Pushing the boundaries of airport excellence
There’s a metaphysical thing out there which friends of mine refer to as “The Jason B. Standing Transport Effect”, which is the name for the gestalt of the seemingly limitless variety of transportial cockups that surround and accompany me wherever I choose to roam. It’s seldom anything critical (I’ve only ever missed 5 flights – 3 from Perth airport), and what’s more though the whole thing seems to serve no purpose than to make me a nervous wreck until I’m on the plane it seems that despite my best contingency planning there’s just no escape.
“But Jason”, I imagine you saying, as the well-informed and up-to-date person of distinction and taste that you undoubtedly are, “didn’t you fly from London to Glasgow just the other day?”. Well, yes.
So, flight from Gatwick at 11:50. Checked in online already. 30 mins from Victoria to Gatwick on speedy expensive train. Easy, right?
Liz & I met up at Gatwick in the North terminal after a tiny amount of confusion about where our flight left from and made our way to the South terminal, where our flight was leaving from. We joined the bag drop queue to put our checked bag in and were mildly startled to hear an employee walking up & down the queue shouting “last call for people flying to Glasgow!”. Scurrying forth we popped our bag on the scales and found that it was 7kg over (PING!): cue the frantic removal of things from bag, stuffing into other bags, and the wearing unnecessary layers of clothing which no longer fit in the other bags (we know the world record for wearing t-shirts is at least 224). We got it down to 1.3 kg over, and the girl who was checking our bag in went off-shift, so told us to go to the desk next door – and just before we threw our bag on the scale, the inevitable family group with 8 suitcases trundled up (PING!)… with employee still hollerin’ “LAST CALL FOR FLIGHT TO GLASGOW” behind us.
But eventually the bag was allowed on, and we hoped nobody would pick us up on having oversized hand luggage (my red backpack now very much resembled an Angry Bird, sans beak and wild stare). Executing some neat dodgem-work, we found a security entrance with no queue and presented the guy with our iPad with PDFs of the tickets on. “We don’t accept iPads, sir – you need a printed ticket” (PING!). We briefly tussled about the merits of online checkin if you don’t have a printer, and then it turned out that the thing the lady at the bag drop desk had given me was a boarding pass, and not a baggage receipt (as I’d incorrectly assumed: she’d only given me one of them). But that one was just for me, and Liz needed to go & get another one (PING!). So we belted it back to the EasyJet desk and managed to frantically get a pass printed out, then back to the security dude who let us through this time.
That’s the “hard” part, right? Once you’re in the line for the scanners (and in this case, a short line) you can relax and let it all happen, right? Well, not if you’re wearing jeans – as we both were – as clearly the amount of metal used to rivet & zip a pair of Levis is just over the tolerance factor for what airports have deemed that terrorists might be able to hijack a plane with (to be fair – if I was going to hijack a plane I’d more likely to be shoving a pair of sweaty boxer shorts in the pilot’s face than fashioning a rudimentary knife out of my zipper), and so we both got the hand-scan, frisk and pat-down (PING!). For added comedy bonus points, Liz also got the random explosives screening (PING!), which may have been in part due to the frenzied look that she’d now taken on (but may have also been triggered by being with a companion with a visibly overstuffed backpack who was now looking nervous and probably uncommonly sweaty).
We deciphered from the screen which gate our flight was boarding at, saw we had 5 minutes til the gate closed, and realised that the airport advised passengers to “allow 10-15 minutes to reach gate 55”, and as we employed our expert London-learned dawdler-dodging skills and sped towards our gate, I felt an unwelcome sensation in my calf muscle and realised that I’d just partially torn it (PING!). Just what the doctor ordered. We now speed-limped toward gate 55 to find that it was an EasyJet special – in order to reduce enjoyment and relaxation, Gate 55 is actually Gate 55A, 55B, 55C, D, E, F, H, I, J and K, but there’s one ticket-scanning bottleneck that everyone uses – resulting in a huge army of people backed up in a queue (PING!), which must constantly emit the smell of fear. We got to near the head of the queue only to get blocked by a guy who was holding an argument because their scanning thing wouldn’t scan the barcode on his iPhone (PING!). Quite how he’d been able to get past security in the first place using an iPhone wasn’t clear, and one can only assume it’s because the security dude we went to had decided not to accept iPads rather than it being an actual policy. But then when you ask a security dude any sort of question about why something’s the way it is, they just grunt and gruffly non-answer “security”.
Somehow – I don’t really know how, because I’m sure some of those people are still stuck in that line – we managed to get through and heard a final final last call for 4 passengers on the Glasgow flight at Gate B, so we sprint-stumbled down there (PING!) only to find that it was the BA flight for Glasgow, not the one we wanted – which was Gate K (PING!).
So, happily, we managed to make it on to the flight by what we thought was the skin of our teeth – leaving time only for about another 40 people (including a stag do) to saunter on after us.
And the GOOD news is that we didn’t have another travel-related hitch.
Until we decided to follow the 2nd of the routes from Tarbert to Carradale that Google Maps suggested to us. The one which the instructions describe as “Turn left (8.0 miles)”, but could more accurately sum up as “Turn left and follow windy steep dirt track that comes within about 50 feet of a frigging WIND FARM, which will be impossible to travel faster than 15mph for the majority of”.
Or, to put it a slightly different visual way:
It was all a bit “War of the Worlds”.
Happily, we’re here now, and the view out the front window that we’ve got to put up with is this:
We’ll manage. Somehow.