Half past two can hardly be called morning, yet we got up at this ungodly hour today, so that I could drive Natasha to Heathrow for her journey to Russia.
Driving in the middle of the night is far from being one of my favorite endeavors, but it turned out to be oddly satisfying: The streets are empty, and while zipping through, I could not help but compare it to the torment of barely crawling along in the middle of the day. Conclusion: making good time is possible, one just needs to pick his spots…
The early hours did cause a couple of mishaps. First, airlines-to-terminal mappings are not clearly signposted in Heathrow (as in many other European airports); you have to know which terminal to go to. Even after all this time, it appeared that I could mistakenly rely on my gut feel in this regard. Recalling that many airlines depart from Terminal 3, I directed ourselves into the suspiciously empty parking garage, and then we walked into no less suspiciously empty terminal. As realization dawned that most of the airlines at this terminal were long-haul, Natasha checked her tickets and, surely, they were clearly marked with Terminal 2. There is neither a monorail nor easy walking passages between terminals. We returned to the car, paid for “under 30 minutes” parking, drove to the other – considerably more densely occupied – garage, and found ourselves at the correct – and packed to the seams – terminal, which hosts most of the major European carriers.
When we first got out of the car, I habitually disconnected my GPS device and stuck it in my coat pocket. Twenty minutes later, already queued for the check-in, I became aware that it was no longer there. Uh-oh! Could someone have pilfered it out of my pocket in the crowded space?… Even though the device has long ago justified its cost, and I’ve had it for enough years for it to be somewhat functionally outdated, I do not cherish the idea of being forced to replace it because it was stolen or otherwise lost. If you recall, we lost our old and true digital camera on a train a year ago (mentioned here) and then ended up buying a replacement that turned out to be a lemon (first mentioned here), which was itself replaced – to much better results – less than six months later. I am sure it would be somewhat traumatic to have to go through a similar process with a GPS (and I certainly consider it one of the best inventions in the history of humankind, and cannot imagine myself traveling without it – so I would have to replace it!).
Thankfully, a quick trip to the car uncovered the fact that the device simply fell out of my pocket while we were in transit between terminals, and was peacefully resting on the driver seat. I made sure to secure it for the remainder of my journey. The catastrophic scenario of forced replacement was thus avoided.
Compared to these mis-adventures, Natasha’s travel to the great city of Rostov-on-Don was rather non-eventful, with enough time at both Heathrow and between connecting flights in Vienna to compensate for having a suitcase that weighed several kilos less than the allowable limit, by buying additional gifts at the duty-free shops. She ended up next to a well-lubricated, but not well-washed… ahem… gentleman… on the first leg of her journey – which could not be a better illustration as to why I hate air travel even if I made it up! – but otherwise arrived on time and with her suitcase, which is all one can ask for these days.
The three of us are left to our own devices for the next week-plus. That means largely eating take-out and growing a pile of laundry.
The girls are out of school, and I’ll have to work on keeping them entertained, while trying to at least pretend that I am working on my job responsibilities for three days next week. Natasha, however, as good administrative assistants do, had prepared a bit of itinerary for the first few days before she left. The first act was today, in the form of a Cinderella on Ice performance at the skating rink where Becky and Kimmy train. The production was very well done, if a bit amateurish and slightly disorganized; the important thing is that the young ladies had fun. We’ll continue the programme tomorrow.