austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

As long as they gaze on Waterloo sunset they are in paradise

There was a funny thing slipped under the door when we got home Tuesday night: a notice that there was going to be a test of the fire alarm system at 11 the next morning. There wasn't to be an actual fire, if they could help it, but anyone in the hotel at that hour would be expected to clear out and follow reasonable fire alarm routines.

We slept late again, since we could hardly not, although we'd gotten showered and changed by the time the alarm started. We'd had a fifth-floor room so we moved with reasonable care down the stairwell, and found that everybody seemed to be gathering in the little courtyard directly in front of the lobby, which would probably be a bad idea in an actual fire, but since we were away from the street where the many, many buses were driving and where a fire truck did pull up briefly, we were probably all right. We were among the handful of guests who hadn't gotten out of the hotel well ahead of this, apparently. Most of the group was people in hotel-based purple shirts gathered around the one person wearing the reflectorized yellow vest marking her as chief of the fire-evacuation procedures, or else just smoking.

On checking out we discovered the other twist to the reservation made by bunny_hugger's uncle, the one for which we weren't positive what name it would be under. He'd also paid for the room. We weren't able to talk him into letting us repay him, either. We aren't really going to be able to thank him and his wife enough for all they did for us.

If we'd woken earlier, or if we hadn't been slowed by the imitation fire, we might have gone to breakfast-or-lunch around the hotel, but we figured instead we should get to Heathrow. The airport is, happily, on the Underground and we got one-way tickets there for a bit cheaper than the day pass needed would be. The train running for Heathrow has different routes for terminals 1, 2, 3, and 5 versus that for terminal 4, but we had the right train and could only wonder about the horrible existence lived by those who have to struggle on to terminal 4. Probably they don't even suspect how bad they have it.

If we had been slick, we might have managed to find a way to use up our British currency, with maybe a little bit of loose change hanging around, right around our final day. But we weren't quite able to make it. Our last meal on the ground was at a pub-style restaurant deep in the terminals, packed enough (it was close to the lunch rush) that we had to wait and kind of ask if it was all right to sit down to get a table, and at that had to sit at a table before it was fully cleaned. And it was expensive enough we couldn't use the last pound notes we had. They'll have to go in the box for our next trip to Britain.

We were incidentally happy that going through airport security outside meant we didn't have to bother with the silliness of taking our shoes off. Of course, that was the cue for the fickle feet of fate to decide bunny_hugger needed some extra scrutiny and she had to take her shoes off for that anyway. I got through with my sneakers on, at least.

A minor disappointment and disruption of tradition happened when we found that there just aren't Swedish Fish for sale at Heathrow's convenience stores.

The flight out started rough, with turbulence nearly the full first hour --- long enough to take us from London out over Blackpool and even past Ireland, on that heading. Also the in-flight entertainment system crashed over and over, so the flight attendants declared all alcohol was free. I didn't take advantage, and bunny_hugger just enjoyed the one something or other, but we did spot a woman seated ahead of us who was taking full advantage of this free-alcohol policy, almost like the golden age of jet travel. Even when the in-flight entertainment system was turned on, the movie on Channel 1 was A Thousand Words. Also running on both Channels 6 and 7 was Cars. (Multiple hours into this I did give in and watch about fifteen minutes of the end of the cyce and that seemed to be about enough. I got some fine giggles from the closing credits with the car-reformed Pixar Movies sequence, particularly the remaking of A Bug's Life.)

I don't typically look at crossword puzzles, even though the secretary at work does them during lunch break and I'm often called on for miscellaneous words when she's stumped (``Loire'' turns up surprisingly often, and she's learned ``Asta'' by now, but I'm still the one to turn to for Greek letters). But for whatever reason I looked at the crossword puzzle in the in-flight magazine this time, and ran across ... I want to say number 30 Down. Five letters, Raccoon's relative. What are the odds that ``coati'' would turn up in the in-flight magazine for our honeymoon? And that we'd discover it? (We did check the crossing words to make sure that ``panda'' could be ruled out, and then even found the answer key to verify.)

And, happily, the flight smoothed out and we were able to settle into the routines of modern trans-atlantic air travel. They indeed served a dinner and a somewhat wretched snack that could be considered a breakfast, lunch, or dinner without quite being any of them. bunny_hugger even got to sleep a decent while.

In Chicago we had to go through customs and we remembered at the last moment that we did have something to declare. bunny_hugger momentarily forgot and thought we were declaring the Starbars we were bringing in, as being, properly speaking, food, but no, it was the tulip bulbs from Amsterdam. They took our luggage to be screened again and separately and asked where the tulip bulbs were. bunny_hugger had packed them conveniently on a side panel of her bag --- which folds over and zips up the middle otherwise --- where it'd be easy to get to. Unfortunately, the attendant didn't hear or didn't understand and was trying to unzip and unfold her luggage instead. And we were kept behind one of those little retractable-ribbon barriers, so we couldn't just take it out for him.

But eventually we got our message across, and he saw the bulbs with the attached certificate that they were safe for import to the United States and Canada. The Customs folks nodded to us and told us to not bring back into the States any plants that didn't have that certificate, instructions which I did not feel appropriate pointing out we had followed exactly.

From Chicago we walked through every terminal ever, including several constructed just for the purpose, to get the little flight over to Lansing, although we were delayed a little in setting out due to storms rolling in, as I recall. We had a smooth enough flight, though, and got to the nicely familiar Lansing airport in time to ... watch the last taxi roll out. We needed to phone a taxi and wait for it to come around, while we sat outside the luggage carousel, happy and exhausted and wondering how many people they had working at the airport now that we were (apparently) the only passengers left and there weren't to be any planes arriving or departing for hours. There was certainly the person working the rental car counter, who didn't even glance at us, and there must have been a couple security guards, but otherwise?

It had been blisteringly hot in Lansing while we were away. It wasn't too hot the night we got back, by that standard --- it felt closer to a Singapore night than anything else --- but we were exhausted-relieved to get back home, into the air conditioning, and collapse.

Trivia: The first auction of tea in London following the end of the East India Company's monopoly, on 8 October 1835, was hurriedly organized and due to excessively high turnout had to be moved from Caraway's coffee house to a dancing academy nearby in Change Alley. The first lot for sale was withdrawn, amidst doubts that it was genuine tea passed by government inspection. Source: Tea: Addiction, Exploitation, and Empire, Roy Moxham. (Apparently there were cries of ``Unfit for sale except as poison'', because early 19th century Britons had not yet discovered catchy cries.)

Currently Reading: Chrysalis 1, Editor Roy Torgeson.

PS: The Least Pleasant Thing About WiiFit, as I work back into a habit of writing original essays again. There is the chance for the interested reader to show her work!

Tags: honeymoon
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