Lost Sunglasses, Found Adventure in Heathrow Airport
Dover, We Have a Problem
We left Heathrow Airport and headed for Dover, where we would be boarding the NCL Norwegian Jewel for a twelve day cruise of the Baltic capitals.. About 30 minutes into the cab ride I realized that I had left my prescription sunglasses on the plane. I wasn't about to let this put a damper on my vacation, so I decided I would get them on the way home. I know, I'll buy a pair of clip-ons and that should take care of the sunglasses problem. In Dover, I find a department store - kind of a WalMartingham. I approach two saleswomen who are chatting. One is middle-aged (as in forties, not as in medieval). The other is in her early twenties (or 15.2 in Euros). "I'm looking for a pair of clip-on sunglasses" I say as I pantomime the action of putting on and removing the glasses. The more mature woman says that the store doesn't carry any such item. The younger woman says "we have reading glasses". OK, so there's a language barrier - you have to expect that when you're an international traveler.
A Simple Solution
"I'm sure they'll have them in the ship's gift shop" I tell myself. Alas and alack, there are no clip-ons to be found on the ship. Similarly, there are none to be found in Denmark, Estonia, or Germany. Back on the ship, I buy a cheap pair of woman's fashion sunglasses. I dismantle them and MacGyver a pair of clip-ons using elastic from my luggage tags and a wire tie that came with the earphones on one of the tour buses. Utilitarian, yet sophisticated.
A Noble Quest
I arrived back at Heathrow airport after a great cruise. My wife Gail would be spending another week touring England, so we had parted ways in Dover. I had roughly six hours to kill before my flight, and I intended to spend them in the lounge catching up on email and sipping some fine Chateau du Boones Ferme. At the check-in counter, I inquired about retrieving my sunglasses from Ye Olde Lost and Found. "You can have the attendant in the business class lounge take care of that for you". This is great, and I expect no less, given my high place in the world.
Checked-in and suitcase dropped off, I pick up my laptop, my camera, and my shopping bag filled with all kinds of fragile crap that Gail bought and didn't want to carry. Time to go through security. Take off my shoes, jacket, and belt and place them in a bin. Empty my pockets of coins, cellphone, and keys. Remove the laptop from the case a place it in a separate bin. Place the camera and the fragile bag 'o crap in another bin. Walk through the metal detector. Put on my shoes, belt, and jacket. Place the laptop back in its case. Pick up the change, camera, cellphone, and objets d'arte and head for the lounge. This is British Airways Terminal 5, which you may remember from last year, where they nearly had a riot after losing 40,000 pieces of luggage. The lounge is roughly 35 nautical miles from security, but the journey is relatively event free.
I sauntered up to the receptionist and informed her that I would be needing my sunglasses retrieved from the Ministry of Lost Properties. She said that she could help, and wrote down a phone number on a business card. I was on my own from there. OK, I was expecting a bit more assistance, but what the heck. I call the number on the card and after only thirty minutes I get disconnected. A few more calls and I have the information I need. They have the sunglasses and the reference number is 9834510. I just need to go to Terminal 3 to get them. "I've already been through security, is there any way you can send them over to Terminal 5?" "No".
"How do I get to Terminal 3?" I ask the lounge warden. "You'll have to go down two levels and head toward the other end of the terminal to the service desk. You'll need to be escorted out of the building because you're in a secure area". she says, all Englishy. "Can I leave my stuff here" I ask. "No".
I pick up my laptop, jacket, camera, and sack of tourist garbage and head toward the service desk. There's a line, but not too bad and it only takes about ten minutes before it's my turn. "We can escort you out but we only do it once and hour, and the security officer just left six minutes ago". Sixty seven minutes later I'm on my way out of the building.
The bus to terminal 3 takes just over fifteen minutes. I walk into terminal 3 and right onto a security queue. Take off my shoes, jacket, and belt and place them in a bin. Empty my pockets of coins, cellphone, and keys. Remove the laptop from the case a place it in a separate bin. Place the camera and the fragile bag 'o crap in another bin. Walk through the metal detector. Put on my shoes, belt, and jacket. Place the laptop back in its case. Pick up the change, camera, cellphone, and objets d'arte and ask about the location of the Island of Lost and Disenfranchised Articles. "It's through that door, but you'll have to go through Immigration and Passport Control. "Say What!?". In nautical terms this would be "Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot".
I went through the doors and pleaded my case to the Immigration Officer. "I'll need your landing card" he says. "I don't have one, I landed here two weeks ago and gave it to you then." "Have you left the country since then?". "Well yes, I was on a cruise." "Then you need a landing card". OK, so I fill out a landing card. "What's your flight number?" "I don't have one, I was on a boat". He scribbles something down and waves me on. "Follow the signs to the Heathrow Express - the Department of Missing and Presumed Lost Items is near there" I had been told. I weave through a labyrinth of hallways and escalators and finally reach the land of milk, honey and lost umbrellas. My sunglasses are returned post-haste and I'm my way back to Terminal 5.
I board the Heathrow Express and wind up back at good old Terminal 5 in about ten minutes. Take off my shoes, jacket, and belt and place them in a bin. Empty my pockets of coins, cellphone, and keys. Remove the laptop from the case a place it in a separate bin. Place the camera and the fragile bag 'o crap in another bin. Walk through the metal detector. Put on my shoes, belt, and jacket. Place the laptop back in its case. Pick up the change, camera, cellphone, and objets d'arte along with twenty seven 8 x 10 glossy color photos with arrows and circles and a paragraph on the back of each one. I set sail for the business class lounge once more and arrive around 4pm.
A Fitting End
My flight is at 5, so I have time to grab a sandwich and have a glass of wine. I figure I'll mosey on over to the gate around 4:30, which will give me plenty of time.
I have a bite to eat and a glass (or 4) of wine. At 4:25 I get up and walk over to the departures screen. Let's see...Flight 0115, Hmmm, it says "Closing Out". "Excuse me, what does closing out mean". "That's an indication that the flight is about to depart", which is English for "You better get your fat ass to the gate right now".
I grab everything and run down the escalators and across the terminal toward Gate A10. When I get there I see that there are several Gate A10's. Actually it goes from A10A to A10E. I'm smack in the middle and make a snap decision to head toward t A10A. Of course the gate I want is A10E. so I double back and just make it. There is no airplane at Gate A10E, just a bus. It's a twenty minute ride from the gate to the plane. That's why the boarding call was so early. It would have been nice to have known this ahead of time.
The bus stops in the middle of the tarmac. There is no jetway, only a truck with a very large, very steep staircase pulling up to the Boeing 747-400. One more "Are you freaking kidding me?" moment as I make the climb with all of my gear. "Through to the other side and go right" the flight attendant says. Of course my seat was on the near side to the left, but why quibble about trivial matters.
And that's all I have to say about sunglasses.