With great trepidation, to say the least, I followed the young woman to her immediate supervisor over at the gate desk. She took one look at my passport and declared that she could not possibly authorize me to board the plane. She would have to have her supervisor make the final decision.
My plane was due to take off at 20:40. It was 19:50. I had bought a 'choice' seat which meant that I was among the first to board. The woman called the final authority, who was conveniently on the other side of the airport. She was on her way. In the meantime ...
I was reduced to a very nervous, almost, but not quite snivelling little old lady. "I've been using this passport for the past two and a half years", I whined -- hating myself as I moaned and feeling intensely panicky. The thought was going through my mind that if they would not let me on I would have to get a new passport and God only knew how long that would take ... Ten minutes of turmoil later I asked where this supervisor was -- "She's coming, it takes a while to get her from the other side of the airport" didn't help my frustration and fear. The time wore on and my breath became more and more bated.
A voice in the back of my head told me to stop acting like such a ninny. My behaviour was not helped though, when I was asked, "Have you checked luggage?"
"Yes, but but but"... Nothing would stop her. She ordered my bag to be taken off the plane. At that point I almost broke down. "You don't have to do that, this is ridiculous." She then told me that if I got to England and immigration wouldn't let me through, the airline would have to fly me back "on their dime'! I felt as if my goose was cooked ... However, I assured her, still whiny, that they were not going to do that. I was after all a resident, I was married to a British subject... She wasn't impressed.
Oh, she was sorry, but the bag had to come off and be put aside in case I was allowed to fly. More minutes passed by. A man appeared who was in charge of luggage and got the number attached to the bag and went off to carry out the deed.
In the meantime, minutes had passed, the plane had boarded and still the Final Authority had not arrived. "Where is she", I groaned -- amidst moans of "What am I going to do, (sniff, sniff) what am I going to do?" All this steadfastly ignored by the woman at the desk. The man came back, the luggage was off the plane. Time was marching on. Twenty minutes, thirty minutes past. I complained that her supervisor was intentionally taking her time to make me miss the plane! She assured me this was not the case. My heart was pounding. At this point she called again the Final Authority who again claimed she was almost there.
The "stop acting like a ninny voice" was getting louder in my head as it became more and more evident that the plane would take off without me. I took some deep breaths. I asked the girl would she be able to get me on a plane back to Hartford that night. She said she could. After all I had lots of family and friends in the States to turn to -- I was not alone in a foreign country. "Right" I decided, "I'll call Bill (my brother) on his cell phone and he can meet me in Hartford and then I'll be able to call The Man (this is all his fault) ;-) and then we'll figure out the next step. It helped to have a plan.
The baggage guy appeared wondering what was what. He was told we were waiting for the 'Final Authority' so he should stand by in case I was allowed on board. Less than five minutes before the plane was due to leave the gate. Finally way down at the end of the hall, the woman at the desk saw her coming. "I'm going to meet her half way!" She exclaimed -- and off she went. Then I could see her -- the two of them. No 'effing' wonder it took her forever to get there with those spiky heels on her feet! The Final Authority looked at tthe passport. Said a few words and handed it back to the girl.
"You can fly!" She exclaimed. She got back to me, got her walkie talkie out and told the man to put my luggage back on the plane, rushed over to the gate and handed me my passport with a new boarding card. I rushed onto the plane to be greeted by the Attendants with "How are you?"
"Pretty shaky" I said. As I made my way to my seat I heard the pilot apologising for the delay and explaining it was due to security issues! I was shaking with relief as well as embarrassment. The steward was very kind and helped put my hand luggage in the overhead compartment. There was plenty of room. In fact, I was blessed that I had the two seats to myself. As soon as the plane was in the air and dinner was being served, I gave in and spent $7.50 on a small bottle of Chardonnay -- it helped (a bit).
But -- what the hell was going to happen when I went through immigration in the UK? The plane landed. The Man informed me by cell phone that he was almost at the airport. I didn't bother to explain that I didn't know if I'd be allowed through or not. After all if I wasn't he'd find out soon enough. So I got off the plane and the walk to immigration control seemed longer than ever -- I was near the front of the line -- only three people ahead of me. My turn came...
I handed my passport to the immigration officer. He looked at the passport, opened it up -- went to scan it. In a very weak voice I said, "It won't scan". He punched in some numbers, stamped the passport and handed it back to me -- without a word...
The nightmare was over. I was Home -- with a capital H!
Can you guess my new project?