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9:51am on Friday, 28th March, 2008:

Cosmic Balance


So, here I am sitting in the departure lounge at Heathrow Terminal 3.

Apparently, one of the drivers for 577777 Taxis in Colchester was ill last night, meaning that they were a car short. This caused the 6am taxi I had arranged to arrive at 6:12am, which in turn meant that when I arrived at Colchester station for my 6:18am train I missed it by about 3 seconds. I would have made it if the passenger who had just got on via the door I was aiming at hadn't decided to close it, forcing me to switch to another open door which closed before I got there.

Still, I always build in a lot of spare time when I plan a trip, so I simply took the 6:29am train instead. A woman in her early 20s got on at the next stop and decided to sit next to me (sigh); she then proceeded to cough her lungs up for the remaining 30 minutes of the journey.

When I got to Liverpool Street, I learned that there were signal problems at Edgware Road, and that the Circle Line and the Metropolitan and City Line were experiencing "severe delays". Wonderful. Sure enough, we crawled all the way to Paddington.

Needless to say, I arrived at platforms 6 and 7 for the Heathrow Express just in time to see one pulling out of the station. Oh well, I only had to wait 15 minutes for the next one.

I arrived at Heathrow Terminal 3, found I was supposed to check in at zone A, so went there and used one of the spiffy automatic check-in machines. It asked me no questions more difficult than the exact name and street address and zip code of the hotel I would be staying in. Overall, the process worked just fine, although the machine only gave me a ticket as far as Chicago so I'll have to figure out how to get my Chicago-to-Minneapolis ticket when I arrive in the USA.

Enthused by my good fortune at not having to queue for check-in, I decided to go through the security barrier. I could see the doors to the departure lounge right ahead of me. It would have been a simple matter to walk straight up to them, show my boarding card, and go through to the X-ray section.

It would have been, but it wasn't. The whole area was cordoned off with those tape barriers they use, which, although a simple matter to unhook and walk through, would surely have brought the wrath of Heathrow Security down on me. I had to walk about a hundred yards to the end of the barriers to the official opening then walk the whole way back, competing as I did so with some 50 people wearing identical red woollen hats for no apparent reason. Perhaps it was a Happening or something...

Then, something strange occurred. Just as I approached the exit, a guard of some kind beckoned me over and sent me through the fast track lane. I've no idea why. He did the same thing to a Spanish woman, so it wasn't just me. Anyway, I breezed through security, even though I triggered the metal-detector ("it's random", they said, although I couldn't help but notice that the Spanish woman triggered it too). I walked out, choosing to ignore the shoe X-ray section and attracting no attention for doing so.

And that's how come, despite all the earlier delays, I'm sitting here earlier than I would have been if a 577777 taxi driver hadn't felt unwell.

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Copyright © 2008 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).