US Airways Transatlantic Airbus
6:00 p.m. Arizona/8:00 p.m. Philadelphia
Well, here I am – not, "we are" because although I made
these reservations in October and requested three seats together, we
didn’t get them then or every month I called US Airways asking for seats
together, so I’m in Row 19 and the girls are way back behind me in Row 35
or some such thing.
Actually, I’m in row 20 because this plan seems to be
full of college students headed to London for long weekends. The sweet
young thing next to me in Row 19 asked me to trade with her boyfriend here
in 20; then the sweet young thing in 20 asked if I’d let her out to
transfer back – almost to my girls – to be with her equally sweet young
So, that left two seats next to me. After charming the
flight attendant on this busy plan to allow me to bring the girls – and
their baggage – down here, Nan has declined my kind offer and is staying
in the back with the college kids. Can’t say I blame her.
Granny is still with me, by the way. Even though I had
US Airway’s 800# to flag my ticket about my special traveling
circumstances, still nobody wants to see my papers, or even keep any of
the multiple death certificates I have with me; but just you wait and see,
it’ll probably all go to pot going through British customs.
Anyway, back to the girls and their "bag and baggage" –
they seem to be ensconced among a bevy of raucous female college students
and continue to decline my kind invitation to "come on down."
So, as I said, here I am in the middle four seat row
with a nice quiet guy reading his magazine two seats away. I’m next to the
lavatory, so I can stretch out with all "mod cons" available to me.
Once we’re on the road as we used to say – hate to say,
"up in the air" under the circumstances, my legs are going out and I’m
sleeping my way to Gatwick.
Oh, Another Wee Note –
Philadelphia airport is like a small town, but since
our flight got in late and this one was scheduled to take off 45 minutes
after we landed, I led the girls on what seemed to be to be like the hen’s
mad march to the midden. It’s a long hike from Terminal C to Terminal A.
And the checking in business – seems we didn’t have to because we had our
boarding passes among our boarding passes from Phoenix, but I didn’t
understand that, so we stood in another line, for no reason. But I think
the reason we missed that is because not only did the gate attendance in
Phoenix not put the girls luggage through to Edinburgh, I didn’t tell you
that in the mad shuffle of passports and tickets and boarding passes while
checking at Phoenix, the ticketing agent mislaid my British Air tickets
for Gatwick to Edinburgh and return, then blamed me (in a nice way, mind
you) for not having them! So, there I go, tearing through my classy carry
on backpack, with my mother inside my carry on luggage, retracing my steps
through other passengers waiting in line and weaving through them saying,
"Have you seen my ticket?" Then, not until I cam back to the counter,
almost in despair, did the ticketing agent find these tickets!
I’m convinced the card game she must play the best is
52 Card Pickup the way she had me going in circles.
Birkhill, Angus, Scotland
We arrived in Gatwick safely. Boarding passes giving
way to landing cards, the girls and I were allowed into the country.
It wasn’t too hard getting through customs – in fact we
took the "nothing to declare" road and found nobody there to check if
these were honest statements or not. Another fairly long walk past all
kinds of "duty free" shops and money exchange booths took us to the check
in gate for British Air. The ticketing agent checked our tickets and our
bags – remember the girls luggage was only checked to Gatwick; mine were
supposed to go on to Edinburgh, but lo, and behold, while waiting at the
baggage claim for the girls’ luggage, here comes one of my bags sailing
along behind the girls’ on the carousel! I asked the porter if I should
expect the second also and he told me, "No. Sometimes bags come through by
mistake. I’m here to check unclaimed luggage and send it where it’s
supposed to go. You can just leave that one there, and we’ll send it on to
Edinburgh." Thanks, anyhow, but not having any of his optimism over what
was my luggage full of my Scottish weather clothing, I decided to grab it,
load in on my carrier art and take it, and its carryon and backpack
partners (including my mother’s ashes) and proceed on to British Air check
The very nice fellow there ticketed us all together for
the hour or so flight up to Edinburgh. I told him where my mother was and
that was fine. Then it came time to weigh the baggage – including the
carry on with mother in it. "I’m sorry," he tells me, "you’re 6 kilos over
and can’t carry this as carry on in the plane because it’s a full flight."
"But what do I do about my Mother?" I semi-wailed
"You can’t carry it on, "he says. "But can you
redistribute the weight?"
Now, I’ve tried to redistribute my own weight before,
but it’s still in too many places that should be covered and not seen, and
I didn’t think this would be any easier or different. "I don’t think I
can," I said. "Does this mean we have to send my mother with your regular
"Oh," said the nice ticket agent, "I don’t want to send
her back there."
"Well," trying to be helpful, I said "I think all I can
do, since she weights about 7 lbs in her casket, is to take out her little
coffin type wooden urn from the carryon suitcase and pack here in my
backpack and carry her on that way."
"Ok," says he, "it’s better than her going that way,"
pointing back in to where the carousel was creakily rolling away with
other luggage from his ticketing agent colleagues.
I went to work, right there in front of him and
everybody else, agents and passengers, right there and then into my
backpack and saying to our agent, "Do you ever watch that show, ‘Airport,’
about passenger troubles at Heather? Bet they never had a repacking like
With my mother on my back, halfway to the people check
– where we would get our picture taken for at least the second time since
landing – I remembered I had left the forms which everybody had been
ignoring in my carryon suitcase, now somewhere in the bowels of baggage
obliteration. Worrying about getting through the carry on baggage check
with Mum in my backpack, I told Adriana I’d forgotten to pull out all that
paperwork and forms that nobody was asking to see. "Just don’t say
anything," my daughter advised. "Just push her on through. After all,
she’s not in anything metal that will set off the alarms.’
So, when we got up to the baggage check, as instructed
I, like every other passenger, took of my "outer coat" and placed it in
the tub, put my backpack on the belt, and, since I’d already "smiled for
the (face identification) camera," walked on through, smiling bravely.
And, there came my backpack with nary a chirp from the
baggage screening equipment.
We made our first British purchases at the little
coffee kiosk. The girls introduced themselves to British "lemonade" which
was really orangeade, and we waited for our gate agents to let us board.
The girls napped, and I read all about the British scandal fit to print in
the free copy of the Daily Express provided courtesy of British Air.
Just before we were ready to board, the British Air
gate rep paged for "Charlotte" – and I thought "Please don’t let this be
me" – "Bleh" - "Oh, oh," I thought, it must be me. Then she added,
"Juarez" and I knew they were looking for me and wondered if they had
figured out about Granny in my back pack and want those papers that I
didn’t have. "Please come to the podium."
So, with a little hesitation up I went. "Mrs. Juarez,"
said the attendant, "we’d like to let you know we will be preboarding
"What?" I asked. "Why? What have I done?"
Obviously my guilty conscience speaking – but the
attendant kindly and quietly explained that because of our "special
circumstances" with my mother, we were being offered that service.
What a nice way to start our trip up North, to
Scotland, with a welcome.
I could tell I was in a British airplane, filled with
Scots and English from the low murmur of conversations. When the meal cart
was pushed around with milk, juice and two big silver teapots prominently
on top of the cart there was no doubt left in my mind. Each pouring
smelled like a good, strong "cuppa" besides.
My friend, Joy, and her son, Neil, were there to greet
us when we landed in Edinburgh. Our luggage was on the carousel minutes
after we met. No customs to go through with the bags. Couldn’t have been
easier. I wonder if our trip through American customs and immigration will
be this simple?
A little rainy. Cold – for us coming from Phoenix’s
desert – but not gloomy because my heart is happy.
Joy and I caught up on over 40 year’s worth of old
times – 30 years since I’d been back to Scotland, but about 42 years since
we had played together in our Butterburn Primary School playground. But it
was as though our last chat had been only yesterday.
We chatted and pointed out the sights all the way home
to Dundee and told stories to the girls who, I think only wanted to pick
up where they had left off in their hour long snoozes on our British Air
flight from Gatwick. But we, or really, I must not have thought their
snoozes were more important that their first sights of Scottish drystane
dykes, sheep grazing, Loch Leven, Bridge of Earn, Kinnoull Hill, the Carse
of Gowrie, their first views of the Dundee Law, the wall around Camperdown
Park, and the Sidlaws behind Birkhill where we will be staying with Joy
for about a week until the rest of the family flies over.
Adriana’s only comment, besides a weary, "yes, Mom," to
something I happily pointed out, was shortly after we drove out of the
Turnhouse Airport car park, when she uttered a dazed, "I don’t think I
have seen so much green in all my life."
We spent our first evening with Joy eating a light
meal, and talking, talking, talking. The girls went for a short walk to
the nearby shops and by the time they returned I could feel my accent
trying to blend with the American tones I’ve picked up after such a long
time away from Scottish voices.
And we all slept well under our comforters and the
close to the shelter of the Sidlaws.
Another Wee Thought –
When I opened my bags to settle in at Joy’s I found a
note in my hold baggage that basically said, "In the interests of air
travel safety, your bag may have been opened and searched while in
transit." I’m still trying to understand the "may" part of that – how did
the note get inside my baggage if it wasn’t opened?
Joy and me at Broughty Ferry Beach with the Tay Road
Bridge and Dundee in the background. I’m on the right, in the blue "Nanook
of the North" coat as I adjust from a Phoenix winter to a Dundee spring.