… It’s been a while since I last posted. That said, realize that I’m not a terribly good writer, and when faced with the challenge of making observations of everyday life, I tend to forgo that challenge and ignore that I ever started this blog in the first place.
That said, I suppose it’s time I gave this thing a try, so here goes. I arrived in Houston, TX on December 20th, 2010, with the clothes I was wearing, my laptop, and camera equipment (my carry on) and very little else. There is a story behind that, and I shall try and recount that story now.
The night to December 20th, 03:30 Norwegian time, my best friend Roger picked me up to take me to the airport. It was snowing, both in Norway as well as continental Europe, but with my flight not yet canceled I thought it reasonable to go for it and hope everything would work out, so we loaded up his car with a hideously green Samsonite suitcase, Two large backpacks and a big cardboard box, essentially all the belongings I deemed needed in my new home in the US.
As some of you might know, continental Europe tends to stop working if it gets much more than an inch of snow, and it was not at all sure that Heathrow airport, where my flight connection was, would be open on this brisk December day, something that was soon made clear as me and Roger entered the Departure Terminal at Gardermoen Airport in Norway.
I was given an information sheet stating where to call if my flight was canceled and told that as of right now (roughly two hours before the flight was set to depart) Heathrow did not accept any incoming flights. At this point, I was told I could either wait at the airport or do the sensible thing, go home and reschedule the flight at no cost, this of course, according to the staff at British Airways, my preferred partner in the skies. After a 30 second discussion with my good friend Roger we both figured that hey, we drove for 3 hours to be here, might as well see if I get lucky. Though neither of us really thought I would fly that day, but at this point the line at check-in suddenly began to move! There was confusion, questions, people didn’t know what was going on, but as we continued to snake our way through the check in line, it became more and more evident that Heathrow had authorized our departure, I was on my way! …for now.
As I was waiting in the line to go through security, I said goodbye to Roger, and with lumps of sadness and anticipation in my belly I went forth and was “securified”, for the first of many times that day, might I add. I got to my gate and most of the passengers were still unsure as to whether or not we would be allowed to fly, but our confidence grew as we got into our seats and the plane taxed out to the runway. I have no idea why or how this specific flight managed to get clearance to land at Heathrow on this particular day, especially considering it was one of only two flights granted this “privilege”, but we took off from Norway, and a mere two and a half hours later we touched down on an airport almost paralyzed by the menacing 3 inches of snow that covered most of it. I was feeling quite upbeat as I made my way to the connecting flights area, texting my beloved fiancé that I had made it to Britannia, Dallas, TX next!
If you’ve paid attention so far, you might’ve noticed that though in the same state, I had a ticket to Dallas, TX, not Houston, my “port of entry”. Now I told you I was upbeat and happy as I entered the connecting flights area at British Airways’ notorious Terminal 5, that was all shattered when they looked at my ticket, before letting me through to security. “Unfortunately your flight has been canceled Mr.N, please go to the arrivals hall and pick up your luggage, you can call this number tomorrow to try and reschedule your flight.” I didn’t know what to say or do, I was now stranded in London with nowhere to go and more luggage than one person could handle.
In all my confusion I hadn’t paid attention to the polite ladies instructions as to where to go to pick up my luggage, and I had to ask a second person for directions, this proved to be the best thing I could’ve done. As it turned out, the gentleman I asked never let me get to the part where I asked where I should pick up my luggage. When I said “my flight to Dallas was canceled”, he immediately started looking for a way to rebook me, and get me onto a flight to the US. He managed to get me a “stand at gate” pass for a flight to Houston, essentially it means you get to fly if there are any vacant seats once everyone with a ticket is on board, only problem, the flight was already boarding and scheduled to take off in less than 40 minutes.
He told me to forget about my luggage, they’d get it to me eventually, and to run to the gate where the flight was booking, I was given priority through security, skipping ahead of everyone else, and doing a half arsed scan of my belongings before the security guy pointed me in the right direction. I got to the gate as the last passengers were boarding and more or less begged the crew to get me on board, throwing words like “angels” and “life savers” around, it worked, and I realized how lucky I had been when I talked to some fellow passengers, some of which had waited for nearly a week. At the last minute, and very much by “accident”, I had gotten onto one of three flights that left for the US that day. One might think my story ends there, but no, more excitement was in store.
People who know me generally also know that I’m rarely able to sleep during flights, and by the time I landed in Houston, I’d been awake for over 36 hours. Dazed and confused I made my way to the immigration/passport control, stood in line and patiently waited my turn. When I was up, a very friendly customs and immigration officer small talked with me as he typed this and that into his computer. He stamped my passport and said “Welcome”, I said thank you, left, and it wasn’t until I was on the way down to baggage claim that I realized that he hadn’t looked at my immigration papers.
Now to give some background info on that; at the US Embassy in Oslo, they had made it very clear that I had to surrender these papers at the port of entry, if I didn’t I would be in big trouble, and I would possibly be deported, knowing this I turned around and probably looking half dead I contacted another customs officer to explain to him that my papers hadn’t been inspected. To make a long story short, I apologized for forgetting, several times, and he thanked me for finally remembering, several times. It appears they would’ve been in as much trouble as me, had I walked on through. It eventually all got sorted, and I found myself waiting in the immigration office. I had been warned that this could take hours, but I wasn’t worried, I made sure my connecting flight to Dallas was several hours away, before I left Heathrow. You can imagine my surprise then, when the whole process took less than 15 minutes and the only questions I was asked was whether or not my name was mine and if I had anything else to add, before I was once more welcomed to the country and congratulated on the upcoming wedding. I was still a little dumbfounded at the speed and simplicity of the process when I realized I no longer had my jacket, the jacket that contained my drivers license, credit card, visa card, pretty much everything but my passport and my plane ticket. So I returned yet again to the customs and immigration area, this time to find my long lost jacket, wherever it might be.
Again I managed to get hold of an incredibly patient customs officer who took me back through security to help me find my jacket which, as it turns out, had been handed into Continental Airlines lost and found desk. FINALLY I was able to go down to verify that my luggage was still at Heathrow airport, possibly still going in circles on a baggage claim conveyor belt. Too tired to worry about it though, I got my way to the check in for my last flight, from Houston to Dallas, and this time the problem wasn’t so much that I was short on time, rather that there were now several hours until my flight would depart, since Immigration went so smoothly, so yet again, I found myself begging for a seat on an earlier flight, and again, I found myself with a “Stand by gate” pass.
It was hairy for a while, but I managed to score the last seat on the very small aircraft that would take me to Dallas. It was originally promised to someone else, but when he didn’t show up after the second call, and with me practically on my knees begging and praying to the angels of the sky, as the lovely ladies of airline ground staff shall be called from now on, they gave it to me instead. A short short two hours and filing baggage reclaim papers later I was once again united with my lovely wife to be, and that evening I fell asleep knowing I was finally where I’m supposed to be for several years, too bad my luggage wasn’t.