So the conference is over, and I’m back at home.
The penultimate evening of the conference featured a banquet offering 12 different kinds of meat, though I think I only managed to fit 4 or 5 onto my plate. Lots of free drink, just like at the reception the previous evening. The final few nights of the conference were actually surprisingly good.
The journey home wasn’t so good, however. My 11:40 flight to Heathrow was cancelled, and being far from fluent in Portuguese*, I found out when I went to confirm my flight on the screens before boarding. So I had to walk back to the British Airways desk, which isn’t an easy task if you’re already at your boarding gate. In essence, I had to leave the airport and start all over again, even getting my passport checked as I tried to get back to the entrance. After over one hour of standing in a queue of equally irritable passengers, I was finally being helped by a BA representative, to be offered an Air Portugal flight to London Gatwick 5 hours later, a free lunch, and no connecting flight to Glasgow either that day or the subsequent day. Hmm. This didn’t sound good.
After prodding some more keys, the BA representative did find a connecting flight from from Gatwick to Glasgow, but I had to accept that take-off was a good half an hour less than their recommended change time for connecting flights. To add to the problem, I had to find my way from one of Gatwick’s terminals to the other (I think North to South, but I really wasn’t for remembering the finer details). Gallantly, I accepted this challenge.
Then 5 hours later, my Air Portugal flight was delayed by a little over 20 minutes. I knew this wasn’t going to be easy an easy connection, though BA would have put me up in a hotel if the worst came to the worst.
Minutes prior to touchdown at 20:40, with the gate for the Glasgow flight set to close at 21:00, I asked if I could be near to the front of the plane to get out as quickly as possible. With two bags, one holding my laptop, one containing a bottle of wine, my task was not an easy one. My only advantage was that I only had hand baggage. The Portuguese flight attendant gleefully told me that I wouldn’t make it.
So off I ran. And ran. And ran. Finally I got to passport control, and stood in a queue that felt as slow as that BA queue back in Lisbon. Once through, I found my way to the train that glides between Gatwick terminals. I was pleased to have made it this far. I’m sure the staff at the BA desk, the first thing I saw when I got to the terminal, won’t easily forget the sight of me when I lunged over to ask what gate I should be going to, and if it was still open. Luckily, it was.
It was now 20:55.
And so I ran. “Boarding”, the screens said. Christ, this was like those airport scenes in the Home Alone films, except the reality of the situation involves a hell of a lot more swearing, wheezing, sweating, and very little in the way of dramatic music (my iPod was in my bag to save valuable seconds at security).
Jumping to the front of the baggage search at security, I continue running (in reality, it was more of a brisk walk at this point), and I actually made it to the gate at around 21:05, and made my flight.
Recommended change time: 1 hour, 30 minutes. My change time: 25 minutes.
* Despite having been taught that “obrigado” means “thank you” and a “caipirinha” is a Brazillian drink I couldn’t hope to pronounce, the only other words I had picked up were simple words that helped me comprehend signs.