Friday, December 30, 2005–London – Newark – Cleveland. The alarm went off at 7:15, although I was not ready to get up. After a quick shower and finishing packing, we had breakfast in the Hotel Montana “breakfast salon”–you can’t go too far wrong with rice crispies and white toast and jam. We left the hotel a little after 9:00 for Thameslink, and were at Gatwick a little after 10:00. Check-in and security were surprisingly expeditious (unlike our experiences later in the day in Newark.)
There is a huge passenger waiting lounge in Gatwick–a sort of “holding pen” until the flight is ready to board, so when the sign lights up, you can pretty much be assured of just getting right on the plane. Although our flight to London had been on a wide-body 777, this was a 757, in the 3 + 3 configuration, packed with people, so I knew it would be obnoxious. That was confirmed when the Indian mother behind us with two small boys asked the flight attendant to be re-seated near the bathroom, because the boys get airsick. The flight attendant couldn’t get anyone to trade, so she handed the woman a big stack of airsick bags. The idea of eight hours in the air with puking kids behind me set off my neuroses, and a felt myself getting a bit woozy. I did apparently pass out for a bit, because (although I don’t remember this), the next thing I knew, George was telling me to wake up, asking me if I was okay. Once I came to, I was just fine. But I gave him a scare.
After everyone was more or less loaded, some woman decided that she couldn’t travel on the flight (claustrophobia?), so she got off, which mean that her luggage had to be removed from the plane for security reasons. That slowed the departure by a good forty-five minutes, because they had to re-open the cargo hold and go through the bags.
The flight was long and miserable–crowded, turbulence, you name it. (Don’t know about the kids behind us–I kept my iPod headphones on for most of the flight.) Despite the late departure, we were not too late getting into Newark; however, we then did wait for an hour to collect our luggage so that we could go through U.S. Customs. By the time we did that, and went through TSA security again (Was it really necessary to check out ID and boarding passes three times within 10 yards?), we ran to the gate for our connecting flight, but the door was already closed. The gate agent was completely rude and unhelpful–there were five people from connecting international flights who arrived all at the same time. She wouldn’t even look at us–she just said, “You’ll have to go to Customer Service.” It was only after coaxing that we got her to tell us where it was. When we got there, they were equally rude. Not once from any Continental Airline employee’s lips pass the words, “I’m sorry for your inconvenience.” We got re-booked on the 8:30 PM flight to Cleveland. Not that it mattered too much–we didn’t have to be anywhere when we got home, but it had been a long day, and the fact that it took an hour to get the backs off of the London flight seemed excessive, especially since they dribbled out over a 45 minute period. We had dinner in a quasi-Portuguese restaurant in the Newark airport. (I think it was about as Portuguese as I am.) The eventual flight to Cleveland was unremarkable. Our luggage had made the 6:00 flight, so we just had to pick it up at the Continental baggage office. We caught a cab home, put our stuff down and collapsed in bed.
It’s too bad that the flight home was inconvenient, but we’d had a fantastic, memorable Christmas trips. It will be one of the highlights of the rest of my life. I’m glad we were able to do it.