Day Ten: Wasting a Day with TSA (End of trip)

Today started at 630am London Time (130am Eastern Time) and I’m writing this at 9pm Eastern Time which is 2am London Time so I’m creeping up on 24 hours. We woke up and packed and whatnot, going down for breakfast at 730am in the hotel’s overpriced buffet. We then checked out and called the bellman for assistance. Karen’s bad knee and my broken toe made carrying luggage down three flights of stairs too much of a challenge.

I asked specifically for a black cab. The bellman insisted he couldn’t find one and he’d call us one. What arrived was a car, not a taxi and we were quoted £15 for the ride to Paddington (£7 by cab). The driver was nice and with no time to spare, we had no choice. Karen was mad I didn’t tip the bellman after this, but it’s a common scam in London and they get a kickback from the driver.

The driver asked if we had our Heathrow Express tickets, and I said we did (bought online before our departure). He offered to take us directly to Heathrow, but I said no. He’d have cut the bellman in on that too. He dropped us off at Paddington but on the far side and not the HEX side — they have their own entrance right by the trains. He didn’t get a tip either. Fucking crooks.

We arrived at Heathrow, walk to Virgin Atlantic’s check-in line and sadly, it was really moving slow. It took nearly an hour and there were no more than ten people in front of us. The lady working the line was incompetent, but it flew once another lady came and opened a new lane. Neither here nor there, and we went through to the private Upper Class security checkpoint. Something they do in England: Passengers in business and first class get to go in private security lines, your luggage comes through first, and you get fast tracked on arrival through passport control. That sort of thing just isn’t done stateside. Normally it’s a much better experience.

Anyway, we breezed through the first security line (as much as anyone can at Heathrow) which was same as always. Karen did some duty-free shopping, and then we went to the lounge to relax. Had we known the menu selection on the plane, we’d have eater a proper meal but all we had were muffins and such. After Quite Some Time we grew bored and wandered around the terminal, went back to the lounge and waited some more. At 1145pm they announced our gate which for a 1230 departure was obviously an issue. We flew as fast as we could to the gate because now there’s secondary screening for all US bound flights. There were at most 40 people ahead of us and about 250+ behind us. Final PAX count was 311. They only had four people working secondary security and as a result we ended up not leaving until 245pm. So we spent a lot of time sitting on the plane, and had they not found more screeners about one hour on, we’d have been there even longer.

In the interests of protecting our national security, I won’t share everything done but I will say every single piece of hand luggage was thoroughly searched by hand and I mean thoroughly. Every single person was patted down in a most familiar way by a person of the same gender. This included infants. After I was frisked and patted down, I asked the guy if I had to buy him flowers and chocolates. He laughed. It’s a bit odd having an Arab guy patting you down as the last line of defence for security. I’m just saying. Other things were checked randomly for different passengers but I shan’t reveal that here as I don’t think it’s appropriate. I will tell you, travelling in/out of the USA to foreign destinations has become a true chore. Epic fail. Profiling is okay. Dammit.

I watched three films on the flight because my eyes were too runny to read. I watched “Terminator Salvation” which pretty much wasn’t very good though it kept me entertained. I watched “Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs” which was way better than I expected. And I watched “Zombieland” which was absolutely hysterical. I can’t believe I didn’t see it sooner. You must see Zombieland. Seriously. It’s a horror/comedy film and while bloody it’s very fake so it’s easy to watch.

The food was high-quality but my complaint was the nature of it. There was a Prawn choice (I don’t do shellfish), a steak and mushroom pie (eeewww), and curry chicken. I opted for the latter and ate half while Karen didn’t eat period. We ate a bunch of crisps from the bar. (Virgin has a bar on the A340 in Upper Class). We had high tea about 2 hours out.

I also watched four episodes of Family Guy. The inflight entertainment system was shut down forty minutes before landing and then it showed Virgin Atlantic travel trivia. The toilets are now locked at this point so you can’t get in no matter what.  Despite our extremely late departure, we were only 1h 15m late getting in.

Virgin doesn’t allow anyone off the plane until all upper-class passengers disembark first, which was awesome because we got to passport control and only one person was in line ahead of us so we breezed through. Our luggage took about 30 minutes because luggage in Miami sucks on all airlines. Customs was the slow bit. Four people working and a line with perhaps 400 people in it. Still we made it through. Karen’s brother picked us up and was kind enough to drop me at home sparing me a taxi. He drives like a maniac 🙂 I am back but the walking dead.

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