Girl Meets Bulgaria

Musings of an American expat in Bulgaria (with detours in Utah and Alaska)


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My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

(Another LONG AS HELL post in which I ramble about flights and why I now hate flying so much!)

Yesterday will long reign as one of the most awful and trying days of my life.

I’ve often counted myself lucky that I have never had any major catastrophes while traveling. Rarely a delayed flight let alone missing one.

Well, that all ended yesterday.

Things started off swimmingly in Salt Lake City. I got through security in record time, caught my flight, slept the whole way. I had just enough time to walk through O’Hare to catch my flight to London. Luckily, we got out before flights started to be delayed due to the weather.

Again, this flight went fine. I got a window seat (which I was worried about) and the leap over the pond went really quickly. As much as I loved the sweet British flight crew there were a few things that I did not like about British Airways: they did not offer in-flight entertainment like Delta–touch screen TV monitor with movie/TV/ game choices), rather they had channels each showing a movie with no way to start over; and they served curry for dinner (ick). All in all, though, everything went great.

Until we landed at Heathrow, that is.

I know I’ve been to Heathrow before (on my way to India), but I must have forgotten what a madhouse it is. After landing we sat on the runway for over an hour and a half. We weren’t even at a gate, instead we were out in the middle of nowhere and we had to walk down a flight of steps to catch buses to the terminal. After sitting for so long, I knew making my connection to Sofia was unlikely.

We finally got back to the terminal and I got into line for security. My two carry-ons (which went through with NO troubles in SLC) were flagged and had to be hand inspected by the less than time conscious security staff. The worker took every.single.thing out of both of my bags and meticulously swabbed his bomb-detecting wipes over every square inch. Now, if you know me (and I think you do by now) you know that I do not pack light. Not even close. I had those bags packed like a puzzle. Everything was snug and, dare I say, perfect. Not so much after someone carelessly takes everything out and goes through ever nook and cranny.

Still hoping to make my connection, I hurriedly threw everything back into the bags after being ruled out as a terrorist hell bent on destroying the world. Frantically scanning the departures screen, I knew I was in trouble. Sofia was nowhere to be seen. I asked an employee and she said if it was off the board the plane was gone. I tried to keep it together while I wandered around the 8 million duty free shops looking for British Airways customer service.

I finally found it and tried to be civil to the guy helping me. I’ve worked in hard customer service jobs; it’s not easy being yelled at all day. He said I had two options: 1) wait for about 6 hours in Heathrow and take the next direct flight to Sofia which would get me into the city around 10pm, or 2) catch a connecting flight to Bucharest then a flight to Sofia from there, which would get me into the city at 6:30p. I have zero patience so I rashly went with option 2.

BIG MISTAKE as it turns out.

The customer service agent assured me that I would not have to go back through security to catch the flight to Bucharest and that I had plenty of time to make the flight. I quickly shot off an email to Vince telling him that I missed my original flight and not to go to the airport to pick me up until later.

A train ride and lots of walking later, I made it to the terminal for the flight to Bucharest; a huge security line staring me in the face. I tried to talk to the employee standing at the front of the line to explain that I had just gone through security and had both my bags hand searched, but he said I had to do it again (curse the BA agent that said I didn’t have to!). With no other choice I got into line and prayed that I would get through with no problems.

I must have been asking for far too much.

Both bags were hand searched AGAIN. I lost it this time (as boarding for my flight to Bucharest was already closing) and burst into tears. The older British woman going through my bags immediately turned into the grandmotherly type and tried to calm me down. She went through everything pretty quickly and after telling me that candles will alert security staff every time (I brough quite a few for our apt. as well as for gifts) she said that  if I hurried I might catch my connection.

I ran as fast as 70. lbs of luggage would allow me and barely squeaked onto the bus out to the plane with seconds to spare. I have a sneaking hunch the nice lady in security called ahead to tell them I was coming, but who knows.

3 hours later we were touching down in Romania. Right when I got off the plane I asked the BA gate agent where I should go and where my luggage was. She said that my bags would meet me in Sofia and directed me to the correct gate.

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