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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Travelling Abroad

I'm writing this at 6:40AM because my body thinks it's like 11AM (or more) and isn't quite sure what to do with all that dark just yet.

Those who know me know I have pretty bad travel karma. I've seen my commuter plane take off without me (after being told specifically that if I drove to Springfield to catch it ... it would wait), nearly lost my sanity in Atlanta and already once nearly didn't get out Heathrow in time for my grandmother's funeral.

This time I got by pretty easily. No flights were absurdly delayed, our seats always turned out to be our seat and we didn't get too terribly lost in the shuffle between flights.

I will say Heathrow is a bit of a mess these days. It's terminals are widely spread apart and can be difficult to navigate if you attempt anything remotely complicated. And the departure gate was a nightmare. First it was located about a twenty minute walk away from any kind of food or drink - so don't even think about capping off that final pint right before boarding. There's also no access to bathrooms with the gate and unfriendly and quite possibly insane gate clerk informed me that a) the plane was boarding in ten minutes (completely untrue) and that b) if I wanted to leave the gate after entering I'd have to give my passport to one of the security guys inside the gate.

Which begs a couple of questions. One - if there was a security guy inside the gate why was I even being stopped by this asshole? All he did was look at boarding passes and point people to the other (theoretically more skilled) guy who did the same thing. Second - am I to really believe that Heathrow will confiscate your passport for you to use the WC? Sorry, maybe I've seen too many Bourne movies but the only time I'm willingly leaving my passport behind in the hands of a state official is when I'm being detained. Screw your boarding pass - without that I can't get back in the country.

So I run to the bathroom and on the way back - frisked again. This would mark the third time since Spain. Now honestly - extra security doesn't annoy me. Take your time, check my luggage, whatever. But when it resembles a bad Abbot and Costello routine - I get a bit worried. Everything security related at Heathrow seemed like it was put together by last year's prom committee. From the roped off entrance with nothing resembling a line to force everyone on the flight to go through security again, to the two guys looking at passports right after (even though my Dad just walked past their "check" to one side and they failed to notice we didn't have the new tickets the sign next to them said we needed) to the gate from hell ... it wasn't really inspiring confidence.

And then there was the travel adaptor. I'll just say check the labels one these things before doing anything. I was trying to run the computer off it when I realized it was overheating and that the laptop's display was flickering. Turns out it's not for "electronic circuit" equipments, a la laptops, tv's, etc. My dad and I figure it could at least charge the battery with the laptop turned off. So I shut it down, plug it in ... and about thirty minutes later it pops and blows a fuse.

At that point we essentially had a fire hazard as a travel adaptor as it would get really, really hot. However it did work fine in short ten or fifteen minute bursts ... so I just charged things slowly. Which sucked for the laptop since the Lenovo beast doesn't know how to go to standby (it either wakes itself up to run the hard drive or just crashes all the running apps) and takes some twenty minutes just to boot up. It was oddly fine for doing things for long periods of time - assuming I'd be around for half a day to charge it back up again. For doing quick things, like reading email, ... well it still took half a day to charge it up again...

These were pretty minor hiccups on what was otherwise a pretty lovely holiday though. We were down by Malaga and the area is very tourist friendly - which is good because my Spanish downright sucks. I can order some food and a beer, but when asked something by a local ... all I can do is shrug.


Corvus said...

Welcome home! I'm glad you had a good time overall.

Josh said...

It was really great in general, we saw the sights of London, Gibraltar and hung out with some sun and cervezas - a huge in improvement over the overcast cold of Chicago.

Weefz said...

Yep, Heathrow is the most appalling airport I have ever had the misfortune of travelling through. Even the old Limbang airport in Sarawak where you share the terminal with crates of chickens is better - at least you can see exactly what's happening there.