Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hopping Across the Pond

Dateline: November 18, 2007

Mark and I anxiously went to DFW somewhat in advance of our flight to Gatwick.
We got there really early so that we could check in and then chill in
the international terminal.

It was fun. We went to the duty free shop and then went to the pub there
and had some spicy cheese and potato dish. We were sitting there eating
spicy cheese and potato thingies when we saw a fellow escorted by in handcuffs. I guess I'm glad if he was going to act badly and get on my plane.
I sure wondered what he did to get hauled off in such a way.

We saw this lovely blue glass enclosure that seemed to have a maze inside.
We saw people walking in concentric circles with studious intent upon their
faces. We had to go check it out and learned that there were lamps installed
in the floors that when activated began to emit some sort of chime or tone
that resonated with the glass. This was pretty cool and Mark and I wandered back and forth and set off as much noise as we could.

After looking at a terminal map, we learned that there was some other kind
of sculpture off on the other side. As we had time to kill, we wandered over.

It was some kind of wicked tilty fantasy house. We wandered around it and
I inspected the surface which was treated like David Smith Cubi sculpture.
The interior spaces were convoluted and the light wandered in with mysterious ways.

There was a candy shop that we passed several times. I gaze fondly at the yogurt covered everything and the varied gummy items. After about the first
pass I see IT. It is amazing and wonderful on a number of levels. After all,
we are going to see Virginia. She collects lunch boxes and we have gifted
her with any number of them over the years. It's a pink Hello Kitty Lunch Box. That may not mean much to a lot of folks but Virginia also has an affinity for Hello Kitty. I mean the woman had a Hello Kitty mousepad and stool. Well, in addition to that, it contained collector Hello Kitty Pez dispensers. It was a BINGO that screamed loud and large at two nostalgic parents. We bought it and packed it in the carry on bags.

Winding down, we go to sit at the gate and people watch.

I see African ministers carrying bibles. Two of them hook up and converse with much enthusiasm. I see people who don't want to be sociable. We're pretty friendly, so we just smile at them.

We see a fellow who bears an astonishing resemblance to Eric Clapton. To be frank we didn't put it together at the time, but I nudge Mark and say "That guy looks like some famous old rocker." Mark checks him out and agrees. He's obnoxious and says "Rock Star" somewhat loudly out of the side of his mouth and then acts all innocent. "Rock Star" turns around to see where it is coming from. I'm sitting right across from him so I just smile. He smiles back.

Mark and I cuss and discuss between us. We know this guy is someone that we should know, or at least is the spitting image of someone we recognize. We continue to chill and they start calling people for the flight. "Rock Star" turns to us and asks what time it is.

Two ladies and a baby stroller come up. The baby is wearing a really thick clear plastic helmet. They get to go on before us. I've never seen a baby wearing a plastic helmet like that so I figure it is for some medical thing I've not heard of.

I was good, I did the online check in thing exactly 24 hours before the flight which (on British Airways) gives us the option to pick our seats. I'm able to secure bulkhead seats which give us leg room. WOOHOO. It also puts us right by the toilet.

It's real interesting to see all the folks who come by to use the toilet. We saw "Rock Star" numerous times. He was sitting up in pricier seats than we had, but he came back for the facilities.

I learn the story of the baby in the helmet. He's a cute little guy. He was a year old last week. I asked the older lady if he was her grandbaby and she said he was a great-nephew. He's going home to the UK after a visit to a medical center in San Antonio. He apparently had some kind of condition that required skull surgery. What I got was that the prognosis was much better if the surgery was done at a tiny age before the fontanel closes. She said that the hospital in San Antonio was one of three in the world that worked on really young ones. She said that this brave fellow had been to San Antonio four times since he was born. He'd just been for a new helmet fitting. She told me that the surgery was not done in the UK until 18 months and that the mortality rate was frightening. I cannot imagine.

I'm in the middle seat between Mark and a fellow that was easily Mark's size. I was squished. The other gentleman sounded some variety of UK. Welsh maybe. Not English, not Scottish, not Irish, but still distinctly Brit of some kind. He was a pleasant seat companion. At one point I saw him thumbing through his passport. He had SO many stickers and stamps.

I had to allow to him that I was envious because I've had the darnedest time getting stamps in my passport. I don't CARE if they search my luggage if they stamp my passport. I got three stamps in one day in Frankfort in March and they started fussing at me for going in and out of controlled areas (I couldn't help it, I was trying to get 30 people from Frankfurt to Rome after missing a connection)

The kindly fellow looked at his passport and said kind of wistfully "Yes, I've traveled a lot in the last year." I saw stamps from places that I don't think I'd want to go. I hope he was headed home.

I really liked this direct flight to Gatwick. It seemed that we got there relatively quickly (for anyone that has flown across the pond). We had to walk quite a long way to get to where our luggage was. We passed up "Rock Star" and his limo driver who apparently had a much better deal about getting through customs. I think they knew where the "short" line was. I think the limo almost pulled up at the plane. Damn the luck.

We collected our bags and followed Virginia's directions. . . "Turn right and go to the trains. Get on the one to Bedford." We did exactly that, and at 11:30 am on Monday the 19th we got off the train to see the beautiful face of our daughter and the wonderful smile of the man who loves her.

More Adventures from Across the Pond to follow. . . .