The day had to come
It was inevitable
The last day of the trip
awoke after a restless sleep and began what would be a very trying
day. Sarah had to return to work this morning also, so I did my best
to stay out of her way while she prepared to leave. Sarah and I said
our goodbyes as she dashed out the door to reenter the daily grind.
Only moments later Matt was up sipping his tea and offering assistance
with my comically large amount of luggage. Together we wrangled all
the bags into the car and we sped off to pick up Simon.
At the farm we found Simon ready to go, looking more rested then he
had in quite a few days. I said my goodbyes to his parents, patted
the cat and let the dogs sniff me for the last time. The three of
us piled into the car and with hands waving out the windows, we zoomed
down the one lane road toward Gatwick Airport. Arriving with little
effort I insisted it was ok to drop me off at the terminal but Matt
and Simon wouldn't hear of it, parking the car and escorting me to
the check in. They stood in line with me until airline personnel pointed
out that only travelers could be in this location. Matt and Simon
reluctantly move to a distant waiting area while I completed the check
in process and relieved myself of the bulky baggage. We wandered about
the terminal to kill time, eventually making our way to the security
area. We exchanged our final farewells as I slipped into the crowd
of people waiting to be scanned, scrutinized and x-rayed.
The plane boarded right on time (11:50am) but they had trouble with
the potable water system (drinking water and sinks), which took an
hour and a half to fix. THEN one of the passengers decided they no
longer wanted to go on the flight. Sighting the delayed takeoff would
make them miss their connecting flight in America. Because of recently
established laws and security regulations, officials were required
to let the person off the plane but their baggage had to be removed
first. In came the ground crew who began removing all the baggage
from the plane. I and another two passengers (Americans oddly) expressed
our displeasure with the departing passenger personally while we watched
our luggage being slung about the tarmac. "Assh@le" and "Jerk"
were heavily featured words in the conversation as we pointed out
that his inability to deal with a delay is going to make everyone
miss their connections.
finally took off at 3:00 pm to cheers from the already weary passengers.
There was an air of unrest as you could hear mumblings from every
direction expressing concerns about missing connecting flights. The
senior flight attendant announced over the PA system that when we
reached Newark there would be Airline representatives to meet us at
the plane with information on our new connecting flights. They would
be making the reservation changes for us while we were in flight.
It calmed everyone down (apparently why they said it) and we went
back to the task of finding a comfortable position in the airplane
When we arrived in America we had to circle the Newark airport for
twenty minutes because of rain and lightning. Once on the ground,
they again announced that after we finished processing in Immigration,
Baggage claim and Customs the airlines connection assistance would
be right out side customs. Comforting.
There were three vary large escalators UP from the plane to immigration,
all not working! Swiftly through immigration to baggage claim carousel
11. One bag pops out and everything comes to a screeching stop. No
more bags, no moving carousel, no movement at all. After many tense
minutes an announcement is heard on the public address system "Passengers
from flight 29 (me) expecting baggage, there will be a slight delay
due to a JAM in the equipment. Maintenance personnel have been notified".
Another 20-minute delay but my bag did arrive. Now to find out what
flight they booked me on to get to Washington DC.
The announced airline representatives that would be waiting for us
turned out to be simply the ticket reservations and check-in counters.
No one really rebooked us in flight as they claimed. They just made
that up to calm us down. Now with several hundred passengers queuing
in a single line, all realizing they had been lied to, it quickly
turned into an angry and very vocal mob. There was one memorable old
person in a wheelchair that rolled up asking for head of the line
privileges and everyone reluctantly acquiesced. When he STOOD UP and
started pushing the chair to the counter there was a great roar from
the line. I yelled "Push that chair back to the end of this
queue before you can't get out of it again without assistance".
There was ear-shattering reinforcement from the crowd. The now not
so old looking man made his way back to the end of the line at a surprisingly
quick pace while fielding a barrage of verbal abuse from the mob.
Miraculously with out the aid of his wheel chair.
turn in line... "Yes Mister Briggs the last flight to DC has
one seat left, do you want it?" "Yes of course
I do!" (You ninny!!!) "How many bags to check?"
"The only one in front of you." (You buffoon!) "Your
booked on flight 2561 leaving gate 88 at…" Just then on the
public address system… "Final boarding call for Flight 2561
to DC leaving from gate 88". "Where is gate 88"
I ask. "Up the stairs and to the left." "Where
am I now?" I ask. "Near gate 3" is the reply. (Do the math).
"Crap" I shriek.
Running, Huffing and puffing (not a pretty sight I assure you) I get
to security. Short line, "Good" I think. Metal detector.
Don't beep. Please don't beep! BEEEEP!!! Crap!!!!! Pat down... OK!
Metal Detector wand... Arms GOOD, legs GOOD, Feet, BEEEEP!!! Crap!!!
"Shoes off please", into the ex-ray machine they
go.... GOOD. "Take your belt off please." "Off?"
I query. "OFF" is repeated. Into the ex-ray it went...
"Here are your shoes and belt, you can go".
The plane is now 5 minutes to leaving and I'm at gate 52 trying to
get to gate 88. Now you have to picture me running as fast as I can
(I'm a very big boy), in one hand a briefcase, a black carry on bag,
my shoes, belt and boarding pass. My other hand is holding up my pants.
I find gate 87 and it is the last gate in the terminal. Frustrated
I yell as loud as I can "Where is gate 88?" "Down
the stairs" I hear from somewhere. There it is gate 88. I
see the counter as the door that leads to the plane starts closing.
Sprint man Sprint!!! I stuck my boarding pass in the remaining gap
in the door, which opens wide, and a smiling attendant takes my ticket
and says, "You must hurry". I'm directed to the boarding
tunnel, which ended at another set of stairs down to the tarmac, which
was wet from the rain. (I'm just in socks remember) Twenty yards of
sopping concrete and up the stairs into the plane. Safely aboard now,
pouring with sweat, so out of breath I could not talk, pants falling
off, trying to stuff myself in one of those little airplane seats.
The little old lady seated next to me looked terrified. I however
was immensely relieved that I was going to get home that day after
It took all of the hour flight for me to recover from the Newark airport
run. I don't think my breathing returned to normal until the landing
instructions were announced. (You really need to work out man) The
Plane arrived at Dulles airport landing without incident. My checked
bag did arrive as well so there was one good point! After a $100 taxi
ride I was home. My family was all still up when I finally arrived
home and we had a grand reunion talking for hours about my adventures.
It was good to be home.
twenty years in the U.S. Navy and visiting many countries in that
time, this trip to the United Kingdom has been without a doubt my
greatest adventure. I've been to places I didn't think I would ever
see. Done things I have always dreamed of doing. I have met the most
interesting characters and enjoyed the hospitality of wonderful people.
I learned many things on this trip. Like, the English really do talk
incessantly about the weather and drink gallons of tea. I always thought
that was just an American made up stereotype. The trip even generated
it's own collectibles. Did you get your button?
All the memories, which I will cherish for the rest of my live, came
directly from the hospitality of my hosts and fellow adventures. Matt
and Sarah opened their beautiful home to me and went out of their
way to make sure I was comfortable. Simon, Peter and Judith made sure
I wanted for nothing. I will always fondly remember our time on the
farm. All the planning and sacrifices Matt, Sarah and Simon put into
arranging the trip and working out the logistics for fourteen filming
location visits is just remarkable. "Thanks" seem so minuscule
a word to express my gratitude in comparison to their efforts. But
"Thank you" is offered with the amplitude fitting
their monumental labors.