Friday marked day 5 of my European business trip. The day started out with a simple plan, depart London’s Heathrow airport at 9:50am, take a one hour flight to Shannon airport in Ireland. From there, a car would take me to the office in County Clare for back-to-back-to-back meetings from 1 to 5pm on a Friday. I would stay overnight and then Saturday, fly to Edinburgh, Scotland for a half-marathon on Sunday. This one hour flight became like the 3 hour tour from Gilligan’s Island.
When I checked in the airline which shall remain nameless until I file my claim, the gentleman who took my bag from me mentioned that word was just given that there would be some type of delay in my flight to Shannon. He couldn’t have been more vague. I breezed through security and saw that the flight would be an hour late, so I stopped for a bite and a beverage and waited. The next glance at the board showed my flight being delayed by 2 hours. That was still OK, because I had allowed for a 2 hour delay being possible. I set my laptop up and started reviewing some documents and noodling over some work.
When the board updated to a 3 hour delay, I had to call colleagues and let them know I would be late. I knew I would be late for my first and possibly second meeting. This would be the second straight time the “Land and Meet” strategy failed me coming into this airport. I hate being late for meetings. It’s just unprofessional.
Later, an announcement came over the PA reporting that another plane had been dispatched from Dublin to Shannon to pick up the passengers who were supposed to accompany my plane to London. With refueling, they expected that they would update us with a new arrival time at 2pm. There was no way I was getting to my meetings this day. The trip to Ireland no longer needed to happen so I decided to try to reschedule myself directly to Edinburgh. I found an Aer Lingus, I mean unnamed airline agent who directed me back out through passport control to get to the terminal to rebook.
The representatives at the counter first told me it would be impossible to redirect to Edinburgh, as there were no direct flights. A very nice lady sitting next to her pointed out to her that she could reroute from Heathrow to Dublin then onto Edinburgh. The lady called down to baggage and had my bags redirected; or so she thought.
The flight to Dublin was unremarkable. The flight to Edinburgh was on a propeller driven plane. I laughed when they asked that at the end of the flight, the first 10 rows remain seated so that the balance of the plane would not be affected while the back rows deplaned. I felt great as I waited for luggage to start to roll off the belt. I was in Edinburgh 22 hours early and as such, I would have more time to get the lay of the land and there would be no need to rush as I had originally thought. Up to that point, picking up my race packet was my biggest concern.
When the luggage belt starts to move there is always that “will it/won’t it arrive game”. More often than not, it does. Today, my bag didn’t make it. Damn Heathrow. I try to avoid that airport whenever possible, especially if connections are tight or if I have a meeting the day after I arrive. They have lost more of my luggage than all other airports combined.
I went to the luggage counter and waited. There was nobody there. Finally, a baggage handlers with a thick Scottish brogue suggested I go out to the Mensus desk. Pardon? Mensus handles the lost luggage for this airline. I smiled and said OK, nodded my head and proceeded out the door. So it turns out that the MENZIES aviation group manages luggage for much of Europe. Once the bags are lost, they manage getting them back to the owner. I explained that I was running the half-marathon on Sunday and it was urgent to me to have my gear. He told me to give him a call after I reached my hotel and he would make some inquiries in the meantime.
After checking in to a hotel after travel, a shower always makes me feel better… except when I have to put the clothes on that I just took off. Mr. Menzies called and told me that the bag was still in Dublin and that it should be sent on either the last plane of the day or one of the three planes that were coming over on Saturday. I was so relieved.
Saturday was a game of how long should I wait. I was up at 5am and worked on emails from Friday. I had breakfast at 7 and went back to bed. My luggage did not come in on the first flight of the day, so I put on my work clothes and shoes and hopped a bus to the center of Edinburgh. I was delighted with the richness of the city and the ancient feel to the architecture, but that’s for another story one day.
I took a long walk through Edinburgh and found my way to Hollyrood park, where the race expo was being held. I picked up my bib, bought a water bottle and began to browse the clothing and shoe selection. There was nothing there that I really wanted to buy, but I was worried that my bag might not arrive in time for the race. I called Menzies again and they didn’t see why the bag would not arrive on the remaining flights that day. With that assurance, I didn’t buy any new running gear. I wandered back to the center of Edinburgh and took a bus back to my hotel and awaited my bag. You know where this is going, huh?
My bag didn’t arrive on the last flight of the day. It didn’t arrive Sunday. In fact, it didn’t leave Dublin until the last plane on Monday night. We were reunited on Tuesday, just in time for me to fly home.
My last call of the day to Menzies was Saturday night at 10pm. When they told me the bag had not been sent, I was panicked. They failed me and based on the information they gave me, I failed myself. My only hope was that the morning of the race that I some of the vendors would be selling.
They weren’t. The race started at 8 am and nothing was open. I could have tried to make it to ASDAs on the other side of Edinburgh, but there just wasn’t enough time to get there and back in time for the start.
I walked up and down the starting line in hopes that someone would be selling something. No luck. I was going to have to accept that I was here in this beautiful city, on this cool day, at a race what was downhill for the first 6 miles and I was not going to get to run it. Many things ran through my mind. I thought of the nasty letter I was going to write the airline and Menzies, demanding them to reimburse me for my race fees. Among the very negative thoughts was the recollection of a Shakespeare poem,“When, in disgrace with Fortune and men’s eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state, And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries, And look upon myself and curse my fate”
I hate that poem. I have always hated the idea of beweeping my outcast state. I hate feeling sorry for myself. I started to think about what other options I had for myself and what was limiting me. For starters, I was wearing my work clothes and shoes for the last two days. One can’t run a half-marathon in dress shoes… Can one? I could try running barefoot. Others do, I really didn’t want to start on wet Scotish roads. I have run through airports in these dress shoes though, with a pretty good gate. People run races dressed in Elvis costumes. Soldiers do more in combat boots with packs on their back. Decision made with 10 minutes to go; I was running in my work clothes and shoes. This airline and Menzies were not getting the better of me. I realized that in these shoes and dress socks, I would probably end this race early due to somee very sore feet. Then I overheard myself say out loud that blisters heal faster than regrets and I was certainly going to regret not starting this run.
I took my leather jacket off and stuffed it in a bag with my day-timer. They were then handed them off to the luggage truck in hopes this company does a better job than Menzies. I put my passport and blackberry/mp3 in my shirt pocket and took my place in the starting pen.
Once the race started, my pen had a long slow walk to the start line. As we approached the start line, the Masters of Ceremony were commenting over the loud speakers about the various costumes in the race. Man dressed as dog, a juggler and an office worker. Hey, that’s me! When I race, my tendency is to be invisible. I don’t run with friends or family. I like to keep my own pace. I may run along side strangers and chat for a few minutes, but I much prefer to stay within myself. This race was different for me in that so many were paying attention to me. People were asking questions why I was running in dress shoes and work clothes and I told them, “Aer Lingus has my luggage in Dublin and they won’t give it back”. People then understood.
After the race I hobbled to Marks and Spencers to buy new clothes. The hobbing was part sore legs from the run and part blistered feet. These sweaty could not be worn again until dry-cleaned and then even still maybe not again. After a slow walk back to my hotel, I found out how blistered my feet were. They were especially tender when wearing the offending shoes, which happened to be the only ones I had.
At my visit to a supplier on Monday, I was walking gingerly. They nicely agreed to postpone the plant tour and dinner until I had more time to recover. On Tuesday, after my visit to the supplier, I arrived to my B&B to find my bag in the living room. Never have I been so happy to put on tennis shoes. The bag arrived a little worse for wear. The handle was damaged and one of the wheels was split. The asprin that I had packed was pulverized to a powder inside it’s little container. The road from Dublin had definitely been a rocky one.
On the bright side, the bag arrived the morning the volcanic ash cloud settled in over Edinburgh. Another few hours and the airport would have been closed. I left for home the next day. Continental got my bags all the way home to me.