I’ve been home for just over a month now.
I flew out of Omaha on December 4, and was meant to arrive in Newquay on December 5. But, this is me, and well… world’s worst luck, right? (Except where it comes to Alex, obviously.) I was expecting to have a four hour layover in Chicago, before boarding a connecting flight to Dublin. Unfortunately for me, though, there was quite a lot of fog in Chicago, and they wouldn’t let us take off from Omaha until it cleared. This is the part, out of the entire fiasco, that really gets to me: Before ever leaving Omaha – where 10 minutes away I had cheap food, a nice comfy bed, etc, I asked repeatedly if it was realistic to expect that I would make my connecting flight in Chicago. I was told it wasn’t realistic to think so, no, but to “just give it 20 more minutes” anyway. You know, rather than letting me re-book the flight, or try the next day when I was 10 minutes from my house, instead they expected me to just wait, however delayed we might be. So, eventually they did start letting us board, and if we had boarded, and not been left sitting on the plane for another hour or so, I might, if I’d run, have made that connection.
It was not to be.
My connection took off about 15 minutes before we’d landed.
So, now, I am many hours from the nice comfy bed in Omaha, and I have missed a connection. And a pretty important one, because the ticketing agent was completely unable to find a way to get me to Dublin to make a connection to Newquay, at all. After telling her a couple of times that if she could get me to Heathrow, I’d be able to get a train, and being ignored… finally she says that she can not find any way to get me to Dublin to connect to Newquay. (This confuses me, to be honest, I guess that flight from Dublin to Newquay is like a once in a lifetime occurrence? Two Aer Lingus flights leave Dublin every day for Newquay, I know, I checked! So she must have meant there was nothing in a reasonable time frame.) So, I again tell her that if she can get me to Heathrow, I can get a train, and finally she listens. The only problem with this is, I can’t get a flight to Heathrow until the following day, so wee, I get to spend the night in O’Hare International Airport. She was nice enough to give me a little bag with… um, shaving cream, shoe polish, and razors. Yeah, none of that was actually helpful, to be honest! You don’t really need shoe polish for knock-off Chucks! And, what was I going to shave, exactly? My legs? In the toilets?
Traveling on December 4, 2016, via Chicago was a huge mistake. Some 20,000 people were delayed that day. Shocking news, I’m sure, but winter in Chicago sucks! :) I should count my blessings that I landed when I did, and was directed straight to the ticketing agent, because when I approached the front of the line, and looked back, there was a line winding itself down the concourse and back full of people, waiting to make arrangements for connecting flights to wherever the hell they were going. One poor guy had somehow managed to be delayed by TWO DAYS!
The plan had been for me to arrive in Newquay because that’s not nearly so far from St Ives as Heathrow is – but so much for planning! To attempt to look on the bright side, though, at least the route by train from there was familiar to me. I’d done that before, so I can honestly say that the second time around it was not nearly so intimidating. And, for what it’s worth, customs was a breeze, too. I had a moment, a tiny moment, where I thought “Well, it’s taking me longer than we’d planned, but this will all turn out fine, anyway” and I was perfectly happy as I made my way from Heathrow to Paddington. Perfectly content as I got on the train to Penzance. The cheerfulness was short-lived, though.
I was meant to get off the train at St Erth where Alex was going to be waiting for me. Again, I emphasize meant to! The train did make its scheduled stop at St Erth, but I’ll be damned if the window on the door didn’t refuse to open so I could let myself off of said train! I even asked for help, and that window just refused to open. So, of course, my luck being what it is – the train left St Erth for Penzance with me still on it. And then I get sarcastic texts from Alex informing me that he guesses that I’m just not getting off the train. Yes, helpful, when one is already nearly in tears from yet another thing going wrong! He says, in his defense, that he thought I’d just fallen asleep on the train and was trying to wake me up. I say, I love him, and I forgive him his ill-timed sarcasm. I had some ill-timed sarcasm of my own, after all. It just wasn’t directed at Alex. Instead, it was directed at the poor conductor who made the mistake of telling me, as I was explaining what had happened regarding my missed stop, that she needed to go, as she needed to “open the doors”. I informed her that I’d have appreciated it if that had been done for me AT ST ERTH. (She meant that she needed to unlock doors, but poor choice of words at the time.)
To the credit of the conductor, and to Great Western Rail, despite my scathing sarcasm, she very kindly made sure I was sent back to St Erth at no charge. There was also a very tall, lanky stranger who was kind enough to offer me the use of his mobile to reach Alex – although, that turned out to be unnecessary. Suffice it to say that despite not being the conductor’s favorite person, she still made sure that not only did I get back to St Erth, but also that someone was contacted there to let Alex know what had happened.
A couple of things in my own defense, regarding the train fiasco, though. 1. I was not the only person to attempt to open that damned window. Legitimately, it wouldn’t open! 2. Aside from the scathing sarcasm after the “I need to open the doors” comment, I wasn’t actually rude or anything to anyone! But that part just could not be helped. She deserved it for saying she needed to OPEN THE DOORS. I realize that she didn’t know my circumstances but, after having spent the night sleeping on an airport bench, having an overnight trip turned into a two-day nightmare, being tired, hungry, and stressed, a little bit of grumpiness should be somewhat understandable. I mean, she got grumpy over one bit of snark! (At least, that is according to Alex who overheard her shouting at the staff at St Erth.) All right, I accept that she may very well have been having a shit day, too, but still… I slept on a bench at an airport! I was hauling this beast of a laptop around for two days, and it, by itself, is monstrously heavy! Then there’s the clothes, and everything else! Hungry. Exhausted. Trapped on a train!
In the end, all of it was worth it. I’m home, now, with Alex, where I belong, and I’m happy.
First, let me state for the record that I owe the poor ticket agent for the Heathrow Express an apology. Their fares changed between the last time Alex had used their services, so he in fact, did not overcharge me.
Second, I wish I was still in Cornwall. Obviously it’s primarily because I wish I was still with Alex, but there’s also the beauty and charm of the place itself that I miss. It might be easier to overlook those things when it’s your every day, but I think it’s something I’ll never take for granted.
The trip back, though. Oh, let me tell you about the trip back…
Alex saw me off at the St. Erth train station, where I caught the sleeper to Paddington. It was the hardest thing to get on that train and watch Alex waving goodbye from the platform. Thinking about it right now even makes me cry, but I had a face full of tears and snot as the train pulled away. Not a pretty sight, I’m sure, and people who were already on the train gave me such looks. Sympathetic looks, to be sure, but it’s still not particularly fun to be sort of just stared at. The trip to Paddington was largely uneventful, though, aside from my heart breaking into millions of tiny pieces.
I was disappointed to know that I didn’t have to go through customs to exit, as I desperately wanted to encounter the same grumpy early-morning agent and be slightly smug about the fact that I had not been a drain on England’s economy in any way, having not worked a bit and only spending money, and that I was leaving as promised. Of course, it might be a bit of a blessing, though, as I was still crying by that time (you’d think a person would run out of tears) and she’d probably have just asked me what that was all about.
I boarded the plane at Heathrow on time, where we then sat for two hours because the right engine wouldn’t start. Yes, that’s such a reassuring thing to have happen when you get on a giant tube that’s going to shoot you 36,000 feet into the air and carry you over the Atlantic. However, it turned out – after two hours of just sitting – that the engine would in fact start just fine, as long as it was started “manually”, and we were deemed safe to fly, as long as someone filled out some paperwork about it.
My connecting flight at Chicago was meant to be caught after a layover of only nearly three hours, though, so when you factor in the time for everyone to collect their bags, get off the plane, and the time it would take to get to another gate, I knew before take-off that I wasn’t going to catch my connection. I wasn’t a happy camper. I left St. Erth just before 10 pm, arrived at Heathrow just before 6 am, for a flight that was due to take off at just before 9 am (but didn’t). You can imagine by this time I was tired and cranky.
You know what, though? For all the little complaints I have about the travel time, having the back of my seat kicked over and over by small children (on every single flight), and all of it, I had the best three months of my life. All I want now is to turn around and go right back.
… oh, there’s photos. And many more stories. Give me time.
Firstly, clearly I have safely arrived in St. Ives. I have spent the past two weeks largely offline, because there’s nothing quite so fascinating as Alex, and were it not for the distance which is normally between us, I think I could be largely fine without the internet. In fact, most of our internet usage has been limited to binge-watching “Red Dwarf” on Netflix.
Secondly, I will get to the details of the travel itself at some point, but probably not until I am back in the United States. For now, I will just say that it was a pretty miserable experience.
Right now, I just want to babble about some of the things that I have observed thus far. May not be nearly so entertaining for you, but this is all about me, anyway, right?
The British may not be quite so polite as the rest of the world thinks they are. Or perhaps it’s just customs agents who are there to deal with inbound visitors arriving at stupid o’clock in the morning. Why am I crying? Well, it may be because I’m in a metric butt-load of pain, I haven’t slept for at least twenty-four hours, and I am 4,000 miles from home and you may or may not be allowing me entry into the country. That just might be why I’m crying.
Oh, and Heathrow Express ticket agent… gee, thank you ever so much for not asking me any other difficult questions after my experience with customs, and for charging me more than twice as much as I needed to pay to get to Paddington Station. That’s what I get for coming right out and saying that I was a hopelessly lost and tired American, I suppose. Those famous British good manners may just be a thin veneer coating their sarcasm and/or disdain, that’s all I’m saying.
I have also learned that the British have their equivalents of the pervasive American “hon” or “honey”. While I have yet to be called either of those things here in the U.K., I have many times been called “sweetheart” and “m’love”. Thus far, only one person has called me “m’love”, but she did it four times in under a minute.
“I’m not your sweetheart, honey.”
“I’m not your honey, m’love.”
“I’m not your love, wench!”
Lastly, tourists are tourists. Even people from this country seem to lose their manners while on holiday here in St. Ives. They can’t recall how to share a narrow side-walk with other people and will merrily force you into the street rather than walk single file with their sweetheart or child for a step or two. They will jump the queue in the shop or wherever, as if they suddenly forgot how it works. I have it on good authority that this can’t be so. The British are all born knowing how to queue.
I’m just going to put it right out there and say that I’m a nervous, anxious sort of person. At least about a fair few things.
I don’t like heights. And by this I mean that I don’t even care to use step-stools or to stand on a chair to reach something on the upper shelves of my cabinets.
I’m no fan of small spaces. You’ll never find me hiding in a closet, even if it’s the last place to go in a zombie apocalypse. I’d just let the damn zombies have me for dinner, because I’m far less afraid of them than I am of being in a small space.
I am not particularly brilliant at talking to strangers. I wish that all I meant by this is that I’m not particularly good at making conversation, but no, I really mean that I get anxious and nervous at the thought of having to approach someone I don’t know and speak to them, at all. Even to ask for directions.
I don’t like public restrooms. It’s not that I freak out about germs; I wash my hands and if there aren’t seat covers for the toilets, I will hover, but I don’t think this is particularly abnormal behaviour when it comes to public facilities. I just can’t proceed to do what you’re meant to do in a restroom where other people are already present or could enter the room at any moment.
So, why am I getting on a plane, allowing myself to be packed like a sardine in with a lot of strangers, and shot tens of thousands of feet into the air for many hours? (At least the airplane’s restroom isn’t a public restroom, even if it is ridiculously small). Obviously I love my fiance significantly more than I fear any of those things.
Because of his work schedule, Alex is not going to be meeting me at the airport. So I get to try to figure out how to get myself from London to St. Erth all by my little lonesome. Alex assures me this is easy. In fact, here are Alex‘s directions:
I still think I may wind up lost. In a foreign country. 4,132 miles from home.
At least I (mostly?) speak the language.
It’s just a little over a week before I leave, and I’m still waiting on the suitcase I purchased to be delivered. After Alex‘s trip here, I realised that I definitely needed a little suitcase on little wheels so as not to have to haul anything particularly heavy through huge airports. And I’m way too nervous about lost luggage to check anything. I think I might need some of those plastic bags you hook your vacuum up to to suck all the air out of them to manage to fit everything I’m going to need into the thing, though. I’m going to live for 3 months out of a suitcase designed to fit in the overhead compartment of an airplane.
But, I get to be with Alex. Provided I don’t get lost. So I’m really not complaining. It’s completely worth it.