Beggars can’t be choosers, right? Right! Maybe it was foolish to think I could spend an eleven hour stopover, which spanned the wee small hours, studying to try to finish the paper I should have handed in the previous Tuesday. The four hour flight from Tenerife lulled me into thinking everything was possible. I studied. I stayed awake. I arrived in Dublin on time. So far, so good.
I wandered around Dublin airport at 2 am looking for a place to park myself and study some more. Now, I hope none of my Irish friends will take this personally, but Dublin airport is NOT designed for comfort. It is, apparently, designed for DIScomfort. Unless I missed some comfy corner somewhere, and apart from the couches in Starbucks, which were already strewn with bodies, there was nowhere, save hard or metallic chairs to park my, by then, weary bones. I toyed with a Starbucks and a scone. I fell asleep over my books, despite the lack of comfort, and after wandering around some more, decided to try the departure lounge. “You’re very early, aren’t you” said the checker as I presented my passport. I explained my hopes of finding somewhere to rest and he laughed…….my heart hit my toes. He was right.
It was around 4am. I gave up on the studies, and tried to read. I drank more coffee, I bought sandwiches which I didn’t eat. The sun rose. I bought chocolate, which I did eat. People drifted down to the gate. I stretched my legs, and returned to find no seating left, so I sprawled on the tiled floor, which turned out to be slightly warmer than the metal seats, more comfortable too, come to that.
11.30 arrived, surely they would be calling us to the gate very soon for the 12.30 take off, but, no, only an annoucement about a delay, and more news at 1.30. I walked some more. Bought another sandwich, which I did eat. Vainly tried to make out the rolling, Irish hills, of which I had heard so much amongst the heavy clouds, about which I heard just as much. Returned to the gate at 1.30.
A heavily accented announcement told us the flight was cancelled owing to a technical fault. No-one had understood much more than that, so we queued to get information from the staff. My fellow passengers being either American or Irish the queuing was good-natured, and the staff were charming. We should claim our luggage and proceed to a hotel which Aer Lingus had booked. We trekked across the airport, no more guidance, we asked each other if we were going in the right direction, we followed other people who looked as if they knew where they were going. At the luggage claim a nice man indicated vaguely that we should go upstairs to the check in area. The charming staff explained that we would be bussed to a nearby hotel, and take the same flight the next day.
This was where the niggles began to set in. They already KNEW that they could accommodate today’s passengers on tomorrow’s flight? It occured to me that the technical fault might be non-existent and that they had simply decided to cancel the flight for economic reasons. Maybe someone here who knows more about airlines than I do could confirm or deny that possibility for me?
We trekked again. In the pouring rain we followed a nice, young man, whose back displayed the words “Carlton Hotel Flight Delay Team” across several roads to the waiting bus. Drenched we handed over our baggage and climbed aboard to shiver whilst the rest of the passengers arrived. We arrived at the Carlton. We stood around in the pouring rain whilst our bags were unloaded (could the driver not have suggested that the people who arrived last got off first to collect their bags, so we didn’t have to crowd the narrow pavement, getting soaked as we waited for our first-loaded bags?) We checked in. The dour staff handed out keys and information about meals. All I could think about was a hot bath and sleep, but the information about tomorrow’s departure would not be available until after dinner.
Hot bath taken, and the idea of food not appealing, I popped down to check on departure. The dour staff informed me a bus would be there at 9am, so I ran back up and tucked myself in for the night at 9.30 pm. I slept the good sleep, woke in time, took a deep breath and did the best I could with my appearance. I had hoped to arrive in DC looking just the tiniest bit glam after an expensive session at the hairdressers, but the rain had put paid to that, so I went for the “pulled through a hedge backwards” look.
A couple of courtesy buses were waiting outside the hotel when I got downstairs. With no-one to confirm which one we were supposed to take, we made a best guess and heaved our bags into the hold. Waiting for the bus to set off I heard tales about the awful food, and thanked god I’d opted for rest over sustenance. I shivered in the early morning cold and drizzle. I hadn’t figured on a prolonged stay in colder climes, and stupidly I didn’t have warm enough clothing!
Eventually we arrive at the airport. Check in is smooth enough, but no apology nor compensation is offered. The delicious 18 Euro sandwich and smoothie I have for breakfast bucks me up. Satisfyingly, a lady approaches me who is doing market research for the airport, so I can vent my feelings about its awfulness. I check in with the world via Facebook, and, after another half hour camped out on the airport floor we are boarding. Being in the first economy class seats I glimpse the more-or-less empty first class and fantasize about being upgraded to make up for the inconvenience, but it ain’t happening.
Take off time arrives. Ding, Dong. “This is your Captain speaking…..we have a computer problem…..excuse the delay……Ding, Dong…..”the computer is still playing up, we have to reboot, this will entail you sitting for 20 minutes without air con. We do apologize, but without this computer we are going no-where”………thank the gods for a pleasant travelling companion. We chat. We bite nails and we wait. Ding, Dong. “The computer has successfully rebooted we will shortly be on our way.”………and at last we are. We hold our breath as the plane climbs through the clouds, but as it levels out we relax, the waiting around is all behind us.
The flight is fine. I have a nice and interesting fellow traveller, and a good book. The time passes well, and eventually we can spot the Washington Monument as we cruise into Dulles. The only problem now is that half the world appears to be arriving at the same time, but after sitting still for seven hours, standing around for another hour doesn’t seem quite so bad.
Still, I am here, and off to my first baseball game!