Saturday, May 17, 2008

Nightmares and nice men

More travel. Ah, well, it couldn’t go worse that the previous bits, could it? It was just plane from Amsterdam to East Midlands, a whole hour to get to the connecting flight, then on to Jersey. No problems, they told me. No problems?
Kevin drove me extra early to Schipol and dropped me off at BMI where I queued to check in. When I arrived at the desk, however, it was to be told that BMI was not the same airline as BMI Baby. I needed to be in an utterly different area. Just as well I’d left the time. But how stupid. I cannot be the first person to make that mistake. They could at least put up a sign. Not a good start. But it got worse. And stupider. When I checked in, Mr BMI Baby told me, no he couldn’t check me in for the second half of the flight, nor check my bag through to Jersey. At East Midlands I had to disembark, immigrate, collect my bag, go from Arrivals to Departures, re-check in …
Adjectives failed me. And so did my courage. When is an airline not an airline….?
My nervousness was patent as we queued for the plane, but two habitués of these flights – a very tall, quiet black man with a reassuring manner, and a fine, confident Welshman – assured me ‘I would be all right’. East Midlands airport is a small one, immigration is instant, baggage arrives in minutes, and so forth. To calm me, the charming BMI flight attendant even contacted land to tell them I was coming, but nothing, it appeared, could alter the 30-minute before take off deadline within which I and my bag must appear at the BMI desk.
I guess you could say I fell on my feet. The handsome Welshman turned out to be placed in the next seat to me, and in the face of my evident distress he offered to personally shepherd me through to check-in. Another Sir Galahad. No, more like a saint, this one: ‘Saint David’, I guess. There must be something about me redolent of Andromeda or St George’s Dragon’s Princess. Me? A damsel in distress? A plainish 62 year-old bloke?
We arrived on time, we zoomed from the plane pausing only to grab the immigration card which the plane had failed to carry aboard. No queue! Swiftly through to the baggage room. No baggage. Five minutes, ten, fifteen … it’s never this long .. what had seemed a shoo in was evaporating. Finally, Saint David pointed me in the direction of check in and himself stayed behind (he had no baggage!) to await my case. I got to check in with two minutes to spare, my saviour arrived with the delayed suitcase with 30 seconds to spare … I didn’t even have time to effuse my thanks, my boiling brain just followed the woman’s instructions: run, get to the desk… and I did it.
Now I could relax. I was on. But was I?
There are no security queues on Fridays, it’s a quiet day. Except this Friday. A line of hundreds and three unenthusiastic machines moving at limping pace (when moving at all). Dozens of kind Britons let me jump the queues. I had fifteen minutes to make the gate. Finally I’m on the machine: shoes and belt off, computer out.. and .. what is she doing with my bag? ‘I have fifteen minutes’ I gasp. ‘Can’t help that’ she says, ‘you’ve got scissors in there’. ‘Scissors?’ Oh, hell, my nail-scissors. I am going to weep. Saint David, where are you? But her words are harder than her acts. She slips from her seat, passes me my bag, I rip the scissors from their bag, say goodbye to them, and with shoes and belt in my hand, I run.
In theory, I should have missed the flight. I arrived thirty seconds after ‘take off time’. But BMI was running a little late, the wheelchairs were just preparing to board… my stomach settled ..
I was on. At last I was safe.
The flight was uneventful, the bus at Jersey airport was swift, the trip to town so much more pleasant than I remembered, and I was so happy to arrive at Bayview Guest House where I have the dearest little room with wildly efficient wifi, and the sun is coming out…
The nightmare is over. Until next time, I suppose.
But I don’t think I’ll ever again find a parfait gentle Knight as splendid as ‘Saint David’. Thank you, Paul. It’s great to know there are people in the world as kind, good and delightful as you. Will you marry me?

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