Sunday, May 5, 2024

Saturday, April 27, 2024. Off we go.


The last time I traveled overseas was in 2014. That’s ten years ago now. When I planned that trip, I had just turned 40 and needed surgery. I had to have a breast tumor removed. I didn’t know what the biopsy results would be, so I thought I should plan a big trip in case my life was about to change for the worse. The tumor turned out to be benign, so that worked out. You can read all about that trip on my blog elsewhere. This should be the first entry, if you want to revisit that vacation:


I have been planning the current trip since around February 2019. I thought I’d be spending my birthday in April 2020 traveling to Amsterdam, London and Paris. And then we all know what happened. At least I hadn’t booked anything when the world looked like it was going to shut down and then did shut down in 2020. I had another surgery in late 2020, so it was just as well that I didn’t go on a big vacation that year. Can't wait to find out what surgery I'm going to need in another 10 years or so!

I originally planned to be on vacation for my actual birthday in 2024 - 50 this time. But that was the weekend of the London Marathon. So here I am, on a plane the week after my birthday. 

No trip would be complete without a few little panics along the way. The first little panic of the trip was when my friend who was giving me a ride to the airport (I insisted she do it, she didn’t really want to) was exposed to COVID on her vacation the week before. No ride from her. She’s at home sick with COVID right now. My producing partner on The Lola LaRue Variety Show, Diana, agreed to give me a ride, so that crisis was averted pretty quickly. Since I wasn't sure if the COVID panic would have passed by the time I needed a ride home from the airport, I asked another friend to pick me up.

I have been walking 10,000 steps a day for 43 weeks now, but didn’t have time in the morning before my flight what with all of the packing and last-minute cleaning (LOL, you couldn't tell), so while waiting to board my flight, I walked up and down the terminal at the Burbank Airport. It is about 400 steps each way for anyone playing along at home. I was able to get to 6,000 steps done before my flight. I got an email notification that my sister's flight from San Antonio to Dallas, where we were connecting for the London flight, was delayed. Another little panic, but the delay, so far, was not bad enough to cause any real problems. We were sort of talking about getting something to eat during the layover, so I would just be on my own if I wanted to eat.

 I booked window seats for all four legs of my flight on this trip. On the leg from Burbank to Dallas, I shared the row with a gay couple. The man seated in the center seat had lifted the armrest before I got there. After I sat down, he left the armrest lifted. Weird! Since the Jim Jeffries rules of flying mean the center seat gets two armrests, I didn’t touch it. If he wanted it up, it was his anyway. The aisle man was watching Curb Your Enthusiasm on his phone with subtitles on for the whole flight, and the center man watched it over his shoulder. Weird again! The flight didn’t have view screens on the seats, but the airline offered movies and TV shows over wi-fi on your own device. I watched Ted Lasso Season 3 episode 1. Not impressed enough to watch the second episode, and without enough time remaining to start a movie, I just sat. I was surprised the men in my row weren’t more chatty. I’m always willing to chat with people on the plane.

 We landed in Dallas and I had to change to the International Terminal. According to the Internet, my sister’s flight, which was delayed again, was now leaving any minute from San Antonio - after I had already arrived in Dallas. Our flights were supposed to arrive in Dallas 1 or 2 minutes apart. There was still time for her to make the flight, maybe? Even though my flight landed early, we sat on the plane waiting for a gate for a long time and by the time I got to the International Terminal I only had about 30 minutes to kill before boarding started. I didn’t realize it was going to take 45 minutes to board the flight. Lots of seats to fill on a double-decker plane. My sister's chances of making the flight were looking worse by the minute.

 Everyone coming from a connecting flight had to go to the desk and get a new boarding pass and have their passport looked at one more time. I asked the man at the desk if he had any insider information, what with working at an airport, about what might happen when a flight with several people making a connection is running so late. He bluntly said that my sister will miss the flight. They close the gate at 7:00 (for a 7:30 departure) and she would either make it or she wouldn’t. He was rude. Not a great start to my trip to England to encounter a rude English man while still on American soil.

(This is me in the art installation, walking.)

 I wanted to get a higher step count for the day, but not wander too far away, so I hung out around the gate area walking in a circle around an art installation while checking my phone for updates on my sister’s flight. I was too nervous to scrounge for food. I saw that another flight to London, on a different airline, was departing in about 2 hours. Should I try to rebook onto that flight in case she doesn’t make it to this one and gets on that one? Should I just not get on this flight and pretend I missed it, too? They knew I had checked in, so maybe they would hold the door for me if I didn't get on the plane on time. What if I rebook and she does make it and then I’m stuck on a later flight. Not making a decision is the same as making a decision. I paced.

 The boarding started. My sister wasn’t there yet. Group after group was called. I was in group 8, so nearly the last group to board. My sister texted. She had landed and was on the tram between terminals. I had timed the tram while riding on it, and it took 13 minutes. Boarding was scheduled to close in 10 minutes. I didn’t get in line when my group came up and instead went back to the counter to let them know my sister, Cynthia, was a few minutes away. I walked up and said, “I have a question.” “Give me your boarding pass,” the woman behind the counter answered. “I just wanted to ask a question.” She snapped back, “I won’t answer anything without your boarding pass.” I gave her my boarding pass. She ignored me then, tapping away at the computer, until, “You're checked in. Please go through.” “But I wanted to ask a question.” “What?” “My sister is like 2 minutes away. Her flight was late. Will she be able to board?” “Not if she is a minute late. Now get on the plane!” Second rude English person, still not out of the USA.

 I reached the plane. My seat was on the starboard side of the plane and we boarded on the port side. The flight attendant tells me to “go through when I can.” I walk past the first galley walkway, where another flight attendant is working, blocking the passage, and the first flight attendant acts like I’m an idiot, pulling me back to that walkway. Language barrier! When "I can go through" to me means that I’m to continue through the plane until I come to an empty passage. Apparently, it meant to wait for the flight attendant to finish whatever she was doing and go through there. All right, first flight attendant, I know you think I’m an idiot. I’m never seeing you again anyway.

 I found my seat and before I sat down, a woman on the aisle of the center seat sections asked if I wanted to change seats with her, to have an aisle. I tell her as politely as possible that I paid extra for the window seat, so…no. I settled in. The flight isn’t full. The middle seat on my row remained empty. I didn't know if my sister would make it. I considered telling the woman hoping for a window seat that the seat in front of me, my sister’s seat, might be empty. I wondered what I’ll do when I arrive in London alone. How will I get the Heathrow Express ticket to my sister for when she lands the next day, or later in the same day, depending on what happens if she can’t get on the flight? But then, a miracle, she’s standing in the aisle on the flight!

 My sister went up to the same rude people I had encountered and was pleading with them to get on the plane. She finally said something to the effect of, “But my sister’s on the plane!” and they let her through. Oh, yes, they remembered me bugging them. They let her board. Relief! I didn’t have to worry about how we were going to connect up in London. The middle seat in her row was also empty for the whole flight. At least the flight would be a little bit more comfortable than it otherwise might have been with empty seats beside us.

 Each seat back had a screen with something like 140 film options and a few dozen TV show episodes available. I watched Anyone But You - an adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing with bad acting and bad writing that still wasn't too bad - and Mission Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One - hey, it was long if nothing else - and maybe that was it? I started Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, but had to focus on not vomiting and didn't watch the whole thing. I don't remember if I tried to watch anything else. It was a redeye flight, but I am not great about sleeping on planes. I am great at sitting and doing nothing, though.

 I pre-ordered vegetarian meals, which apparently meant vegan on this leg of my trip. Oops! Of the two entrees they served for regular dinner and breakfast service, one was always just vegetarian, and probably would have tasted better. I was surprised that all of the English-owned travel I did on this trip where a meal was involved, there was always one vegetarian option. Horray! And better than the US is with this. Dinner was soggy and hot zucchini, squash, eggplant and red peppers, frozen bread, water, and a coconut mystery dessert with something yellow in the middle of it. It wasn’t very good. Breakfast was even worse. A breakfast burrito filled with red peppers, cauliflower and spinach. I was incredibly airsick by then, and just the smell of it made me want to vomit. Well done, British Airways, for making disgusting food!

 I tried for about an hour to sleep, but no joy. Because it is spring and we fly toward the north, the window screens were all closed for most of the flight to keep the cabin incredibly dark. But we made it to London.

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