We almost did not make our flight to New York. The traffic jams on the motorways of London are notorious. If you are stuck on the M1, because there always seems at least one accident in the works, know this that you shall surely miss your flight. As my parents experienced much to their horror when they were returning to Calcutta from a holiday in the Blighty.
Now the thing is when you are not in someone’s shoes, even if it be your parents’, it is difficult to absorb the enormity of a situation. The proverbial sitting ducks, they went ballistic, the hours flying away dizzily enough – as it always does the day you are about to catch a flight. They were still sitting on the M1. Could it be? A bad bad dream but yes there they were, caught in a cab with somewhere to go, yet with no choice but to sit tight on the motorway, miss their flight and hyperventilate alongside. This even as they had left hours before they were supposed to from Northampton.
The day before we were to catch the flight, my mother said with a nervous laugh, “M (pet name alert), get out well ahead. You know what happened to us.” I did the usual thing that daughters do, roll their eyes, and note impatiently: “But obviously, ma. What happened to you was a freak incident. It does not take place all the time.”
Now indulging in a cliche, because cliches work my dear friend, do not go around counting those chickens. They may hatch but is there a guarantee in life? Non.
Two factors worked simultaneously in our favour as we set out for the airport. The most important was the fact that we had decided to part ways with British Airways this once and opted for Norwegian Airlines. It is a low-cost long-haul option that offers a world of comfort. Do ink it in for your next search for cheap travel tickets. You shall see by and by, why.
The second crucial factor was that the system of British Airways had developed a major snag that morning and it had crashed. The upshot of it is that many were caught aboard BA planes with no idea of what was happening, others could not fly out of Heathrow for their bank holiday trips to Europe, some were trapped in Europe with no way to fly back home to the UK. And our flight was delayed by 45 minutes. It was thus that we made it to Gatwick with 15 minutes left before boarding began. I am sure BA is not about to forget it in a hurry. They have to after all pay up 500-odd euros of compensation per couple. Do remember that little fact if you were caught up in a situation the last weekend thanks to BA.
There is a silver lining in most every situation, you see. You have just got to remind yourself of it in life. We managed to sidetrack the M1 accidents, felt grandly astute, but how could the M25 be left bereft without its share of accidents? So we sat in the car for aeons. Our bums froze and Adi engaged his maws to showcase magnificent yawns, worthy of a sleepy lion, behind the wheel. When an opportunity arose for a divergence, like eager beavers we jumped at it.
This meant that we were on the A roads soon puttering through beautiful villages at 20 miles per hour in West Sussex country. Doing what we do best. Smiling in indulgence at the chocolate-box cottages and acres of green where cricketers in white huddled together for to-do about serious matters such as how to lob the ball and catch the batsman unawares (I kid, okay? A serious cricket fan would lob the very ball at my nose for even suggesting that lobbing or underarm bowling still takes place, goodness gracious me). Charming parish churches of middling height stood quietly besides timber-framed cottages and jolly little pubs showed up to tickle us for a last pint within those wondrous dark rooms of joy, but no we resisted.
The larger picture had to be kept in mind there.
It was how we did not miss the flight after all, made a dash for the gates to board, and then sunk with relief into the arms of comfort (wine, delicious food and movies) to be swept into New York’s abysmally drab John F. Kennedy airport of pesky hustlers and expensive yellow cabs. To my amusement, we were rewarded with a disgusted ‘chhi’ apropos a female Chinese hustler who lost a possible pair of cows to a yellow cab in which the able African-American driver informed us sagely, “You should be allowed to make the choice.”
A ride through the glitziness of Manhattan and he was emptying out massive four suitcases and two strolleys at the end of the journey. A wink was accompanied with some advise, “Now don’t you go unpacking tonight, just order yourself a bottle of red wine and relax.” Who am I to ignore the wise? Both of us just fell into bed and had a long 10 hours of sleep before we woke up to our cosy little service apartment with a view of my neighbours in Jersey City – who can, through the bay windows, surely espy a bespectacled girl scooched over the table on her bar stool as she clacks away and sips on tea.
Welcome to the joys of city living.