron-thick slice of spam and some wallpaper paste. Ah well. It was a relatively relaxing way to kill half an hour until checkin opens for the later flight, so now was the time to set off in search of that.
The departure boards claimed “Check in Zone H” for my flight, so I dutifully paced up & down Zone H for about 20 minutes trying to find any sign of someone prepared to let me check in. Alas, no. Acting on a hunch, I returned to Zone E to where I’d been denied boarding previously to find them proudly announcing that that’s where my flight was checking in from. I mean, why not just sprinkle random misinformation to make everyone’s trips that little bit more miserable, eh? Good… checked in.
Speaking of check-in – this is another channel through which budget airlines have managed to extract the maximum amount of joy from flying anywhere. On these budget airlines it was once commonplace for there to be no free food/drink served inflight (got to make a buck somewhere). Then they decided to start charging for any bags you checked in to hold baggage. Now, after having provided online check-in as a convenience for their customers, they’ve suddenly realised that they were offering something convenient, and altered their policy: now online checkin is the basic form of service, and if you want the “premium extra” of airport checkin then it costs you (as indicated above) an extra £10. A “brilliant feature” of this system is that you can ONLY checkin online if you have a UK or EU passport, so effectively if you fall outside of that group then you can’t possibly check in any other way than online, and the round trip gets £20 less attractive. Apparently you can rite to the airlines and demand this fee back from them as being discriminatory, but in the short term there’s no actual way around it. Charming.
One can’t really bleat about the actual security queue, cos they’re always awful anyway. After proactively removing my belt & shoes to put in the tray thing, and following the written & overheard instructions to the letter, I walked through the detector and it went off. Turns out I’d forgotten about my cufflinks (as I’ve never worn a suit to the airport before), and the guy decided to give me the full treatment in the name of security. Swabbing my laptop for explosives: everything! All it missed was rubber gloves, but there was definitely some cupping taking place.
You’d think the end was in sight after all that, however approximately 10 minutes before the flight would have ordinarily started boarding the departure screen flicked over to indicate that my flight had been delayed by an hour. It seemed a sensible idea to phone the Dublin office to let them know, however because I’d been using my phone pretty extensively for internet during the course of the day the battery was nearly flat. No problem – I’d just recently bought an external battery pack for just such occasions. The message on the screen following plugging it in wasn’t surprising by this point – “This accessory not compatible with this type of iPhone”. By this point it would seem naive to believe that it would work.
I’m keen not to OVER-dramatise events (he claims, having just written 1000+ words about missing a plane), so it’s worth pointing out at this juncture that the rest of the trip went reasonably smoothly, and that on the way back the only hassle was that upon reaching the front of the checkin queue I was again sent back to the service desk to pay the airport checkin premium fee… Why the hell I couldn’t just have the option to pay both at departure is a complete mystery. Stands to reason though that in the interval between my getting to the front of the queue a class of what appeared to be Spanish teenagers bumbled into existence, presumably leaving a trail of devastation behind them.
Also of interest was that on the Thursday night I’d been toying with the idea of attending the London branch of Twestival, although not able to due to already being booked up to see Russell Brand. At about 17:00 (after I’d been in the office all of 20 minutes) my boss Merv wandered in and said “What are you up to tonight? Want to come help us take photos at the Dublin Twestival?”… so I did end up going. Unfortunately due to having spent most of the day with a focused ball of rage on deck, and also having pulled a 2am-5:30am sleeping shift I didn’t find myself in a very talkative mood, so it wasn’t the social opportunity I’d hoped for.
As a final punctuation mark to the story, it seems just as well that I didn’t attempt to buy tickets to Brand’s Friday or Saturday night shows as a catchup effort, because I read in Chortle News that he cancelled them because of a throat infection.
In future I think I’ll just stay home.