August 24th, 2004
Woke up a little before 6 and made tea. Turned on the news and started hearing reports
that even though the British Airways strike had been averted that several flights from
Heathrow had been cancelled last night. We were flying on Virgin, but with BA
cancelling the entire airport was bound to be a disaster. I had my fingers crossed.
We also had to really futz around to try and get weather for California. Finally found
a temp reading for San Francisco. Gave the kids a wakeup call about 6:15. Our flight
was leaving at 11, so we needed to be at the check-in counter around 8. Which meant
getting out of the hotel around 7:30.
Of course I had packed several items I needed for the flight, which meant digging thru
the bags again. Ok, all dressed, all packed and nothing left under the beds. Kids
knocked on the door all ready to go. They'd been smart and had gone down to the lobby
to get real coffee. So checked out, double checking that the bill was correct. There
was another of the Hotel Hoppa
ticket machines in the lobby and this one worked, took
credit cards, and had a black button even. Got our tix and went out front to
wait for the shuttle. There were several other people waiting, including one couple who
had apparently pre-paid for a taxi or something, so every driver that pulled up was
asked if they were here for room 169. None of the drivers knew what room. And lo and
behold, one of them was our mini-van guy from yesterday. He asked us again, and again
we had our tickets already. Someone went ahead and said yes, and he piled the bags in
the back. A few minutes later he was pulling them out again. No idea, but for some
reason the couple backed out of the ride. Our Hoppa bus finally showed up about 20 mins
later, but just the people from our hotel nearly filled the luggage racks, and we had 3
or 4 more hotels to go.
Many of the people were supposed to have flown out the night before on BA but had been
cancelled and not very happy about it. It's a good thing the bus didn't have an accident
as the entire aisle was completely filled with bags. Many of which kept falling over on us.
The whole trip took about 30 mins, as apparently half the people had no pre-purchased
tickets, nor money to pay the driver. So there was much sitting at each hotel while the
arguing went on. Finally we crossed the street and into the
point one guy from the back stood up, pulled his bag from under the rackpile and stood
in the exit doorway. Figured he must be getting off at Terminal 1. I wasn't happy he'd
pulled other bags off the rack and just dumped them on our feet to get his out, leaving
them there to crash into us at every turn. We get to Terminal 1 and offload a few people,
but not the guy standing in the exit and getting in everyones way. Same at Terminal 2.
Finally at Terminal 3,
he got off when we did, but he wasn't even the first person off.
Checking in at Virgin
wasn't bad, though the terminal was just wall to wall people. Once
the bags were safely headed to the plane we had time to run out for a smoke, and then get
thru security. I was looking forward to doing some shopping in the duty free area as we
had almost an hour before boarding time, but gate 32 where we were at was listed as being 20
mins walk. And they were about right. Only the boarding time was wrong and we spent
another 30 mins sitting there. once you leave duty free there's no smoking, no shops, not
much of anything, and going back the other way is another security clearance, plus the
long walk. So nothing we could do but sit. There was thankfully a small coffee and
danish cart nearby, so I got coffee and jam doughnuts. Adri went to buy water from the
machine and lucked out. She'd been trying to get one more £2 coin to bring home, but
hadn't had much luck. At the water machine she found a couple who asked her what value
the funny 2-coloured coin was, and would the machine take it. The machine wouldn't, but
she said she had a few single £ coins, so she traded. They got water, Adri got her
bi-metal £2 and everyone was happy.
The plane arrived, and we boarded. It was a very slow process as they were doing random
searches on 75% of the passengers. We only avoided being patted down, spreading our
carry ons across the open table and removing our shoes because a searcher got called away
and the backup in line got too long.
The flight home was MUCH better than the flight in. We had the full goodie bags this time, our
specific requested meals, and the new plane with the movies on demand and plane-wide games.
I played a bunch of trivial pursuit with someone in row 67D, Adri, 48A, and a few others.
Even won a few, but I suspect that one of the people was probably only a kid. The
on-demand movies is a bit like having a personal PVR at your finger tips. You can pause,
rewind, fast fwd, etc thru the movie. And the selection was quite large. TV, Movies,
special shows, all sorts of choices. Virgin is back to being our #1 airline of choice.
Not much else of interest about the flight home. Just before landing they asked Len and I
to change seats. The emergency exit row only had one person in it and they wanted it fully
staffed. As we'd had a teeny patch of mild bumps this didn't comfort Adri much. (The Xanax
wasn't as helpful on the home trip as the outbound I think.) I did think it was odd after I
saw that the 2 flight attendants also sat in that row facing us. So I guess it takes a LOT
of people to operate one of those door/slide arrangements. I did have a better view since
I could lean forward and see thru the door window, which sitting in the center section both
directions pretty well meant no view.
The landing at SFO
was normal, and we scurried off to immigration and passed thru quite quickly.
Small confusion there as we had differing numbers as to the size of the family. We came up
in a group of 4, but our forms had listed 2 each. The officer at the counter corrected it
as he said they're really fussy at the door. Adri was a little upset as they scanned her
passport, but didn't stamp it. Its so new she wants to have something in it to show for
her travels. Then thru the green door and out to the smoking area.
A quick call to Carissa to say we'd made it, a plea for a ride home from BART, and into the
we went. Wow is BART easy to use to and from the International Terminal. It's
barely 100 steps to the check-in desks! From there to Concord, and from Concord to the house. Still
Standing! (The house, not us) We felt fine getting off the plane, but by the time we made
the front door we all wanted naps. Lasted until about 8pm, and then crashed, waking up at
10,12,1:30,3:30 and 4:30, where we gave up and got ready for work.
Another trip accomplished.