Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Galway Post 1: Adventures in Air Travel

Location: Terminal 1, Manchester Airport, UK
Date: Monday, June 11, 2007
Time: 09:30 GMT

Although relatively painless, the first—and longest—leg of my trip was not a painless as I could have hoped. I was not packed when my parents arrived at the apartment this morning (yesterday morning, in fact) as I had been holding off any potential anxiety about the trip by my signature method of ignoring its existence until the last minute. I slept in; I had breakfast and drank my coffee; I faffed about on the internet until an hour before they came, and then I dashed about my disaster-area of an apartment tripping over bags and discarded cook books in a panicked attempt to shove everything in my bags. When it was finally done and we were a black away, I realized I’d left my pill case on the couch. Cue more running and gasping and profanity hissed at inanimate objects.

At the airport I had lunch with the parents, and my good mood was restored; actually, a little too restored, as I was fairly giddy and traded entirely inappropriate barbs with Mom and Ron, laughing so hysterically that most of the Swiss Chalet was looking askance. Ah well, I’m long past being embarrassed by my booming laughter, and mostly I just take a perverse pride in it

Mom had strongly suggested I pre-book my seat, or at least do it when I got my boarding pass, but as usual I made a half-hearted attempt to follow her sage advice and then failed to follow through. I got a window seat, but since the Thomas Cook staffer mentioned that the flight was far from fully booked, I wasn’t concerned and decided to risk the window seat. (Generally, you see, you want an aisle seat when you fly alone, so you needn’t bother—or talk to—your aisle-mates when you need to powder your nose.) Well, true enough that the flight was not full—there were plenty of passengers with three seats to themselves, stretched out and sleeping. My row, however (15, right over the wing of the Boeing 757) was occupied by a family of five, including one toddler. Now, thankfully they were British children, and therefore shockingly well behaved, but I didn’t get more than 20 minutes of sleep on the trip (I was planning on sleeping the whole time) and nearly injured myself waiting for an opportune time to excuse myself. Also, just before takeoff the sweet mother offered me a Werthers (presumably for my ears) and I was caught unawares, stuttering out and “Oh! No, but thank you so much,” that I felt was less than gracious and which irked me for a good 15 minutes. Generally I can tell when someone is making a genuine offer, but my knee-jerk reaction is to demur, and I worry that I might offend people out of latent shyness

On the up side, the meals were edible. Dinner was a Lilliputian roast beef dinner, with a doll-sized Yorkshire pudding I was honestly sorry to eat. I asked the slight attendants beforehand if the dinner had mushrooms in it (meaning, “is it mushroom-stuffed-mushrooms-in-mushroom-sauce,” not “was it once stored in the same warehouse as some mushrooms”) which elicited a brief panic from the cabin crew. Breakfast was equally amusing, a fusion-cuisine marvel of “Streaky Bacon Panini” which reminded me strongly of the Two Fat Ladies

The family and the cabin crew were returning to Manchester, rather than setting out from exotic Canada, and I fell in quickly with their accents and speech patterns. I speak like a Brit anyway, in terms of colloquialisms and sometimes syntax, which I blame on a childhood of East Enders, Coronation Street, Are You Being Served? and so forth. Of course, I don’t want people to think I’m mocking them, so I stamped down on the impulse to say sentences like “Is she not keen on the breakfast?” or “Do you fancy a pillow?” as well as, of course, calling people “love” more than necessary. I shudder to think how much I’ll absorb the speech patterns in Galway, and what I’ll have to stamp down on by the end of my week there.

Arriving in Manchester, I was terrified by the total lack of signage telling me where to find Aer Arann departures, but I finally figured out it was directly above me. Mush good it did me—there was some malfunction in the baggage check equipment, and possibly because of this I cannot even check in until 11:05, and that means that instead of catching a nap in the six hours I’m, I get to spend the first five trundling my suitcase behind me, unable to sleep or shop, and the last one in a mad dash to get through backed-up security and to my gate on time. Part of my concern about that comes from the fact that I’m concerned my luggage—carry-on and checked—might be over the Aer Aran allowance. If I had time, I’m sure I could figure out a solution, but I’ll be pressed and I am not looking forward to any potential nasty surprises.

As a final note on this day’s Comedy of Errors theme, the pounds my mother gave me this morning, which I foolishly assumed had recently been exchanged at the back, must have been holdovers from a previous trip as they were rejected with extreme bemusement when I tried to use them to get my brekkie. The problem—that they were too old—had to be explained by the patient lady behind me, since the cashier just handed them back with a puzzled “I can’t take these” as though I had tried to pay with Canadian Tire Money. Thankfully they took Visa. Plastic is the universal language, and I’m reasonable fluent, thank god.

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