Heather’s Visit to the U.K. – Part 1When I went to the UK to visit my little brother, I took a cheap little notebook. The idea was to chronicle my journey and keep a detailed account of each day. Well, I did just that. I had the intention of posting it all here as soon as I got back. Well, it’s been over two full months since I’ve been back, and I never made those posts… The reason for this was that the notebook vanished. It simply disappeared. I thought I had lost it for good.
But it has returned to me!
Therefore, I will now share. I will put everything written in this journal in a block quote formatting and my current thoughts about the writings in regular formatting. But… I’m sure I don’t need to explain what I’m doing, you’ll figure it out; you’re all pretty smart.
March 2, 2011 – 10:15 AM
My flight to Dulles International isn’t until 11:59AM, but I was told to be here two hours early. So now I find myself sitting in the gate area–at gate 5– for the next two hours.
I was flying on an employee guest pass that a wonderful friend of mine so graciously hooked me up with. This meant that I had to be at the airport two hours early to check-in and then I would go wait for an available seat on the plane to open up. (Though we planned my flights based around flights that had fewer bookings, so as to insure I’d be able to get a seat at the time I needed to suit my plans.)
The man at the United Counter, a soft-spoken older gentleman, told me with a chuckle that I should have no trouble getting a seat aboard either of my flights. That takes a bit of the stress off.
I can now say a few things though:
- I nearly cried when I got out of the van at the airport and said goodbye to my mother, who was dropping me off.
- The same anxiety I felt during the “shooter on campus” incident [Read about that Here] of last February is no different really from the anxiety I felt trying to check-in and go through security and everything else that goes along with flying alone and for the first time ever.
- The employees and security here are very stone-faced and seem rather unfriendly. They offer no explanations or advice, no matter how scared or nervous or clueless one must look. It makes the entire experience that much more intimidating.
An aside here:
When I mentioned the anxiety, I was referring to the actual physical feeling felt during both events. Yes, I was that afraid of flying for the first time. I have grown up having recurring dreams about planes crashing with me on-board, but I have no real reasons for having these dreams. In every dream, I always survived the crash though… But still, I was as afraid of flying as I was of being holed up in an office wondering if there was an attacker in the hall just outside.
Seems crazy, right? It’s funny how the body can react to stress.
I’d also just like to mention that going through security here was very simple. I had to take my shoes off, my coat, and walk through a metal detector. I’d read horror stories about the TSA just prior to flying but luckily, I didn’t have to face that. My frustration with going through security here stemmed from not knowing where to go or what to do.
Do I put my bag up here? Do I give you anything? Do I need to stand anywhere for a pat down? You have four lines, which do I go through? These sorts of things… You feel immensely ridiculous when you’re waddling up to six people who are just staring at you and you have no idea what the normal/expected behavior is at that moment.
As I sit here in the waiting area, I see there is practically no one here. Only gate 3 has any semblance of a crowd waiting and there’s only roughly 24 people. Makes me wonder when that flight is leaving. Maybe they just haven’t gotten here yet.
Of course, I had no idea that the plane I would be on (the same kind as the one I’m talking about above) would only be seating 50 people. That sounds ridiculously small when I think about how large I thought all commercial passenger planes were.
I must admit that having this little book and writing all this nonsense makes me feel a lot calmer. It gives me something to focus my energy on. Hopefully when I’m more comfortable I can write more clearly and more legibly.
Yeah, I wrote pretty sloppy for me. But it was kind of hard to write in such a small book without any surface to write on.
Now 10:45, there’s still only 3 other people at my gate –make that six–a small family just arrived. Maybe people will start showing up now. The plane has pulled up for Gate 3. It’s actually not that large. I hope I manage to get a picture of it as an example of what I’ll fly on since I imagine it’ll be the same.
This is actually not a picture of the plane that pulled into Gate 3, this is a picture of the plane I did end up actually boarding.
I was stressing out about my carry-on being too big/too full but I’ve seen 2 other people in my gate area with bags the same size as mine.
You have no idea how worried I was over this. I packed and repacked three or four times. I think I even cried out of frustration once. I had no idea what would happen if I got to security and they told me my bag was too large and would have to be checked. Flying on standby, I just knew that would be a disaster and I’d end up in London without my bag and then end up leaving for Germany that very next morning without any possessions.
Of course on this little plane, they took my bag when I boarded and stowed it in a hold, or whatever it’s called on a plane, somewhere. They gave it back when we landed – so it never even had to fit in the overhead. Then with the international flight…the overhead compartment had so much extra room to spare that I need never have cried over my bag. All those shirts and things that I had cut from the trip could have made it.
And now for some airport ambiance:
You know when you play video games, you always have those environments where some Public Announcement is made, repetitively, throughout the area, endlessly…[until you want to stab your eardrums with a pencil or smash the tv with the controller?]
It makes me laugh to think about now because there is one pre-recorded announcement that keeps playing here. It’s in that same voice they use in the video games, so it feels the exact same.
“Attention: All guests and passengers are reminded to not leave bags or packages unattended at any time. Unattended items will be removed by airport police.”
I had been playing the Batman Arkham Asylum game prior to this trip, and I kept imagining scenes from that game every time the announcement went off. After two hours of that announcement, I was announcing right along with it each time it played.
11:00AM – There are now 11 of us total waiting at Gate 5. The flight at Gate 3 has already boarded but I’m surprised – I told you there was only like 25 people over there. I would have expected more passengers than that — Oh! and there it goes — The United flight from Gate 3 is now reversing away and preparing to depart.
There is a man sitting next to me — only 2 empty seats between us — who resembles Richard Dreyfuss. He is eating a burrito and maybe some nachos. Mom took me to McDonald’s earlier and I had a southern style biscuit — but I could barely stomach it all — there’s no way I could eat something as heavy as Mexican food like Dreyfuss here. My nerves simply wouldn’t allow it.
Ah…Flight from Gate 3 is gone. I was going to watch it taxi off. I never saw or heard it go. Whoops…
I guess Dreyfuss was just too fascinating. Honestly, what I remember most about him was the smell. God, that Mexican food made me want to vomit on his shiny shoes. My stomach was such a mess that his food simply reeked. I was utterly repulsed by it. And I couldn’t figure out why out of so many seats and so many benches…he had to sit that close to me. Everyone else had taken seats at a respectable distance from one another. He must’ve been one of those people that take the stall in the bathroom right next to yours when there’s six others open. Ahh, well, what are ya gonna do?
Woot! My plane just pulled up! It’s 11:15 – I bet maybe our boarding will begin soon. Nerves! NERVES! Yikes! My stomach has been fluttering up into my rib cage each time I get nervous over something.
And I had to stop writing because the nerves, mixed with the stench of Mexican food, made me feel like I was going to vomit on my own not-shiny-at-all shoes. Instead, I busied myself with crossing to the window to (avoid Dreyfuss and his noxious plume) take the ABOVE picture of my plane with my phone. Which I then promptly uploaded to Tumblr, cause I’m a cool cat like that.
The next entry is from after my plane took off, so I’ll continue my next post with that.