Surrealism Delays Flight

By | Category: Travel rumblings

This isn’t really a moan. It comes under the category of “just one of those days…” It’s more about how the fates can conspire against you. It seems that there is some mysterious law that says there are days when, if one thing goes wrong, lots of others will as well. And yesterday was one of those.
I was flying to Dublin to hear what Tourism Ireland (see yesterday’s story) was planning for the next few years. From Gatwick, I was travelling on Aer Lingus but first I had to get to the airport for the 6.50 am flight. My problems began before I even got there.
Because of the low temperatures, the ice on the roads and the fact that Monday morning from Gatwick is busy with weekly commuters very first thing, I thought I would take the cross country train to Gatwick. The only train I could take was the first one from Dorking Deepdene which isn’t the main station. So I drove to the main Dorking station, paid for the parking and bought a ticket from the machine after looking at the monitors to show whether the train was on time. They weren’t showing the train times just some message that stayed and stayed. So I bought tickets and walked the 500 yards or so to Deepdene. There, that monitor showed the service as running 26 minutes late. It has been unreliable before but I couldn’t afford the chance. The decision had to be to drive and park at Gatwick so, retrieving the car from the car park, I drove the back way to the airport. (If you go the M25/M23 way, there can be longish queues coming off the motorway and that can add another 15-20 minutes to the journey at 5.30 in the morning) No problem with the drive, although the roads were icy.
At Gatwick south terminal the lower departures area heading through security was packed so I went upstairs thinking it would be quieter. Wrong. It took 45 minutes to get through security and through the additional checks at the gate to get into the lounge. Usually an hour is sufficient to turn up before a flight but today it was tight. A little thing described by Thomas Cook about 10 years ago as the difference between expectation and reality stepped in; – what I call anxiety mapping began to build up and I’m a seasoned traveller! We took off late but arrived in Dublin on time.
Despite the snow In Dublin and the lack of gritting in some places the buses were moving freely, I made the presentation and then came out planning to check a few sights for a future story before I went back to the airport. When it began to snow that big lumpy stuff I changed my mind thinking this might disrupt life. Dublin snarls up beautifully as the rush hour approaches. I caught the first bus back thinking better to be safe than miss the flight. At the airport the security lines were long. It was fine at 11.30 this morning and 2pm, one official told me, but there are five flights leaving all at the same time so it’s suddenly got busier. No problems, I had left plenty of time and it still only took 25 minutes to get through. The flight was on time and I was there.
As the plane which would take me back to Gatwick was on its final approach it got hit by lightning. It landed to a circle of blue flashing lights from fire engines but every passenger was fine. Lightning strikes are not unusual, so I thought no more of it. Twenty minutes before we were due to take off, a rumour went around passengers that the plane had a problem as indeed it had. Planes have to be checked after an incident and nine times out of ten there is not a problem. But not this time, the plane went tech. (airline talk for a problem) No problem because the home of Aer Lingus is Dublin and they would have a spare. It was parked about 500 yards away but because the airport was icy and snow covered at the edges, a bus was called up to transport us. And then the surreal moment began.
The bus’s brakes froze. It had gone tech as well, maybe in sympathy with the plane!
The replacement plane was fine and had been glycol sprayed so we could leave. But we couldn’t get there. The bus was at the door blocking the way. Perhaps we could have used a different door but perhaps they only have one bus at Dublin Airport. The fitters came. Various people in cars with flashing lights came. All for a bus. And we could see where the replacement plane was parked. I’d be willing to push the wheelchair people myself. Whatever the reason why we couldn’t walk, (health & safety?), when we finally got on the flight, it was two hours after the scheduled time. Two people had missed the last connecting flights of the day at Gatwick and would have to be put up in hotels. The headline would be “Bus Delays Flight” if anybody bothered to think of one.
I didn’t really need the pilot to say that heavy snow was forecast for south east England. I had visions of not making it back. But when we returned, there was nothing to speak off and the snow only began overnight. Even the drive home had an irritation. A twerp in a car who didn’t switch off his high beam headlights as he followed me.
So it ended as it began. With life’s conspiracy against me. Nobody can really be blamed for the day’s events. It was just one of those days travellers have from time to time! But a bus delaying a flight. That’s got to be different.

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