Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Is For Airport

Being Late Is A Departure From The Norm

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON


Since the age of 24, when I was lucky enough to be given the gig of a globe-trotting sports journalist covering cricket and tennis at the world’s most famous venues, I have caught more flights than I could ever count. I was never late for any of them.

Since I became a father and revelled in taking the Authorbloglets to wonderful cities, we have been fortunate enough to fly to some truly memorable places. Once again, we have never been late for any of our flights.

But there was one solitary occasion in 1986 when Mrs Authorblog came close to derailing my record for punctuality. We were in London and we were due to fly to Brussels for a week and we had non-refundable, non-changeable air tickets.

It was the 23rd July. If the date doesn’t exactly ring a bell, let me remind you of its significance. It was the day that Britain’s Prince Andrew married Sarah Ferguson. Mrs Authorblog was delighted to be accompanying me to Belgium, but she was not exactly over the moon about the fact that we were travelling on the day of the royal wedding.

Let me put this in context. Mrs Authorblog was a flight attendant for a major international airline, and was accustomed to check-in desks, time zones and airport protocol. But she was also (understandably, I hasten to add) not best pleased about travelling on a day when she would rather (I suspect) be standing with the throng of bystanders outside Westminster Abbey.

So we struck a deal. She would watch the start of BBC TV’s coverage of the wedding and as soon as Prince Andrew entered the church, we would leave for the airport. We had a long way to go. We were in South Wimbledon, which was a long haul (and a couple of Tube changes) to Heathrow.

Prince Andrew arrived. But Mrs Authorblog wasn’t budging. I was looking at the clock. Then a new deal was struck. We would wait until the TV cameras showed Fergie leaving Clarence House in the famous glass coach. I agreed.


That came and went. Then Mrs Authorblog asked if she could wait until Fergie walked down the aisle to meet her prince. Looking nervously at the clock and mentally computing the Underground routes and schedules, I agreed. But now I was getting rather edgy.

We sprinted to South Wimledon station, ran down the escalator to the train and Mrs Authorblog, who was suddenly rather pale at the prospect of missing the flight to Brussels, asked me in a very inconspicuous voice if we would make it to Heathrow on time. Gallantly, I said we should have about five minutes to spare – as long as the train did not stop between stations.

Sure enough, it stopped between stations about ten minutes later. By now we knew that even if we got out at the next station and took one of the London black cabs, we would still not get to the airport any quicker than if we stayed on the Tube.

When we eventually pulled into Heathrow, Mrs Authorblog led the way. As we raced towards the airline check-in desk, she just had one single piece of advice for me. "Don’t stop to help any little old ladies with their suitcases," she said.

About fifty metres later, there was – you guessed it – a little old lady struggling with her suitcase. So I did what anyone would do. I stopped and helped her – and told Mrs Authorblog I would catch up with her.

We made our flight with only seconds to spare – as they announced our names over the PA system for the third time.

Now, each time we make travel plans for the family, I always check the calendar – just to make sure no royal weddings are scheduled the same day.

For the home of ABC Wednesday, go to Mrs Nesbitt's Place.

40 comments:

GreenJello said...

Good on you for helping the little old lady. :)

Artist Unplugged said...

How funny....I so like living my tomorrow on my today!!!! I set my alarm to wake up to watch the weddings and Princess Di's funeral...always want to watch it as it happens. Good for you for helping little ol' ladies! I am opposite, in that, I have traveled minimally.......boo hoo!

Carolina said...

You just wrote down a dream that's re-occuring in my nights. Well not literally, but still.....Having to be somewhere on time, but so many things get in the way.... Aaarrgh!

Katney said...

I've had my share of close connections, but your first photo made me think of a totally different travel experience. When we were in Russia ten years ago, we had either our Russian future daughter-in-law, or an English speaking agent of our travel company to assist us at every major connection on our Trans-Siberian Railway journey. Except for one city. In Novosibirsk, we arrived to do a bit of individual travel to visit some folks in a distant village, and had to find our way to the boat. When we returned from that side trip we took a taxi on our own to our hotel. Then, a couple of days later, we set off for the next leg of the trip. Instead of a guide to get us to our correct train, we were provided with a taxi to the station and our tickets in an envelope.

That was all very well and good because by this time we had been in the country for nearly three weeks and aving mastered the phonetics of the Cyrillic alphabet,I was able to sound out the destinations on the signs. We should be able to find our correct track--no problem.

Yes, problem! The train station was undergoing extensive remodelling, which, at that moment meant that the arrival and departure board looked nothing like your photo. Instead, it was a mass of wires sticking out. The only way to learn anything was to listen to the announcements.

We wandered the station looking for someone who could translate and find out where our train was to leave. No one spoke English and my several dozen words of Russian were not serving us very well.

We finally found a travelers aid sort of booth. They weren't there for the purpose of helping confused Americans, but they were friendly. We showed them our tickets and somehow got the word that that train was late. We decided to park ourselves nearby sitting on our suitcases, and every time an announcement came over the loud speaker, go to check with them. Eventually, all we had to do was look their way, and they would shake their heads "no."

Finally, after about three hours, we looked across at our new found friends, who ecstatically nodded and shouted "Da, Da" They wrote down the track number on a slip of paper, and we were off to Ekaterinburg.

Travel can be exciting--even if you are early.

Meredith Teagarden said...

One can hardly resist Mrs. Authorblog's love of a good princess story! How lovely she was able to stay. It only makes sense she married a guy who helps little old women carry their heavy burdens!

Mrs. Organic said...

Great story - I've never been late with so glamorous an excuse as watching a wedding.

Tiaras and Tantrums said...

cute story - thanks for sharing! Traveling with my husband is a NIGHTMARE! The first trip we took together was to Italy - oh my, I thought he was on drugs - he turned into this crazy man. DUDE - it's just an airplane ride!

George said...

What a neat story. Obviously you are a true gentlemen in the best sense of the word!

katherine. said...

I have yet to miss a flight because of being late...but have had to sprint thru a terminal once or twice.

although between planes during a rushed stopover in Dallas last month I heard, "c'mon...do you really need to take pictures of that?"

Mojo said...

I remember when Chuck and Di were wed and all the hype that went along with it. My then-wife was of course caught up in all of the attendant drama, but frankly I didn't see what all the fuss was about myself. At one point in the pre-nuptial hysteria, then-wife began laying plans for celebrating "The Wedding". Being well and truly apathetic about the whole affair, I hadn't noted when this Blessed Event was to take place, so I asked "What wedding?" With a look that suggested I had recently sprouted a second head, she replied "Charles and Diana? Remember them?"
"Do I know these people?"
"I sincerely doubt it!"
"Then why would I care that they're getting married?"

Wrong. wrong. wrong.

quilly said...

David, I read the story thoroughly and I could not find any instance where your wife was at fault for making you late for the plane. I was thinking it was Andrew and Fergie's fault for planting their wedding right in the middle of your travel plans; however, your last paragraph put the blame precisely where it should lie, Now, each time we make travel plans for the family, I always check the calendar – just to make sure no royal weddings are scheduled the same day. You clearly accepted the blame as your own -- as any good and noble prince would.

Daryl said...

What a good husband you are ... what a wonderful story

Willow said...

I thought I would miss seeing the US inauguration this morning but the teacher in the classroom where I teach at 9am had it on.

I had to read your story to The Professor and we both laughed.

Queen-Size funny bone said...

After travelling just days ago to and from the Dominican I find that airports can bring out the best and the worst in people. Including airport personnel.

Fat, frumpy and fifty... said...

Only today l was thinking we dont often hear about you and your family...and that may be a choice on your part...but it is so interesting to hear about your experiences within family situations and the impact family has upon them..more please..
l also remember the day very well..

richies said...

I don't travel by air very often. The last time was in March of 08. We were stranded in Dallas when they shut the airport down because of 1 inch of snow. When we finally arrived in Belize we were to take a small plane to San Pedro. They couldn't fly because of thunderstorms. We missed two days of our pre-paid vacation because of it. On the way home Dallas airport was once again closed so we took an extra day traveling through Miami and Atlanta.

An Arkie's Musings

The Muse said...

an absolute gem of a story!

Dr.John said...

I know the feeling. I'm a get there early guy and my wife is a get there when we get there person.
It's good we don't fly much.

Maggie May said...

Oh..... I was getting really quite tense by the time I finished reading this, cos I don't like to be late for anything! Glad you made it and had time to help a little old lady!

Karen said...

Thanks for visiting my blog (via Suldog!). Love your photos and particularly your random wit, errant line!

Fotosekken said...

Another great story today! =o) Thank you.

joan said...

Great story David! I bet you and Mrs. AB have lots of them. I love how she wanted to watch more and more of the wedding. I get to airports early too, I love to fly and go places but don't feel at ease until I am sitting back at the gate. Hey good for you in helping the little old lady. I'm getting closer to that old lady title each day. LOL

Sandi McBride said...

Okay now David, I'm with Mrs Authorblog...I'd have no more missed the wedding of Diana and Charles (or Di and Chuck as our American press so grossly called them) then I'd miss a flight to the moon! To have been able to see Sarah and Andrew wed, as well? What a bonus!
Sandi

lime said...

mr. lime and i missed the flight for our honeymoon. he misread he tickets. the lady at the check-in just winked and inquired, "started the honeymoon a bit early did you?" she switched us to the next flight for no extra charge as "her wedding gift."

holly said...

what is it that made you want to help? the oldness or the ladyness? or was it the combination?

is it an addiction or genetically set?

when i was moving over to britain years ago, the plane didn't plan well, and needed to refuel. this made me late for my other connection, such that i RAN across the airport with my huge moving-to-britain-forever bag just to get to the gate as the plane was pulling away.

i had to stay overnight in frankfurt, which actually was fun.

no little old ladies were involved.

Babooshka said...

I am definitely in the minority here. I had no interest in it then now or ever. I'm with the French abolish the royal family. On the other hand they have provided you with one of your fabulous tales to regale us with.

shutterhappyjenn said...

Despite all that, I admire you for taking the time to help the old lady even if it means missing the flight.

My "A" photos are posted here and here. Please hop on by if you have time. Happy Wednesday!

mountain.mama said...

Ah, yes, traveling with a family is much different than traveling solo.

ramblingwoods.com said...

Good for you helping the woman with her luggage...

Grace and Bradley said...

What a story, well told!! I really thought you were going to miss the flight!

spacedlaw said...

You have a thing for letting women get their way, haven't you? First your wife then the little old lady.
:)

RuneE said...

The most important wedding not to miss: You own - and you made it.

Tessa said...

Did the passengers clap sarcastically when you boarded? Awful that, don't y'think?

My husband has such train fever when it comes to catching a plane that he tries to convince me we should get there a day early. Even after 22 years of travelling around the globe!

Life with Kaishon said...

So funny! I laughed my head off : ). I am glad you helped the little old lady! You still made your flight! Which just goes to show, it always pays to be kind!

Lene said...

Yes - A is for Airport. But you surpriced me with departure. Arival was to obvious?

:)

splummer said...

Hi!
Wonderful Story!! Thanks for sharing! Loved it! Glad you made your flight on time! Have a great day!!

Sherrie

Jay said...

ROFL! That's a very funny story! And a great picture to go with it, too!

Neva said...

What a great post!!! And I am amazed at your record!

Dragonstar said...

You must have been just about tearing your hair out! Congratulations on managing a tricky feat of co-ordination.

On behalf of the ABC team, thanks for joining the fun.

Tumblewords: said...

Little old ladies need help. I know. :) Great read!