Gremlins in London

Yesterday, gremlins were hopping all over us.  I hate gremlins.  If I killed one, would it be a hate crime?
Now I know how Kafka felt.  We were flying from Los Angeles to Dublin for a 2-week vacation.  Our plane arrived on time around noon at Heathrow and we staggered out of the plane and into the terminal.  Now, when you’ve been awake for 18 hours, you can get a little punchy.  I had taken a triple dose of an herbal sleep medicine, so my eyes felt like they were trying to go to sleep against my wishes.  My mother, my girlfriend Claire, and myself staggered out into the terminal.  A wheelchair was supposed to be waiting for us so that we could connect to the next flight, because my mother has severely arthritic hips, but there were three people in need of chairs and only two chairs there.  We were SOL.
“It’ll be 15 minutes before I can get another chair up here,” he said.
What do you do when plans change?  You become a hero and roll with the change.  So my mother walked a half-mile through her hip pain until we arrived at the nearest handicapped station.
When we arrived at the handicapped station, called Special Assistance, it was a horrific sight.  There was this one twentysomething guy at a counter surrounded by 20 or more handicapped people buzzing around him like crazed…handicapped people.  We had to wait 20 more minutes before he ordered a handler to wheel my mother and us to the bus to Terminal 5–the wrong terminal, which took us 30 minutes out of our way.  By the time we discovered our mistake, it was another 20 minutes, and then another 20 minutes to take the bus to the right terminal.


But by the time we got to the right terminal, the Special Assistance people there looked at us with pity.


“You’re going to miss your flight,” one said simply.


And he was right.  There was Customs to go through (we were just passing through the terminal, not buying an earl’s estate in Yorkshire!), Customs form to fill out (the airline had said that we didn’t have to fill it out because we were just on a layover!), and by that time, they had taken our luggage off the plane and the plane was in the air, baby, it was up up and away!


Normally, that would have been no problem.  Planes to Dublin aren’t like abortions in America, but like buses in New York City–frequent, not rare.  However, the competing carrier that goes to Dublin is Aer Lingus, and they were on strike for a day!  Of all the days to go on strike!  So all the seats to Dublin were taken until tomorrow.  We looked at each other in disbelief at our coincidental misfortune.  That gremlin was a leprechaun.


That’s when Special Assistance went into their incompetence dance.  Sometimes, I wonder if an evil dead relative is hanging around messing things up for me on certain days.  This was one of them.  At 3 pm, a short guy in a suit accepted responsibility and said they’d get us into a hotel in London and cover transportation, but it wasn’t until 6 pm that we got into the room, after waiting a total of six hours in the nine levels of airport hell.  I could go into detail about each incompetent person along the chain, but you get the idea.  One guy says we only have to wait a half-hour more, but he doesn’t show up for an hour.  Then another guy takes over and he doesn’t know what’s going on and has to call the first guy to get up to speed.  Then there’s another half-hour wait, and when the driver finally arrives, he has to get on the phone to the short guy for 15 minutes before he can get the message that we need to be driven to the hotel just a mile down the road.  There are companies that hire good people and companies that hire the worst people in any group.  Don’t know why they might do that.  Virgin Atlantic, our original airline, was the former.  Special Assistance was the latter.  Somewhere along the way, some guy put it this way:

“It’s run by a private company and paid for by the airport.  But it doesn’t make any money for them, so they’re always understaffed.  Plus, a lot of people from south Asian countries use it for their translation services even though they’re not physically handicapped.”

It brought to mind the horrible service I received from a K-Mart once, where everybody who worked there seemed to be the stupidest person I ever met.  I just had to put this horrible experience on the Internet, for everyone to see.

Warning: Don’t be handicapped in Heathrow Airport!


2 thoughts on “Gremlins in London

  1. I’ve had travel days like that, David. So sorry for you and Claire and especially your mom. Our worst nightmare was in Frankfurt. We tend to think that only airlines in the USA are this messed up, but I’ve encountered it many places. Hope you’re happily in Dublin by now. hugs,

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