“What even is deep vein thrombosis?” I mused while printing off boarding passes. How quickly does it set in and are the special socks expensive? What’s special about them? Could I just use normal socks with Vick’s rubbed on the inside? These and other reasonable questions floated in front of me at 10:30 on a Thursday evening. The Thursday evening before my first long haul excursion to the other side of the Western World. Having never left the EU physically (politically is a more long-winded discussion and I don’t have the time or the side of a bus to explain it to you), I was excited but trepidatious.
You’d be forgiven for assuming I’m scared of flying but zooming thousands of feet in the air at 500 MPH in a tin can full of ‘other people's farts’ isn’t what concerns me; I'm more worried about delays than disaster. Mercifully, upon arriving at Glasgow Airport I found there were no such delay expected. I strode up-to the check in desk, suitcase in hand, with a dream in my heart, but the woman behind the counter didn’t share my level of excitement as it was 6AM. I knew it was that time not by checking the clock but by the tone in which she responded to my ‘Good Morning’. I won’t explicitly name the company but I will say the reputation of United Kingdom Airlines differs from my own experience.
My schedule was simple: Glasgow to London, London to Chicago. In the air over the UK the view was stunning, flying with the sun skimming the coffee foam clouds. I could see the appeal of just staying in the sky forever, above the the storms.
It’s been observed before, but pilots making cabin announcements during flights is really very entertaining. Every pilot has to have a smooth, Bailey’s like voice that instills comfort and calm into all who hear it. The Captain of my United Kingdom Airlines flight sounded like he definitely had a beard and never took off his hat. Never. I would totally be fine if I saw him in the cockpit with a glass of single malt in his hand and the joystick in the other. Stop Sniggering.
On landing in London I had my interview with immigration. “Why are you traveling to the United States?” the youthful but serious dark-blue blazer-wearing officer asked me. 'I want to reclaim the US for the British because, quite frankly, you’ve made a mess of the whole thing. You elect child-like sentient wigs to high office and your toilets are weird and over-efficient.’ I said before marching on Washington… That didn’t happen, I acted like a rational human-being, got a sticker on my boarding pass and went on my way.
The answer to the question ‘what fresh hell is this?’ is: ‘why, this is London Heathrow sir and you’re not in terminal 5.’ To get to my Terminal (Terminal 3), you have to travel on a special bus, along with 249 other people and together you slalom around runways at high speed avoiding passengers, ground crew and incoming flights. On reaching the terminal, you have to rush off the bus for fear of being whipped by a woman in a high visibility jacket who loves and hates her job at the same time. After this ordeal, you wait in line to view the picture taken by the on board camera and like a all rollercoaster action-shots, I decided against the keychain memento of the journey.
Finally on board and shuffling up the isle of the plane, passing first class who spat at us like the disgusting peasant’s we were, I found my seat: on the aisle, yes! (I did a mini fist pump). Reaching for the overhead bin, I pulled at the handel but I couldn’t open it. I kept trying, yanking harder on the mocking-immovable handle but nothing. The impatient cue behind me was growing and the sea of people already in their seats looked on in judgment. This happened in seconds but it felt longer than the flight. So before they delayed takeoff or had me removed like a Doctor on a United flight, I resolved to sit and put it under the seat in front of me.
I want to offer this airline the same anonymity that I gave United Kingdom Airlines so let’s call them Fly USA. As flight’s go, it was fine. I tried to sleep but a mix of being an ugly sleeper and a loud snorer gave me too much of the fear to even attempt a snooze. This leg of the journey was fine, other than one odd incident involving cabin crew; the two pushing the trolley up the aisle to my right had a little argument. The woman at the front was serving people as fast as she could while the lady at the back was taking her time to talk to passengers.
Back Lady: Here you go sir, have you flown with us before? Where are you from? Gosh, that’s great.
Front Lady: Shoots her dirty look*
Back Lady: (In loud voice) What Janet?! I like talking to people, is that ok?
I snorted with laughter into my complimentary Coke and the Back Lady winked and gave me an extra packet of pretzels. Result.
Almost 23 hours since I woke up to drive to Glasgow Airport, I touched down in the land of the free and the home of fast food. Disembarked, passport stamped and bag collected, I was in Chicago, the windy city, it was mighty pretty. But it ain’t got what we’ve got. I don't know what that is, but if I ever find out, I’ll let you know.