disowning heathrow

Well, I’m still here.  I traveled for 12 hours yesterday and ended up right back at my apartment.  We successfully made it on the Tube even while carrying about 150 pounds of our stuff, took the hour long ride with no worries, got off at our terminal, went through and checked bags, went through security, and walked upstairs to the gates area which is when we first saw it out the windows.  It was blizzarding with snow and clearly had been for at least 30 minutes–there was still only about 4 inches though.  We made it to our gate, checked in again (system is really bad here at the gates) and then half of the plane boarded, including all of my friends who were on the flight.

Then I heard from behind me at the rep desk, “WHY ARE THEY STILL BOARDING? STOP BOARDING.” And I knew.  But the business consultant Jesus-loving couple beside me from Dallas have flown 4 million miles with American and were giving me the inside scoop and helping me stay hopeful for a while.  The husband explained that Heathrow makes about $60,000 every time a plane lands, and $20,000 every time one takes off, and that they should be dealing with the runways and since the snow had stopped and visibility had improved, and the de-icers were working on de-icing planes all around us, we should be fine.  So I stayed positive.

Then they de-boarded the people who had been on the plane for 2.5 hours and told us to wait until 4p for a decision as the runways would be open then. During these 2.5 hours I called my mom on some random pay phone using a credit card that probably literally costed $20, but it was worth it.  She started looking for alternatives then and kept tabs online.  It was RIDICULOUS to me that the Wifi at Heathrow wasn’t working, and that I had given away my UK phone to be nice to the UNC students who are studying here next semester.

At 3:48 the gate re-opened and we got back in line to board. I asked one of the attendants if he thought we were really going and he said, “Yes, it’s definitely looking like it.” False hope.  The crew’s time expired at 4:30, so we were in a rush as the doors to the gate had to be closed by then and we had to be moving towards the runway.

At 4p the runways still weren’t open, and now wouldn’t likely be open til 6. So it was then that we wandered back all the way through the airport to baggage claim, got our bags.  Big D had met this random other guy from Raleigh and he graciously let me use his skype on his phone to call my mom and figure out alternative plans.  After a while and loads of stress, and seeing Heathrow looking like a refugee camp, and calling our program Director, Christine and I decided to take the Tube back to central London.  We dragged all our bags halfway across Heathrow to the Tube and then had to RUN to catch the last train.  We were some of the last people they even let in the station.  Then we squeezed on this train car with some weirdos, one who distinctly reminded me of Tila Tequila–I was about to scream at her. We were stuck at the terminal station for about 20 minutes before we started moving.  Then there was some signaling issue on our tube line and so the conductor was like HOLD ON we’re going to push through the emergency brakes, so you will feel a jolt.  I still had four bags and nothing to hold onto.  It took 2 hours to get through 2 stations.  Finally it was back to normal and the last hour was fine.

Then I had to drag all four bags–one giant backpacking pack on my back, one backpack on my front, and two rollies up the stairs.  Luckily this random lady helped me. We then took the seemingly more lovely elevator to the top and got the Tube ride free, thank God people are understanding here since they know efficiency is always at about 40%.

Only then did I have the hardest and coldest walk of my life back to our apartment reception building.  I’ll just skip that part. It wasn’t pretty.

Christine then got us take-out from the ever reliable Thai Garden, and I gave my IP address so we could get internet in here, and then I slept for 11 solid hours. Most frustrating day ever.  My mom, bless her, had been on the phone with American/United ALL afternoon and had originally scheduled me a flight for Tuesday to Dallas and then Baltimore, but then got me one through Chicago to RDU for tomorrow morning.  So looks as though that MIGHT work, though Heathrow is still clearing out 30 tonnes of ice, supposedly from around all of the parked planes. No arrivals were allowed today and only a handful of departures were allowed.  So, now there are 4 of us in the apartment with most scheduled to leave Monday or Tuesday, none of us direct anymore. It’s all a giant, giant mess. And now I’m worried about my flight even going out tomorrow, and that this all re-playing for the 3rd time this semester tomorrow and I won’t be home until after Christmas because I can’t get another flight.  So, I’ve been on Heathrow’s twitter for most of the day: http://twitter.com/#!/heathrowAirport and have now been on hold with American for 53 minutes to see if I can get any information out of them.  I won’t believe I’m going home, until I’m on the ground at RDU.

But, we’re trying to make the best of it.  We got Big D settled in this morning and then went out for an AMAZING meal with incredible service (first time in Europe) at Jaime’s Italian. We walked around Covent Garden a bit and then came back as it’s freezing and we’re both exhausted, and feel like we went through triathlons yesterday. And here I am, on the phone with American. As long as I get home before Christmas, I’ll be fine. I just don’t understand how they weren’t prepared for these measly 4 inches.  As Mommy said, “they’re dealing with snow about as well as Raleigh does,” and it’s the busiest international airport in the world? Okay, I’ll stop. I’m warm, safe, and clean. Things could be a lot worse.


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