Imagine you’re on your way to Casablanca to do a volunteer education program. Sounds incredible already doesn’t it?
From North LA this should be a simple series of journeys, lift to the metro station, metro ride to friend’s place, taxi from friend’s place to airport, flight from to LAX to Paris, leisurely change of aeroplanes, perhaps a croissant and a chocolat chaud before boarding and then Bonjour Morocco. The whole thing, with chocolat chaud and flaky, buttery croissant, is supposed to take 18 hours.
Now imagine that every single step of the way something doesn’t go quite according to plan.
Step one: arriving at the metro station to find you have missed the train by seconds. Top tip, when leaving for the station do not try and be helpful by putting your mother’s (or whoever is giving you a lift to the station) heavy bag – that she is going to need in an hour’s time- in the car, because she will argue with you that it will take too much time and she can do it later even though you’re already at the car with the bag. So then you will have to waste time putting the bag back in the house and then wait for her to justify why this will actually shave time off your journey, whilst she is of course, and this is the important bit, STANDING STILL. Eventually, one concedes daughter of the year award by raising one’s voice and requesting somewhat ungraciously, “Woman, will you just get in the bloody car!”
Step two: board the next train and have it stand still for thirteen minutes.
Step three: at the station where you change lines, sprint to the next platform, and read a sign informing you that there are delayed services on this very day that you wish to travel on that particular service. Sigh deeply, and then regret breathing in so heavily in the less than fragrant air of the 7th St underground metro station in the heart of downtown LA.
Step four: arrive at friend’s house and take deep breath in much nicer air, as the full weight of having to manoeuvre THIRTEEN cases each weighing over forty pounds, descends upon you, literally and metaphorically. Between the two of you move approximately 650 pounds down two flights of stairs. Apparently volunteer education programs require lots of heavy electrical gadgets…and bubble wrap.
Step five: share cab ride with driver who tells you that actually, he quite likes Donald Trump, and thinks he’d make a good president. Say nothing and swallow the bitter sinking feeling that if such an opinion can exist in California – land of the entitled to be so far left, that the right doesn’t exist, there’s just a far away middle – we are scuppered.
Step six: meet third travelling companion who is awesome fun, and will be hefting around four of the thirteen cases, and then realise that although she is amazing and very positive, she is also seventy with a poorly leg and should not be hefting anything heavier than an inflatable travel pillow. Feel horribly guilty, but not guilty enough to not pass her a suitcase laden trolley.
Step seven: attempt to check in. Hmmmn. Turns out Air France is a bit prickly and insists that despite our checked luggage all scraping in at the permitted weight limit, we must also weigh our carry on bags COMBINED with that one personal bag that you’re allowed to have. For the sake of 6 pounds we then spend the next 45 minutes opening up every single bag that we have and rearranging the oh so carefully and precisely packed items. At which point Air Emirates starts getting shirty with us, because we are in their check-in space, which is not open at this time and is exactly where Air France told us to go. Prickles are rising like a porcupine convention.
Step eight: check in round two. Air France sends back to where we originally came from, and does not weigh the fucking luggage that we have just spent the last three quarters of an hour rearranging. They do however casually mention that four of our cases are too big to go on the conveyor belt and they must be taken to a separate Oversize Baggage area at the other end of the terminal. We steer said luggage and the carry on stuff to an area far, far away. Bare in mind it is now Saturday lunchtime at the international terminal in LAX. It is heaving, and we cannot see over the luggage that we’re moving around. I am my most exuberantly jolly and extra British, “Gosh, excuse me! Sorry coming through, coming through. Thanks you so much. Thank you sir, thank you madam, yes that’s terribly kind of you. Sorry, just squeezing through!” For my companions it must be like travelling with the cast of Downton Abbey on crystal meth.
Step nine: carefully arrive at the Oversize luggage area to be faced by 20 gormless individuals (work training scheme maybe? It can’t be normal to have that many people in uniform standing around completely sodding clueless) shrugging their shoulders with the boldest one declaring it’s closed, go to the other one at the other end of the terminal.
Obviously the other Oversize Baggage drop off at the opposite end of the terminal is also closed.
Also obviously, Air France is ‘nil point’ in the helpful suggestion department, which is super fabulous since it’s their plane that we want to get the stupid luggage on in the first place.
By now we’re also beginning to get close to boarding time, and we still have to go through the security checkpoint. And this is when we have our first stroke of luck, a shining beacon of light in the form of a lovely man named Tom at the information desk, takes pity on our plight and races around the terminal finding someone to open the baggage area for us. We love you Tom, and we hope you get a raise …a big one.
The second stroke of luck comes in the most unusual form, at the security checkpoint we just stroll on through as if it were the 1990s. There was no removal of belts, shoes or jackets. Laptops didn’t have to be taken out for a separate x-ray, and they didn’t bat an eyelid at half a dozen robots cruising through in our carry-ons. Apparently the TSA decided we all looked really nice and didn’t need the usual scrutiny. Realistically they’d probably spent the last two hours watching our debacle from the balcony and knew exactly what was in our bags because they’d seen the contents strewn across the floor in front of Air Emirates check-in.
Finally we are on the plane, in comfortable seats (got to hand that to Air France, comfy chairs and really good food), and breathing sighs of relief; phew we made it!
Bollocks did we. Turns out the fun had only just begun.