Friday, June 11, 2010

Day 18: Coming Home is still an adventure!

Ok, so it's always an interesting start when there is a 'day 18' to a 17-day trip.  That's the result of mystery electrical issues on a plane, I suppose.

We didn't make our connector in London yesterday.  We were told to be at the gate for boarding at noon, so we rushed through the meal Emirates provided and headed to the gate. We arrived just a few minutes before noon, preparing to rush.  Then we sat and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Finally, we were allowed on our new plane.  And we waited.  Our pilot came on and announced that this just wasn't our day.  Two passengers hadn't returned to the plane, so the crew had to remove the four pieces of baggage associated with these people.  The crew could only find three bags, but they would continue looking.  The delay wore on, and after a while, the pilot announced that the crew were going to have to remove all of the luggage from the plane in order to find the fourth piece.  Luckily(?) the two passengers showed up right then.  They were allowed on the plane, and we finally took off.

When I asked, the flight attendant explained that the pilot could not radio ahead and ask to delay our connector in Heathrow.  However, she indicated that the pilot expected to be able to make up some time during the flight, and get us there faster than the projected 5h40m.  When she came around a moment later with beverages, I asked for some wine.  I'm not proud of what I did next: I asked for a second one right away!

About 5 hours and 40 minutes after take-off, we touched down in London.  We walked off the plane at 6:08.  Our flight had been scheduled to leave at 6:00.  We didn't know it at the time, but every Air Canada flight from London to Toronto yesterday afternoon was late.  Every flight, that is, except for ours.  We had been re-booked for a flight to Toronto the following morning.

In fairness, Emirates really stepped up.  In addition to arranging alternate flights (which really was the least they could do, seeing as they caused our delay), they put us up in a hotel, paid for a shuttle, and gave us food vouchers for dinner and breakfast. It was an airport hotel, half an hour or more from central London - and no-one near anything else of interest, and we were thoroughly worn out, but it was a shower, bed, and food.

I'm sure that plenty of people were experiencing mini-catastrophes that day, but two hit home for me:

The man in front of us in line to speak to the Emirates representative (the representative who eventually told us that we had been booked into a hotel for the night) was told that he missed his flight to the US.  Because his flight was booked separately from the Emirates flight, Emirates had booked him on to a subsequent flight, but would not put him up in a hotel.  We sat listening and wondered whether the fact that we were changing airlines spelled the same doom for us.  Was our trip about to add the new adventure of spending the night in the airport?

Then there was Mohammed.  I had briefly spoken to Mohammed during the delay in Dubai.  He was trying to get to his brother's wedding in Las Vegas - scheduled for Friday morning.  A rather significant concern was the fact that Mohammed had the wedding ring.  When we saw him in London, we knew he wasn't going to see his brother get married.  Mohammed's brother would have to marry his wife without a wedding ring.  We invited Mohammed to dinner with us, and he told us all about where he lived in Dubai (I'm thinking that would be a fun place to live for a little while), where he grew up in the US, and about his wife, whose best friend was a teacher from the US.  Mohammed assured Shaun that if she wanted a teaching job in Dubai, she would instantly have one.  Mohammed also gave a rather comic account of what it's like to go through American customs when you're Pakistani by birth, and have the name Mohammed Ali Khan - all three names are on the 'watched' list (or 'red binder' as Mohammed explained).  It was funny the way he said it, but awful at the same time.  The luck of light skin was being made very obvious as we compared experiences passing through customs...

Conversation flowed, the evening wore on, and exhaustion set in.  Eventually we went up to our respective rooms and prepared for the early wake-up.  All in all, it wasn't a bad evening in London.

Today, I'm happy to say, was uneventful.  A smooth flight home, Holly waiting for Jessica, and Shaun's mum waiting for us.  I wasn't looking forward to leaving that slice of paradise, but we're back in Toronto, and I don't really mind.

The post race let-down, however, is back.  What do I do now...?

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