This is a series of posts about spending the summer abroad that starts here.
Greetings from Copenhagen! Obviously I got here, and the journey was pretty smooth.
My flight to London from Minneapolis was sold out. There were only two open seats, in the last row. I was in the second-to-last row with a guy who introduced himself to me as Chuck. “Chatty Chuck,” I immediately dubbed him in my head. I flagged down a flight attendant and asked if Chuck or I could move to the empty row but she explained they were reserved for the flight crew. I felt rude as I donned my earplugs and sleep mask while Chuck chatted away, but within minutes I was sound asleep. When I woke after the plane leveled off, Chuck was in the back row. “They said they wouldn’t need these after all,” he reported excitedly. I flopped down across two seats of heavenly sleeping comfort.
Now, two seats on an airplane are still not much room. I’m 5’ 3” and still had to assume a fetal position. But I was horizontal. And I had my full-sized feather pillow, which gave me something soft to rest my head on instead of the arm rest.
It was the best sleep over I’ve ever had. I woke the next morning at 11:30 London time, a half hour before arrival, and slugged down two cups of coffee.
My vertigo was gone. My mother, a neurobiologist in her mind, had predicted, “that thing—you know, that airplane pressure thing,” might make it go and I had snickered but maybe she was on to something. Now doctors could just prescribe a trans-Atlantic flight for vertigo.
One of my fears was that, because my trip is so long, border control at Heathrow might think I was entering the UK to stay. I had an envelope with financial documents to prove I had assets in the US—a property, savings, a job to return to. But the agent asked to see proof of my onward flight to Copenhagen. When I checked in, the SAS (Scandinavian Airlines) website had promised to send my boarding pass via text “right away,” but it never materialized.
I was explaining this to the agent. She looked annoyed and bored. Imagine all the lame stories they must hear. Typical of an immigration hall, there were signs saying, “The use of Mobile Phones is Expressly Forbidden in this Area.” I asked permission to use mine so I could show an email with the flight confirmation. She sighed and said yes, as though that was the most obvious thing in the world and why hadn’t I done it already? The email wouldn’t load. She rolled her eyes and said as though speaking to a very naughty five year old, “Madam, I will make a special allowance this time. But in future, I strongly suggest you do not rely so heavily on technology.”
“But I don’t have a printer at home….” She stamped my passport by way of saying, “Don’t Care! Next!” and away I went. In my passport was stamped this friendly message, “No work or recourse to public funds.”
I wonder what we stamp in visitors’ passports when they enter the US? If anyone knows, please share. Since I couldn’t go on the dole in England, I would just have to move on to Copenhagen. But first I had to get my luggage, check back in, go through security, and hang out at Heathrow for five hours.
To my dismay, there was a five-inch-long gash in my suitcase. I had been lucky enough to find an “It” bag, the lightest bag in the world, on sale at TJ Maxx. The Delta agent was very solicitous, giving me a claim number, telling me to register it online asap, and fruitlessly trying to tape up the gash with tape that immediately fell off. As long as the gash doesn’t lengthen, I should be okay. I’ve got some duct tape in my bag I packed to mend mosquito netting in Ethiopia. I am keeping my expectations for the claim—for instance if Delta even responds to it within six months—very low.