I can see your dirty pillows

Go to your closet and pray.

All airports are alike, at least the ones I’ve been to. Some may have more traffic, some less, but there’s always transience. No one lives in an airport, except Tom Hanks in that movie where he plays a guy who lives in an airport. It was a really bad movie.

The point is that everyone in an airport is on his way somewhere else, either at the beginning of a trip or heading home. This has always excited me, this feeling of movement and travel just starting or just ending, of seeing people again that you’ve missed and of going home slightly different than you’d been before. But this time I was coming home to a place that wasn’t yet my home.

I got to go “fast-track” through immigration because I’d flown first class. Thank God, because otherwise I’d still be waiting in line. Even in “fast-track” I had to wait almost 45 minutes. The custom officials were thorough, but surprisingly nice considering I’m used to the ones at Newark who are often, in short, officious jackasses.

Then it was time to get my bags. I was dreading this more than anything else I had to do in getting to London. Since I had bought premium economy tickets I was allowed two checked bags, each weighing no more than 70 lbs. Mine weighed in at 67 and 68 respectively. Then I was allowed one carry-on, which was supposed to weigh no more than 13 lbs. Mine weighed 35. (No one in Newark bothered to check the weight of my carry-on. I’ve never seen anyone weigh a carry-on; I’m not sure why they bother posting a limit.) So I had to somehow transport about 170 lbs of luggage from Heathrow to the center of London and preferably by train since taxi rides are exorbitant.

I went straight to the carousel and immediately saw one of my bags sailing by. I lunged and grabbed it, nearly herniating something in the process. Then I saw my other bag way out of reach and waited for it to come around again. This is what I did do. What I should have done was find a cart to pile my luggage on first and then get my suitcases. Instead I found myself stuck with 3 suitcases and no available carts. Everyone else in the baggage area had carts but I couldn’t figure out where they came from.

I made my way over to the Virgin help desk thusly: I dragged one large suitcase and the small one about 20 feet or so. Then I went back and dragged the other large one 20 feet beyond the first two. And so on. An American woman who had been sitting near me on the plane, all silicone and expressionless botox, pantomimed a smile and said, “It could be worse.” Of course, she HAD a cart.

I made it up to the Virgin help desk (there’s an idea for a short film in there somewhere: a help desk for virgins, whether they’re trying to escape a dragon or simply trying to get laid) and asked the man behind the counter, “Where can I find a cart?”

He said, “All the way on the other side of the baggage area,” and pointed to a far wall.

“Oh,” I said. “I have these three huge bags. Could I just leave them in this area and run and get a carriage?”

He smile, sincerely insincere: “No, I’m sorry. We don’t do that.”

I get it. I could have a bomb in one of my bags, but why would I wait until I landed and was in baggage before exploding it? Or he could have offered to have someone help. But no, I was on my own.

And at that moment a panicky loneliness hit me, hard. I was alone. I had to get these three gigantic suitcases to the other side of the baggage area and then get them and myself into London and somehow get settled in this place and there was no one there to help me. Now, that’s slightly unfair: Taron’s here (or will be after her holiday) and I know people at work, one of them who sweetly has offered to help me find an apartment. But at that second, with these monstrous bags containing my entire life, I was alone.

I did manage to get those suitcases to the carts and right now I can look back and say, Hells yeah, I did it myself. Then, however, I was miserable. I navigated the entire length of the baggage area moving two bags 20 feet, then another 40 feet, then the other two another 40 feet and so on. Finally I found a cart and had to lift the suitcases into it, which was no mean task let me tell you. I was finally ready to leave.

I followed the flow of people out of the baggage claim into the main terminal. On either side of me were throngs of others waiting for their friends, dads, moms, family, loved ones who had landed, starting a trip or coming home. I didn’t know where to go, but true New Yorker that I am I was not about let that show and walked purposefully with the thinning stream of travelers. Ahead of me was a huge red sign: Virgin Upperclass Limo Service. I thought, “This is too good to be true!” In fact it was too good to be true: I asked a woman behind the counter what the service was, exactly. She said, “It’s a limo service for (pause) UPPERclass passengers.”

“Yeah, I was an upperclass passenger. Can I book a limo?”

She looked up my name and then smiled, faux sadly: “You were upgraded,” apparently a dirty word. “You’re not eligible. Sorry!”

I sighed and wheeled my 170 lbs of luggage to look for an ATM. I’d already decided I was never going to make it by train and that I’d have to suck it up and pay the $100+ for a cab. Then I saw a sign for Virgin Revival (ooooh, another idea for a short film–I think essentially Virgin anything would make a swell movie). One of the flight attendants had told me that if I wanted to sleep through breakfast I could just stop there after the flight, eat a meal, take a shower and, well, revive. I decided I could really use a shower, and all I’d eaten on the plane was a mini croissant.

I pushed my cart through the doors and into a long descending hallway up to a front desk. I told the woman there my name and she looked through a printed list and finally asked the dreaded question: “Were you upgraded?” I nodded and she, at least, looked sincerely regretful. “I’m so sorry; you’re not eligible if you were upgraded.”

I nodded, sighed, and rolled back up the hall into the terminal. There was nothing left to do but find a cash machine. As I labored along looking for one I got a little sadder and a little sadder until, I am ashamed to admit, I started to cry. The truth is I’m an easy crier. I just got back from bawling my eyes out at Pan’s Labyrinth. I cry when Jennifer Anniston hugs that poor little bald kid on the St. Jude Children’s Hospital commercials. I cry.

So as I found a set of cash machines I also found myself crying, just a little. I wasn’t crying that hard at all, but my nose was running disproportionately to how little I was crying. Actually, I realized, it was running a whole lot. I put my hand up to my face and when I took it away it was covered in blood. It took me a second to realize that my nose was bleeding, and not just a little bit. It was gushing, and I lost it.

I just started weeping. I was hysterical. Here I was in the middle of an airport by myself, obviously losing pints of blood and with no tissues and I couldn’t get it to stop. I was going to freaking die from blood loss from a bloody nose in the middle of freaking Heathrow airport. Seriously, I was a mess. I was crying and slobbering and just covered in blood. It was like a scene from Carrie. Pretty soon Piper Laurie was going to show up and tell me to go to my closet and pray.

And then the really nice man on the line next to me said, “It’s ok, hold on,” and started tearing through his luggage to find me a little packet of tissues. He pulled one out for me and then someone else helped me sit down next to a pole and try to relax. Someone else offered me napkins. Finally a man from the airport came by and asked if I needed an ambulance. I shook my head, “It’s just a bloody nose,” I said through the blood and the tissue and the tears. The nice man with the packet of tissues translated for me that it was indeed just a bloody nose, and the airport worker helped me up and brought me to a handicapped bathroom to relax and clean myself up. The nice man even offered to stay with my bags, but the airport worker said it was ok, that we’d take them with me, and they fit into the bathroom.

I was a gory disaster. My nose was still trickling blood, and my hands and my face were becoming sticky from it all. I washed the blood from my hands, watching it stain the water pink as it swirled in the sink, and then scrubbed my face clean. My nose had stopped and I just felt exhausted, spent.

I was alone again as I left the bathroom; the concerned crowd had dissipated off to their homes or hotels or wherever they were going and I was OK with it. I needed to get myself to my hotel that was my home and get some sleep. I found a nice cab driver who called me “luv” a lot and whom I’m terrified I stiffed on tip since I’m still unsure about tipping customs here. I got to my room, wrote a sad little post in this blog and then slept for about a day. I’m still sleeping a whole lot, but I feel a thousand times better and my blood has been staying safely where it belongs.

 

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~ by kellly333 on January 7, 2007.

One Response to “I can see your dirty pillows”

  1. I’ll take emotional, soul-baring experiences for $200, Alex.
    (p.s. Carrie reference is classic!)

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