Escape from Oz, part 2: The Longest Day

Here I am, another airport, more waiting. I must say that Heathrow Terminal 4 is not my favorite air travel experience. Despite quite a few innovations and a host of people dedicated to getting people previewed, checked in, screened, double-checked, then through security, the outer departures area was a zoo of milling, confused humanity. One simple thing they could add: A sign indicating which airlines could be found in which check-in zones. At any rate, I’m through all that now, waiting at gate 5 to get on flight 5 to take me over the ocean to Houston.

Right now there are carts driving past with beepers beeping, there’s an alarm beeper of some sort going off, there’s an announcement that has no hope of being understood over the din. I am in a loud place, my first tea of the morning still cooling to a consumable temperature, echoes of trains still rattling in my head. Ah, for the lovely quiet morning of yesterday!


Hours have passed, miles are a memory now and I’m in Houston, Texas. Well, I’m in an airport, and there are signs here and there that tell me that the airport is in Houston. No way to tell, otherwise, except some of the shops have a distinctively Texas flavor. (Pro Bass Shop, for instance, so you can stock up on huntin’ and fishin’ gear before you get on your plane. I was about to scoff at that store until I saw a gaggle of Japanese businessmen venture in. Then it all made sense.) It occurs to me that I really should have brought my Rice University baseball cap.

The flight from London was, while I wouldn’t go so far as to call it pleasant — it’s not like I was sorry to get off the plane — was remarkably non-unpleasant. The Continental Airlines 777 had more leg room than I’ve come to expect, and that little bit of extra space can make a big difference. There were some bumpy intervals, but overall the flight was nicer than I’ve come to expect. So thumbs up to Continental for taking out a couple rows of seats and giving their passengers a little room to breathe.

Getting through passport control and customs was as simple as it’s ever been, and going back through security went smoothly. But despite the swiftly moving lines, there was a general tension that is always present during this process. Strange that with all the other lines and bureaucratic silliness that travelers go through, that for this one step tension is high and people get really bent out of shape. In London Heathrow, there are signs that say (more or less) “Please do not assault the security personnel”. I think it could be that there is such emphasis on getting people though quickly at all costs that what results is inherently stressful for security employees and travelers alike. What could they do differently so that all parties concerned could just relax a little?

First thing – more space before and after to take all your luggage apart and more space on the other side to put it all back together again. There’s a big human pile-up on both sides of security as people try to comply with whatever the daily regulations are.

The Prague airport is actually a little more relaxed; individual gates have their own security, so you don’t have a chokepoint with thousands of people all trying to get through. And since everyone in the security line is catching the same plane, there are fewer worries about getting left behind.

Anyway, didn’t mean to go off on that tangent, but that’s why we call it Muddled Ramblings.

Here I sit in a shopping mall that planes park next to, enjoying a beer and a Buffalo Chicken sandwich. I sort of expected something that was related to Buffalo hot wings, but no. Oh, well. I will sign the credit card receipt with my eyes closed.

And hey! I’m getting a very weak, but free Wi-Fi signal here! We’ll see if I can stay connected and the battery lives long enough for me to post…

3 thoughts on “Escape from Oz, part 2: The Longest Day

  1. When we passed through the Prague airport a mere week ago, we had an interesting experience. We found the Becherovka at a really great price at the duty free shops. However, they could not sell it to us because it was on the OUTSIDE of the security check and we couldn’t take that much liquid through! (Other airports have a trustworthy person take your purchases to the entrance of the jetway or stores on the other side of security!)

  2. You see, that way you have to drink it before you get on the plane! It cuts down on the problem with smokers on the long range flights! The Czech know what they are doing.

  3. One interesting thing that happened to me a couple of years ago when I was flying through GHW Bush Intercontinental (Pat used to call it Intergalactic because it was so big). This was one of those trips in which Pat and Gerald had a lot more time to spend in Texas, and so they dropped me off in front of the Continental Airlines domestic terminal.

    Once I got there, I found out that the flight to Albuquerque was at the “international” terminal, and I had to do a lot of hiking and also take a train to get there. Yep, one of our fifty is missing.

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