The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

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8:01pm on Thursday, 21st June, 2007:

5 Hours


So, I got up at 5:30 this morning, aiming to shower, pack and get to my car by 6am to drive to the airport. I did the first two of these in 15 minutes, then went down to check out.


Well there was no-one at the desk. What's more, there was no bell to ring to summon anyone to the desk, nor did anyone appear when I shouted. Eventually, someone came out from somewhere with a trolley holding coffee urns, and I managed to get him to check me out (and, more pressingly, run my car parking ticket through his machine so it didn't cost me £10 to leave the car park).

There are two main ways to get to Heathrow from Portsmouth: the A3 or the M3. The A3 is the shorter, because you have to drive for 20 miles before you get to the M3. However, I chose the M3 as it's dual carriageway all the way; the A3 has some excruciating pinch points that can hold you up for half an hour even out of peak time. I figured that maybe some people would be driving to London to work at that time of the day, and it could get very busy. Thus, I took the M3.

And yes, it did get busy. The last 20 miles of the M3, before it reached the M25, were stop/start. It can't be a lot of fun to have to make that drive every morning... I'd timed my run the previous day (in the opposite direction) at 75 minutes, but of course it took me somewhat longer than that. However, I'd allowed more time to get to the long term car park than it actually took, so I found myself at the end of the queue for American Airlines flight 87 to Chicago at 8:10am.

At 8:40am, I reached the front.

All the other queues at airports — for passport, for security, for customs — were relatively fast. I got behind a family upon arrival in the USA and had to wait 5 minutes longer than necessary to get through, but really, the airports seem to have got their act together. I may change my mind when I arrive back in London, but today it's all been fine. Except, that is, that 30-minute wait to check in.

Why did it take so long? I don't know for sure, but my guess is that American Airlines is an incompetent bunch of slowcoaches who prefer to give priority to latecomers than process people who arrive at the time they're supposed to arrive at. Twice, they pulled groups of people out of the queue to let them check in for flights departing imminently, which meant the rest of us had a much smaller number of desks to go to. I didn't even have check-in baggage, I could have done everything at a self check-in booth, but they don't operate them. They do have Internet check-in, but that only works for flights with no international component. Whoopee.

On the flight, when I found my seat, a woman asked if her daughter could have it so they could sit next to each other. I wasn't all that fussed about sitting next to the window, so agreed to a swap. Needless to say, as soon as the flight was in the air, the guy in the seat in front of me threw his seat back as far as it could go and beyond (because his seat was broken). Meanwhile, the seat I would have been behind had I not swapped remained bolt upright the whole journey.

I'm typing this at Chicago O'Hare, waiting for my 2:55 flight to Indianapolis. I just tried to get some dollars out of an ATM and it told me "temporarily unable to service request: transaction cancelled". In other words, the Lloyds Bank computer tripped a possible fradulent transaction because it thinks I'm in the UK and my credit card is being used in the USA, even though there's no way I can tell it in advance to allow out-of-country transactions for a week. Thanks, Lloyds. I'm hoping it'll let me use it when I get to Indianapolis, as I only have $50 in cash and need to pay for a shuttlebus trip to Bloomington.

When I get back to the UK, my flight lands at 6:55am. If I can get to my car in the long term car park by 7:34, I'll only have to pay for 4 days; any later, and Ill be into a 5th day. Do you think I'll make it?


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Copyright © 2007 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).