Once upon a time, a good friend said to me, “Can you meet me from the airport when I get back from my holiday?” He had lots of bags and was unfamiliar with London so I said, sure I’d meet him, and I booked the morning off work.
I had met him from flights a few times before and he had always come into Terminal 2 at Heathrow. “So,” said I, “will you be at the same terminal as last time?”
“Yes,” said my friend.
And so the day arrives. I head to Heathrow airport. I’m early, so as I’m lingering around waiting, there’s a Marks and Spencer’s right next to me, with a massive flower display. I think it will be nice if I buy a bunch. People are always meeting other people off flights with bunches of flowers, aren’t they? So I buy them, squeeze back to my place at the railing and wait. And wait. And wait.
It’s been an hour since his landing time. Maybe he’s still getting baggage and going through passport control etc. I check the Arrivals board but can’t see anything which has arrived from Mexico, where he’s been.
An hour and a half. I try calling. His phone’s off.
Two hours. I’ve got to be at work at 4pm and by this time, it’s about 2pm. It takes an hour to get to work. Time is getting pretty tight. Still nothing from Mexico on the Arrivals board.
Two and a half hours. I call. And call again. And again. And finally it starts to ring. A voice on the end of the line.
“Hi, what’s happened? Are you ok?”
“Yeh, the flight was delayed a bit.”
“Which terminal are you in?”
“I guess two. I usually come into that one.”
“But there’s nothing on the arrivals board. Did you stop anywhere to change flights?”
“No, I came direct.”
“You must be in a different terminal then. Is there anyone else around you? Ask them what terminal you’ve come into.”
I’m already heading to the underground station downstairs, which shuttles you around to the different terminals.
I hear him asking another person what terminal they’re in. Then he reports the answer back to me.
“I’m in the North terminal.”
Has anyone spotted a problem? I’m in terminal TWO. He’s in the NORTH terminal. Something doesn’t quite fit here.
“Check your flight ticket.” I tell him. “What does it say for your destination?”
“Why, what’s up? It says London GTW.”
…….Yes, yes it does. And there is no way in hell that GTW means Heathrow, you nonce. It means Gatwick!
For those of you unfamiliar with the geography of London, Heathrow is out to the West somewhere. And Gatwick is south. Very far south. And London is big. And the journey between those two airports is quite significant. And I had to be in work in an hour and a half.
Eventually, after working out a complicated looking train map, I worked out that we could both get fast trains to Clapham and meet there.
I and my flowers hurried along to the underground, which I had to get to another terminal before I could get onto the fast train. The next fast train was going in about fifteen minutes. Already I’d consumed half an hour just getting on the train to Clapham. I got there quite quickly and his train took another twenty minutes. So now I’m about fifteen minutes away from needing to start work. My flowers look kinda sad now as I’ve been crashing about airports and trains and they have taken the brunt of it.
He arrives finally, as I’m hanging about aimlessly in the long corridor which joins all the platforms, swinging the flowers around and debating whether to chuck them as they’re looking a bit old.
“Boo!” he says, when he finds me, broad grin on his face.
“Hey,” I say, offering the sad looking bunch of flowers.
He loves them anyway and now, he’s staying in South West London with another friend and could I help him get there and I’m welcome to come to dinner.
I smile, offer him brief instructions then hurry off to work, for which I am late. He wanders off, like it’s no big deal, with all his stuff, gets lost and ends up in the wrong area of London, where he has another friend, who he stays with instead. Who knows what happened to the dinner that was being made for him.
Now I’m sometimes unorganised but at least I know the basics. Where and when I’m landing is not that difficult. Just remember it. I’m not asking a lot! If I’m going to meet you at the airport, just bloody tell me the right airport!
That was annoying.