Home Again

The journey home was much less eventful than the outbound leg. I realise even more just how bad Heathrow Terminal 5 is.

At Houston, the Fast Bag Drop was actually a fast bag drop. There were about five parties in front of us, but it took us seven minutes to get served rather than ninety. The actual process at the counter was much faster and more efficient. Security was faster, even though they had a drill and shut everything down in the middle of our x-ray experience. Boarding the plane was simple and straightforward. We even left slightly ahead of schedule.

The food was marginally better this time, thanks to the lack of turkey and stuffing and mushy vegetables. I’m not saying it was great or anywhere near the standard we used to expect from British Airways, but better than the westbound flight.

The only bad thing was the woman sitting in front of The Woman. She insisted on reclining her seat back the whole time, even when she was actually sitting up, away from the back of the chair. This put her seat and The Woman’s knees in constant contact. The Woman did kick her hard enough to get her to sit up during the meal, but before the lights were off for the overnight flight,  she had fully relined again back into The Woman’s lap, and as she had a bulkhead seat, she stretched out with her feet halfway up the wall. First-class leisure at cattle class prices. She intended to stay that way for breakfast in the morning, until the flight attendant made her sit up so The Woman could eat without her tray table pressing against her spine.

Terminal 5 is much better for arrivals than departures, though not necessarily for the distance to be covered before it’s all over. After a long walk on various different levels, it is then necessary to take a train to another part of the building, then walk long distances on various levels to get to passport control. The actual immigration process was quite quick and the bags were already on the conveyer belt by the time we got there.

Now comes the jetlag recovery.

Home Again

Welcome to jet lag. It’s almost 3:00 am here in Merry Ol’ and my body thinks that it is 9:00 pm. So you are thinking, well, it’s not too long til bedtime. That would be true, except that I had two big naps since I got back, due, at least in part, to being awake almost all of 28 hours.

So now’s as good a time as any to describe the journey back.

Read the rest of this entry »

How to Treat a Lady

I don’t like to fly. So after three flights in 24 hours, I am visiting my parents. We couldn’t afford for the Unnamed family to travel as well, so I am here on my own.

On the way across the Atlantic, I sat next to a elderly British lady who had been in New Jersey on 9/11. She told me about how she had a difficult time getting back to the UK. Once she got a flight, she was sitting next to what appeared to be a Muslim man. After she described his gross-out eating habits, she described how he wanted to stretch out so he told her to go get another seat toward the back of the plane.

She told a stewardess that the man had told her to move. The stewardess told the man off, though he is not appear to be in any way ashamed of his behaviour. A few minutes later the stewardess came back and told the man she was moving the lady. The man said, “Thank you!” The stewardess replied, “I’m not moving her for your sake – I’m moving her for her sake.” She moved the lady to First Class.

Burning Liquid Gold

At the half-way mark, I took a break last night from report writing to have a pre-Father Day’s dinner at our favourite Chinese buffet in Gloucester. It’s a bit of a drive, but even with petrol prices what they are, we love it. It costs a bit more in the evening, but that’s when they bring out the good stuff.

And speaking of petrol prices, we needed a bit of fuel to get back home, so we pulled into a relatively reasonably priced BP garage. £20 bought 16.82 litres of petrol. To translate that for Stateside readers who are paying nearly $4.00 a gallon, we bought 4.44 gallons for a mere $42.60 (at yesterday’s tourist rate for buying sterling). Yes, your calculator is working correctly: that’s $9.59 a gallon. I’m just glad we were buying unleaded gasoline rather than diesel.  The same amount would have cost $49.04 or $11.05 a gallon.

Catching the Real Criminals

With the continuing rise in violent crime, it is comforting to know that some criminals are being prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Rachel McKenzie is one such criminal. Now admittedly she didn’t kill anyone. She didn’t even beat up anyone. She didn’t rob anyone. Criminals like that can be treated with lenience.

No, Ms McKenzie, who works for the Catholic archbishop of Southwark (I sense a true scandal brewing) failed to pay 20p of a bus fare. Those who know that justice must be blind should agree that not realising she hadn’t paid the fare is no excuse. She should have heard the beep when she pressed her Oyster card on the reader. She should have checked that her card had enough credit. If we as a society start letting people pay 70p for a 90p bus journey, where will it end?

And it doesn’t matter than when the ticket nazi inspector got on the bus and read her card, she offered to pay 20p out of her purse. A crime had been committed. Now some people might think that if 20p isn’t enough, she should be allowed to pay the £20 penalty fare. After all, as a Transport for London legal department wrote to Ms McKenzie, “Consistent with all cashless services, it is your responsibility to ensure you have sufficient credit in your card to pay for your bus journey.”

But does a penalty fare of 10,000% send the right message to Ms McKenzie and criminals like her? The ticket nazi inspector and his superiors at Transport for London don’t think so. No, some criminals must face the music in court. Why shouldn’t she get a criminal record, a fine of up to £1,000 and pay the costs of prosecution? That’s what will happen if she is convicted.

If she isn’t convicted, the costs will have to borne by taxpayers. This is going to be in the range of £5,000. I don’t know about you, but as a taxpayer, I have to hope Ms McKenzie is brought to justice. Remember, it’s not like she’s the only offender. After all, Transport for London brought more than 30,000 prosections last year, in additon to the more than 47,000 who were clearly less culpable than Ms McKenzie and received the £20 penalty fare.

Now before you think I am blowing this out of proportion and that a court will never find against Ms McKenzie, bear in mind that Ashley Williams tried to get off the bus last year when her Oyster card beeped insufficient funds, but the driver closed the door and pulled away too quick. She got off as soon as the bus reached the next stop, but as the court realised, a crime had been committed and must be punished. Ms Williams has a criminal record and like Ms McKenzie she will now have trouble with things like getting a visa to visit the US.

Travel Costs

The Government are working hard to get everyone out of their cars and onto public transportation. They have raised the road tax on most family cars, based on carbon emissions. When it was announced in the Budget, it was made to sound like it was prospective – applying to cars manufactured from now on and encouraging new car buyers to choose more enviro-friendly models. Instead it has been made retrospective – it applies to all cars from 2001. That means anyone who bought the “wrong” car in the last seven years will now be penalised by about £245 ($500) a year.

But if you want to save money by getting out of your car, you will have to pay for the train. Of course unless your train starts at your station, you may very well have to stand for the entire journey. After all, a train ticket does not guarantee a seat, but only agrees to carriage – that the train will be going to the destination.

You also have to be careful where you stand on the train. Nichola Myhill found out that even if every breathable standing space is taken in the second class carriages, and next to the toilets between the carriages, do not stand in the luggage area just inside first class. There is no excuse for first class passengers to be soiled by the relative proximity of the cattle class. They shouldn’t have to bear with the commoners standing next to their first class luggage.

Nicola may pay £4,000 per year for a season ticket, but that doesn’t give her the right or priviledge of standing inside first class, next to rows of empty seats. She was duly fined £69 ($140) on the spot for such outrageous behaviour. (The fine is calculated as twice the cost of the first class ticket.) If she can’t squeeze into the toilet area, she just has to miss work.

This story was carried in several national newspapers. In the comments section to one, a reader proposed a logical solution: “Perhaps we should open up the roof like they do in other third-world countries?”

Power Crazy Parking Nazis

Just came across this on one of The Times blogs:

The Ten Craziest Parking Tickets of All Time

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