Thursday, September 1, 2016

That Mythical Perfect Travel Day

I'm currently relaxing on the couch in the newly-remodeled den at my childhood home in NH, listening to crickets chirp as the late summer breeze cools the room through the screened windows. The downside is I'm sick as a dog and have a sinus headache that just won't quit. But it's so lovely to be here! And - even more lovely - yesterday's travel day was that mythical being where everything went perfectly. I will pay for it dearly in the future, I'm sure, but I'm still going to revel a wee bit in the perfection. I spent a lovely week in London (more on that later) before flying to the United States and so didn't have a 20+ hour ordeal, but I still had several possible hurdles.

The day started early, but I made it to Heathrow right on schedule, navigating morning rush hour with no problems. As I dropped off the rental car, the Enterprise agent noted that I had prepaid for fuel but used less than a quarter of a tank. I sheepishly shrugged and said I didn't realize it would be quite so economical a model. And then he refunded the prepaid fuel. Just because.

The shuttle to the terminal was waiting for me, and the friendly driver helped me load my bags on a cart. There was absolutely no wait to drop off bags, and both of my bags weighed in at a few kilograms shy of the limit. The check-in agent told me that the flight wasn't full and it was a relatively quiet day at the airport. Score.

After stocking up on cold meds and throat lozenges at the airport Boots I settled down to check work emails and mentally prep for the flight. I was hoping the flight would arrive early enough for me to catch an early bus to NH, but it was going to take a travel miracle.

I finished checking email just as the gate was announced. After trekking approximately six miles to the gate I was thrilled to find out that the seat next to me was currently unassigned. And the gate agent told me it was unlikely to change since it was less than a half-full flight.

Boarding started early, and I was the first one to board in my zone, so there was ample overhead bin space. I needn't have worried. Boarding finished 30+ minutes prior to the departure time, and not only did I have a free seat next to me, but the two rows of seats in front of me were also empty, even after folks had spread out. We took off only ten minutes past our scheduled departure - a minor miracle at Heathrow, in my experience - and the projected flight time put us into Boston with the potential for me to catch the early bus.

The flight was turbulent so I slept poorly, but the flight crew was lovely and helpful, which was a nice surprise on my first time flying Delta in many years. We landed at 11:50 am (scheduled 12:18 pm) and were deplaning within ten minutes. My bus was at 12:55. Still possible.

I sailed through the arrival kiosks but got hung up in the line for a CBP agent. There was only one agent on duty for the entire U.S. citizen/Canadian citizen/repeat VWP traveler section, and there were at least three flights that had arrived recently. I was pretty far ahead in the line, but it still took me until 12:40 to clear immigration.

Thankfully both of my bags were on the belt when I got to baggage claim, and there was no wait at customs. I made it to the bus stop with several minutes to spare. And then the bus was a few minutes late because so many folks boarded at the other terminals. The only downside of the travel day was that I didn't have an empty seat next to me for the ride to NH, but that was small potatoes at this point. Dartmouth is starting soon, so lots of students were returning from summer break. I was just glad not to have to kill two more hours with all of my bags!

The bus arrived at my stop fifteen minutes early, but my mom was already there to meet me. We loaded the car and were home by 4pm. At which time I got to marvel in person at the phenomenal remodel job my parents have done on our home. The new bathroom is a sanctuary. Our old farmhouse's sole bathroom had been literally carved out of the living room when indoor plumbing became all the rage, and it was cramped and central. The new bathroom is at the back of the house in what was the smallest bedroom, and it's spacious and comfortable and gorgeous.

After visiting my 50,000 new sisters (my mom has a newly-established beehive), a tasty dinner, and emptying my suitcases of presents for my parents, it was time for bed. I fell asleep almost immediately and, after waking at 5am with a sinus headache and taking meds, slept till 10. Glorious. It was the perfect day to precede the promotion lists' release, on which my name did not appear. I did not realistically expect promotion this time around but was glad to see some friends and colleagues appear. Yay to all of you!

Expect some blog catchups in the next few days as I recover from my cold and truly rest and recuperate in familiar and familial surroundings. 

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