Wednesday, September 30, 2009

London 0: Arrival

Greetings from London! I am writing this (for the second time) in a Starbucks on Charring Cross Road - I am surrounded by bookstores! I’m in heaven! A few blocks away from me is the big Mystery Bookstore that I always go to - they often have books published in the UK that are out of print in the USA. Hey, I made it....

I hate traveling, but I love being in foreign countries. That may sound like a contradiction, but it’s the getting there part that I don’t like. People my height are not designed for airplanes... and a whole blog entry on that is just around the corner.

This day began at 6am on Tuesday in Los Angeles when my alarm clock went off. You know I *hate* mornings... so I didn’t fall asleep until just a couple of hours earlier. I always *try* to get to sleep early, but it never works. Part of it is probably excitement that I’m going to a film festival and part is fear that I’ve forgotten to pack something important. This year I’m doing those 5 (FIVE!) Free lunch hour classes, so I had to create material for them... did I remember to print and pack all of that stuff?

Also, this time it’s one thing after another - London, and when I return it’s Expo weekend! I’m not teaching classes, but I plan to hang out and bring some of the new CDs to sell. Then, two days after Expo, I hop a flight for Hong Kong... and when I come back from Hong Kong? American Film Market! So, on Monday I wasn’t just packing for one trip, I was also preparing for Expo and Hong Kong and AFM because there won’t be time to get ready for that stuff. So Monday I dumped a pile of AFM letters in the mail box. What did I forget?

6am, I shave and shower and put on this ugly shirt I wear on planes because if I spill anything on it, it will just blend in to the pattern. It’s UGLY! I throw the toiletries bag and the alarm clock in one of the bags... and my phone is ringing - the shuttle bus is outside my building. I drag my two bags out to the van, climb inside, and we do the slow rush hour drive on the 101 to the 405 to LAX. Over an hour later, I’m dragging my bags to the automated gizmo to check them. You know, it costs MONEY to check bags these days!

I wait at the gate, board the plane to JFK... and end up stuck folded into the window seat with my head tilted to the side because the plane body curves. It’s hell. You know those things at Disneyland that say “You Must Be This Tall To Ride The Matterhorn”? They need one of those at the airport - “If You Are Taller Than This You Will Not Fit In the Seat”. Anyway - hell for 5 hours to JFK...

Where the Delta Airlines terminal has one - ONE - departure/arrival monitor. I get off the plane and start looking all over for a monitor to see where the London plane is... and can’t find a damn monitor *anywhere*. Eventually I see a big crowd of people looking at something (and recognize these two cute British girls from my flight) and it’s the departure monitor. Telling us that our plane was in Terminal 4. Okay, how do you get there? No instructions. Eventually, someone found it and waved, and the rest of us ran over. There’s a shuttle bus (without seats) that drives all the way to the other side of the airport where Terminal 4 was. And the whole shuttle bus thing was completely disorganized. They announced that we’d need to show our passports to the TSA person before we could go down the long hallway to the shuttle... but there was no TSA person. So we waited and waited... and the bus left without us! Empty! They told us to just skip the TSA guy when the next bus came. We all rode - standing up - to Terminal 4, and found our gate an hour before the flight... and 30 minutes before boarding.

You know, they *sell* meals on airplanes, now. Nothing is free anymore.

And they set up the flights so the meal time is *between* your flights. They didn’t serve lunch on the flight to JFK... and it arrived at dinner hour, so they figure you eat at one of those restaurants that no one would ever go to on the outside world because the food sucks and costs you three times what similar good food would cost outside the airport. But, while the other people are shoving food in their mouths at warp speed, I’m standing in line to see if I can get my seat changed to a bulkhead or emergency exit. The woman tells me they need to reserve the bulkhead seats for babies - heck, babies don’t need that extra leg room, I do! She says if there is a seat available, she’ll call me before we board. Swell... I’m gonna be sardined to London.

But, moments before my group boards, she calls my name and gives me a bulkhead seat... in a row filled with moms and crying babies.

Well, I guess I asked for it.

But I did plan for that possibility and brought my big noise canceling head set, and cranked the music. I tried to sleep, but no dice. I can never sleep on planes. I was exhausted by this point, and had a couple of beers (free - but they charge you for the bad airline food, go figure). And I had a sleep mask thingie I got one of the times I flew Virgin (they give you a whole kit, complete with toothbrush and toothpaste and little socks and a mint), but it didn’t help me fall asleep. It did kind of block out the babies. I had also brought sleeping pills, but decided not to take them for fear I *still* wouldn’t sleep, but would end up groggy and out of it and so stupid I’d do something dumb.

We landed in London at 9am on Wednesday, and I drag myself through Passport Control to the luggage pick up. While all of us are standing there, waiting for luggage to come out the chute and rotate, the two cute British chicks are sitting on a bench taking it easy. I watch a hundred bags that are not mine go by... they are laughing at some joke. Eventually all of the bags are gone and the belt stops moving and neither of my two bags have come out. There are two women who are also wondering where their bags are. We all three go to the Lost Luggage Desk... where the two women find their bags. I do not find mine. Both of my bags, containing my clothes and class materials and an envelope filled with pound coins from the last time I was here - lost.

Well, I fill out a whole bunch of lost luggage forms, and wonder why they can’t just type in the code numbers into a computer and find my bags. In the airport luggage sorting belts, a computer reads the code on the luggage tag and sends it to the correct plane. So why can’t they tell me where my bags are? Well, for one thing, at the Delta Lost Luggage Desk they do not have a computer... they have paperwork.

One of the problems is that I do not remember the street address or phone number of my hotel - that sheet got printed out, and is in one of the lost pieces of luggage. I know the name of the hotel, and can tell the guy behind the desk how to walk there - you take the tube to Regent Square, walk on the street on the edge of the square with the Post Office behind you until you get to that street in the middle of the square, and walk towards the Mummy Museum... and it’s three quarters of the way down the street. But the Lost Luggage guy wanted to know how to contact me if he found my luggage, and wasn’t going to be taking the subway to Russell Square and wandering around looking for the hotel I described. I got their card and promised to call them with hotel specifics.

Took the tube to Russell Square and...

Anyway, got to the hotel and my room wasn’t ready, yet. The hotel called the Delta Lost Luggage Desk at Heathrow, gave them the phone number and street address.

Okay, tonight is opening night of the film festival. I only have the clothes on my back. I do not have a toothbrush. Oh, and it’s kinda sprinkley. You know, it’s London. In one of those lost suitcases I have a sports jacket and a raincoat. I also have all of my business cards. You see, a couple of years ago, I ended up talking to Paddy Considine for a minute at the opening night party and wished I had a business card. So this time I packed cards. I also packed clean dress shirts and clean underpants and clean socks. Now, I don’t have any of that stuff... and don’t have any of my class materials, either.

Now, in that fine pint on the Los Luggage Form it says that after 5 days, if they can’t find your bags, Delta will pay you $25 a day to buy clothes and supplies. You know how bad I’ll be smelling after 5 days? And, um, what the hell will $25 get you? And in London (not a cheap place to shop)? I’m screwed.

So, while waiting for my room to be ready, I go to that Boots on Tottencourt Road and buy toothpaste and toothbrush and deodorant and their version of Tums (also in a lost bag)... then wander down Oxford Street and find a sporting goods store going out of business and buy underpants and socks at a price that would shock you, and then go to this Starbucks and type this all up on Blogger and then lose wifi when I post it... gone forever! Pisses me off. I look at some T shirts on sale for what translates to $30 each - you read that right! Hell, I can get a T shirt for $2 on Hollywood Blvd (5 for $10). So I still don’t have a shirt...

But I went back to my hotel, room ready and beautiful - a balcony overlooking the street! A nice desk (where I type this up again so that I can return to Starbucks and post it without losing it) and a fireplace with a compfy chair and table in front of it. You know, it’s good to be a film fest juror! I showered and cleaned up and used the new toothbrush and gave the ugly shirt a rinse and ironed it and it looks okay... but not okay for 5 days.

And that’s when the hotel desk rang - Delta had just called, they have found my suitcases, they “didn’t make the flight”, and would deliver them to the hotel tomorrow morning. So it’s only tonight - and the big ritzy party - where I have to wear the ugly shirt and have no business cards nor jacket nor rain gear!

You know, I had to pay good money for them to lose my luggage.

- Bill


Good Dog said...

Sounds more like Russell Square.

For the underwear/clothes you should have carried along Oxford Street to the Marks & Spencer. Much cheaper and without any stupid sporting gods company logos.

Something to remember for next time. ...Although hopefully there won;t be a next time.

Nathan Shumate said...

The good news is that as soon as a Congressman's luggage is lost, there'll be special legislation rammed through committee. "No one should have to deal with the heartbreak..."

raysmithinc said...

Are you videoing/recording the Free lunch hour classes or making them available online at all? It would be great if you were. I can't get to Raindance. I had a work contract come up at the last minute and had to miss Raindance this year. boo hoo.

Andrew Bellware said...

On trans-Atlantic flights, Ambien is your friend! ;-)

ObiDonWan said...

I think that if I need to go to Europe I'll take the boat.

wcmartell said...

Yes, Russell Square - thank you. I did mention I had not slept?

I will talk to Raindance about videotaping these classes - but I suspect they will want to find some way to sell them.

- Bill

Good Dog said...

The thing is, you're not far from Regent Square, which is a couple blocks south of the British Library. But I figured it wasn't a great place for a hotel.

At least in Russell Square you can sit in the gardens and watch the squirrels scampering about. I'm not exactly sure what you'd find in Regent Square.

Hugo Fuchs said...

After having luggage lost numerous times, I always have a carry-on with a change of clothes to hold me through. I average 1-3 days late on lost luggage.

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