July 23rd, 2018. (I have been home less than three days. Please excuse the jet-lagging disorder in my brain, and its affecting blogatorial consequences.)
I need to work my way back slowly. Even though I like doing this, after two weeks of not, the pertinent muscles relax and the steely discipline subsides. (A passing example of how rusty I am? I’m not sure “pertinent” is the right word. But I’m throwing it in anyway, being too tired to change it to “relevant.”)
Let me start at the beginning, which, now in hindsight, reflects a thematic luckiness pervading the entire adventure. (Or, if you don't believe in luck, my “random distribution” kicked phenomenal butt.)
Thursday, July 5th – “Departure Day.” I call a cab at noon, ordering a 4 P.M. “pickup” to convey me to the airport. 4:05? There’s no cab. I anxiously call the cab company. “It’ll be there in five minutes,” they report. 4:15? Still no cab. I call the cab company again. Some kind of snafu, they explain. A newly dispatched taxi will arrive as soon as possible. “How soon is ‘as soon as possible?’” I inquire. They say, “Fifteen to thirty minutes.” “Forget it”, I angrily reply. “I’ll call Lyft.” (Uber’s, for me, more reliable competitor.)
Now here comes the “lucky” part.
I call Lyft. The car arrives in less than a minute.
And here’s the explanationfor the “lucky” part. (Because I asked because I was curious, wondering “How come so fast?”)
No more than thirty yards from my front door, there is a small neighborhood park. And it that park there is a public bathroom. Apparently, all the drivers know the locations of these emergency “pit stops.” And to my good fortune, my driver had availed herself of those proximate facilities just moments before I had called.
Don’t tell methat’s not lucky – that the driver had to “go”, and her “go-to ‘go’ place” was mere seconds away from my house. She held it in, I might still be waiting there.
Jumping to the end of my journey capping a veritable fortnight of incredible good fortune, while heading to our assigned “Departure Gate”, I suddenly discover that I had lost my return flight’s “Boarding Pass.”
Heathrow Airport is enormous. I mean, you could land a plane in that airport. I do not mean at that airport; they do that all the time. You could land a plane inside that airport. And comfortably “taxi” to a stop before rolling into the “Duty Free” boutique.
So there’s me with no “Boarding Pass” and no idea how to procure a replacement, short of slogging back to the original “Check-In”, followed by a glorious re-visit to “Security”, the confused agents scratching their heads, going, “Didn’t he do his already?”
Frozen impotently to the spot, I survey my surroundings. (Note: There would normally be an evocative adverb between “I” and “look”, but my turmoiled brain is lost somewhere over the Atlantic. I’m amazed I recall the entire alphabet.)
It is during this agonized stupor that I regain sufficient consciousness to realize I am standing directly in front of a booth with a large sign on it, reading, “Assistance and Ticketing.” I step into the booth and receive a replacement “Boarding Pass” in twelve seconds. (I didn’t time it. I am just enamored of the number.)
That’s lucky too, isn’t it? Being it the right place in that gigantic airport? I could have just as easily being standing in front of a Cinnabon. And bought and eaten one, compounding my distress.
Experiencing this final bit feels lucky because it is quintessentially perfect. Nah, forget the “lucky” motif. I’m just telling it ‘cause I love it.
During a portion of our visit we were joined by daughter Rachel and her family – husband Tim, mid-forties, Milo, 6, and Jack, 4. Standing in front of an elevator, “Pappy Earl” reverts to habitual “Pedagogical Mode”, in which I explain things to children. (Whether they are listening to me, or not.)
The day’s lesson involves the fact that some things are called different things in England than they are called in the States. For example, I inform them, in England, the elevator is called the “lift.” A car’s trunk is called the “boot”, sneakers are called “trainers” and French fries are called “chips.”
Moments slip by in silence. Then, four year-old Jack curiously inquires,
“What do they call ‘chicken’?”
So much for writing on remnants of cerebral consciousness. Tomorrow, brain cells permitting: “My Oxford Experience Begins.”
And don’t think I am unaware of being luckiest of hot dogs for getting to go there.