I had just returned from Switzerland 4 days ago and I wasn't too keen on hopping on to a plane again :(. I guess I was only feeling lethargic as I had to board the flight from Stansted and not Heathrow. Heathrow airport is just 40 minutes from our house and there are frequent direct buses connecting this airport. Going to Stanstead, Gatwick or Luton airport takes more time than you would actually be sitting in the aircraft :).
I had to take the 03:23 night bus from the Northwick park hospital stop and then arrive at Wembley central to take the connecting bus to Golders Green. The display board at the Northwick park hospital indicated that it would take 9 minutes during the off peak hours to reach Wembley central. I have ridden on this particular route a number of different occasions and it takes ages to just travel 4miles. I was also not very sure how reliable the night service buses in London would be. I had two options, either I take this bus or I take the 4:25 Silver link train from the Harrow Weald Stone station. Harrow Weald stone station is about 25 min walk from home and Northwick park hospital stop is just 12 min.... so I decided to take the bus and if the bus didn't reach the stop on time, then I could always go back to the Harrow & wealdstone station and take the train. I was really amazed when the 03:23 bus arrived at the stop by 3:24. I hopped on to this bus and reached Wembly central station @ 03:34. The connecting bus to Golders green coach station was at 03:54. I could wait at the bus stop and if couldn't get the bus I could always go to the Wembly Central train station and take the Silver link metro train that would be leaving from Harrow & Wealdstone @ 4:25 and arriving at the Wembly central station by 4:30.
I didn't have to wait for long; the Golders green bus reached the stop at 3:52 as indicated on the scheduled departure times at the bus stop. I hopped on to the bus and surprisingly found about 15 - 20 people travelling to Golders green at that wee hour. Like Robin says "This city never sleeps" :). I reached the Coach station at 4:40. There are 3 buses leaving every 20 mins from this station towards Stansted. I had checked on the internet and there was one leaving at 4:42. Two people on the same bus that I had taken to Golders green were also travelling to Stansted. So I found company again while waiting for the bus :). The ticket counter at the station was closed :(.
uh oh! What do I do now? Aaa yes! I see a self ticket service counter. But wait, do I have the exact change to buy the ticket? This dumb machine does not spit out the excess money that I might pay and I have to feed it only coins?! aiye!!!!!!!! I don't have 8£ in coins. What do I do now?
O well! Here comes the bus. Why do these buses have to be on time ALWAYS! The schedule says 4:42 as the departure time, but... why the heck does it have to be here @ 4:42? Couldn't it arrive a minute or two late? I don't have the time to even fumble in my purse for the change. Never mind!
I walked up to the driver who had hopped off the bus to open the luggage storage cabin for us to shove our luggage in and was greeting all the new customers with "good morning"
I said "good Morning!!! can I buy the ticket on board?"
he smiled and said "yes. Provided you have 8£ change. I don't have change to refund if you pay in excess".
O heck! I do remember I have a 10£ note in my purse.... I can't do anything now but to pay him 10£ and hope that he can get me the change at the Stansted airport. So I reached to get the 10£ note and aiye...!!!! There was a 5£ note snoozing in a corner :)... and also I could feel some change in the other compartment :)... ooo boy! Do I feel lucky?! I counted 8£ and with a smile placed it on the driver's outstretched palm.
He said "Thank you very much madam. I needed the change to refund the other customers who have paid me in excess".... :):):) .
Hurrah!!! I was on my way to Stansted without any hitches so far.
I arrived at the station @ 5:30. The bus dropped us off right in front of the airport departure entrance. I walked in and saw the electronic display board to check for the AirBerlin NIKI flight "HG8553" that I had to take to Vienna. aaah... there it was .... what counter does it say? mmm 15... where the hell is 15? To my right or to my left. I can see all the other counters except for 15... o yeah... I see it.... it is to my right... ok.... off I go then.... lugging my cabin baggage and my backpack.... aiye! 20 -30 people already waiting @ 5:30 for their boarding cards for a flight that is scheduled to take off at 6:40? No problem... I have my ticket confirmed so I don't have to worry. I then joined the queue and to my HORROR realised that there was just one person waiting in line to get 15 boarding cards..... booooooooo hooooooooooo.... that takes the count to 45.... guess... it isn't my lucky day after all...
then I see this lady walking towards me and she asked... "are you on the flight to Vienna.... ?"
I said "Yes"...
so she said... "Ok... you can join the other queue over there this is group check in..."
he he he.... the other queue? with just 2 people? Then it IS my lucky day after all :):):):).... so I join the other queue and the lady at the counter says
and it was ME :).... I walk up to her and she gives me this weird look and calls up someone on phone and says "I've got a passenger travelling to Vienna with an Indian Passport. What am I supposed to do now?" I don't know what the person at the other end told her but she hung up the phone and asked me "are you travelling to Austria?"
[I thought..."Yeah lady. If you know your geography well... then you should be knowing that Vienna is the capital of Austria. If my e-ticket says that I'm travelling to Vienna then that means I'm travelling to Austria". I guess Sherlock Holmes would have said "Elementary my dear [whatever her name was. I don't remember it] Elementary"]
How could I forget my etiquettes... ??? So I smiled and replied "yes. I am travelling to Vienna".
She then beckoned the other woman and said "I have this lady with an Indian passport and she has her ticket to Vienna confirmed. What should I do? Should I hand over the ticket?"
[Ladies.... I'm just a HARMLESS person travelling to Vienna for a weekend. I'm no terrorist. ]
Then the other lady looks at me and says "Do you have the VISA to travel?"
[Aaaaaa now I get it... you dumb people don't even know where to look for the visa.... ]
I said... "yeah sure. It is right here" and I flick the page open for her...
she looks bewildered and says "when are you returning to London?"...
[here we go again.... will these series of questions ever end?!]
I said ... "On Monday morning. Two days from now"
She said "Do you know your VISA expires on the 30th?"
[Yeah. I know. It is only 25th today and if I'm returning the day after and day after is 27th. So how should it matter if my VISA expires on 30th? Woman.... you need to learn the fundamentals ....]
I smile again and say "yes. I know my VISA expires on 30th."
She then tells the other woman "Issue her the ticket and the boarding card."
Phew! Finally. I see my ticket and boarding card, checked in my cabin baggage.... as it weighed 2 Kilos in excess of what is allowed on the flight... and just before the lady handed my boarding card... she started here routine questions again...
[Mom is in India. She can't pack. Sis is probably in Office or in IIMB or someplace doing everything other than sleeping... so she can't pack either. Dad? He never packs his own suitcase. How will he pack mine? Grandma? Na.... She only packs my lunch box not my suitcase.]
[Wait... lemme see... The queen offered me her crown. I didn't take it coz it was very heavy. Prince Charles said I could take some petty cash of few thousands of pounds. But for once I wanted to live a simple life for a weekend and so I didn't take that either. Camilla offered me her royal jewels... but none of them were to my liking... so I didn't take them either.... Harry is busy training to be a soldier... so he couldn't meet me before I left.... William is not very friendly so I didn't meet him....so that means... I don't have anything with me that doesn't belong to me]
I replied... "No. Nobody gave me anything to take with me"
[mmmmm I don't use knife anymore... I use AK 47 instead. It is much more efficient and easy to use. I also have learnt to use a couple of more weapons but I don't want to count right now... :) as that would discourage me from learning to use more harmful weapons.... ]
I replied "No. I am not carrying any sharp instruments with me"
She then stood up
[lady ... you don't have to show your respect for me by getting up from your seat! I know you want to bow to me... :)... but that is alright... Please take your seat]
and pointed at the gate number,seat number and the boarding time and said "this is the boarding gate, this is your seat number and this is the boarding time."
[Oh really? What would I have done if you hadn't pointed it to me? Dear me! I would be lost in this airport and may be going round or square or rectangle if you hadn't ENLIGHTENED me. Thank you so much. I can never thank you enough for this.....
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.... Lady for heaven's sake... I am neither illiterate nor blind....I know to read my boarding card. I don't need you to explain to me.... this is not the first time I'm taking a flight. Relax!!!]
I smiled and said "thank you very much." collected my boarding card and passport and walked towards the display board again to check for the other flights that might be taking off at the same time....
More to follow....