Barcelona – Part Uno
Thursday, 16 September 2010 – London Stansted Airport
Background: Spain and I get along very well. I’ve always wanted to visit her, I love her tapas, and I was rooting for her to win the world cup from the start. Needless to say, then, we were very excited to finally see Spain. In a way, this trip was supposed to put right a wrong that goes back four years. In 2006, we visited several countries, Italy, France, all of Spain’s closest friends, and we were supposed to go to Barcelona. On a whim, at the last moment, standing in line at the ticket counter in Paris, we changed our minds, turned our backs on Barcelona, and set our hearts on the mountains of Chamonix. We have no regrets, but we always intended to make it up to Spain for leaving her out of our first trip. And in that sense, this trip has been planned for four years.
Digression: Having set the background, let me just say a few things about budget airlines: cheap flights are worth what you pay and cost you more in emotional energy than anyone should be expected to handle politely while sitting upright in a seat that won’t recline. Because the seats are less expensive, they have to make money in other ways: 1) by being baggage nazis, 2) charging you to go to the bathroom, 3) selling advertising space on every inch of the plane, 4) charging you for drinks, and 5) playing commercials on the loudspeaker while you’re trying to sleep during the flight. That’s enough about that, let’s just say that they are ready to screw you for money if you give them a chance.
The Freak Out: So there we are, in the car headed to Stansted. Our gate closes at 9:30, and Kate tells me that we’ll be at the parking lot by 8:52. That sounds like enough time to take the shuttle to the terminal and be at the gate by 9:30, after all, we didn’t have to check in, we were just supposed to go straight to the gate. The shuttle to the terminal took a little longer than we thought, so we got to the terminal at 9:15. I look at our boarding passes again to check the gate close time: 9:30. Then underneath: “If you’re late, we won’t wait.” Hmmmm… that worried me a little. I start to feel a little nervous as we head for the security line, but I keep it together, stay calm, and we’re going through the metal detectors at 9:22. “Ha… not bad,” I think, “8 minutes to walk to the gate.” Then I see the sign, “All gates 12 minutes from here.” Crap… how is that possible? This is such a small airport! I look at the boarding pass again: “If you’re late, we won’t wait!” So I prepare myself to start running down some long corridors that are supposed to take 12 minutes to get through, and that’s when I started freaking out: I turned the corner and there was no long walk to the terminal, it was a tram. Keep in mind, there is only ONE terminal at this airport. This is not a tram between terminals… apparently, when the shuttle bus drops you off at “the terminal,” what they really mean is you’re at the “pre-terminal” that comes before the tram ride to take you to the actual terminal. “If you’re late, we won’t wait!” It kept playing over and over again in my head. 9:24. No tram. 9:26. No tram. Finally, 9:28, a tram! I start replaying all the times we’d flown with budget airlines, every time they’ve had the boarding gate enclosed with glass so that when they reached the “Gate close” time, they could shut you out and keep your money even if everyone hadn’t boarded yet. I had totally lost my cool by this point; I was telling Candice that I was sorry and that we’d just have to go back home if the flight left without us (what do you do when you miss your flight?).
The tram pulls up to the “actual terminal,” I run like a fool as fast as I can… I get to the gate… and, apparently, no problem… everyone’s just standing around looking at the guy who was sprinting towards the gate with arms flailing and curly hair flying about.
“If you’re late, they won’t wait…” yeah right… unless they’re late too, then you’ll wait on them for however long it takes. Sorry I freaked out, honey. The next blog can be about what happened after we made it to Barcelona.