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November 27, 2021

Window on the World Column | A Rare and Crazy Adventure

It all begun in regular fashion. You are getting ready to go on a trip; so, therefore, things get really het up at work — not in a good way — and you are putting out fires, like California in summer — why does that always happen? Finally, you have put all to bed that you are able, and you are on the airbus to the international terminal, passport and important documents in hand. Check.

That is the beginning of a good trip. (There have been times when I have missed the bus; not such a good start!) You are cruising along listening to your music and enjoying the first vistas of the San Fran skyline, remarking in your cheery head that there is so little traffic on this sunny day. This is when you receive a blocked call from the San Jose Police Department. Your world stops, though the bus keeps going. The driver had somehow left your case on the curbside at San Jose airport, and it could be now found nice and snug and safe at the Lost and Found … in San Jose airport.

Funnily enough, I had remarked to the driver, when he was loading my bag, how curious it was that there were so many of the same bag in the hold — not just the same color, the same brand — you think he would have clocked that he needed to be just a little bit more careful. One would think. I got just a tad upset when I was informed about the fate of my bag, as we thundered northbound toward my airline with no bag in place.

The driver told me he didn’t feel safe with me sitting behind him, like I was going to clock him in the head or something as we whizzed along in the fast lane. At least he wasn’t texting and driving at this point. The airbus company were not very helpful either. They told me that they couldn’t really help me, except that they WOULD reimburse me for whichever service I found to collect my bag — or not. They couldn’t have the next bus stop to pick up said lost bag, since they were not allowed to leave the bus unattended. I could not believe it.

I was either going to fly without my luggage, or I was going to have to use modern technology at its best and have Uber pick up my bag. The first couple of calls with Uber scared the drivers so much they disconnected the calls. Finally, Fahim in his Porsche Carrera took me on. “Oh yeah, I do luggage pickups all the time!” He had a smiley voice. I could have kissed him.

I ate a little lunch with a large glass of white wine and waited for Fahim. Soon-ish, lo and behold, there was my black and yellow beauty sitting sweetly and fairly untarnished on the tarmac of the International Terminal. Only $107 later and we were reunited, just in time to check said bag and cruise through security. You would have thought that the airbus service would be checking in that somehow the bag and owner were safely reunited with one another? It was, after all, their driver’s fault that he LEFT MY BAG ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD! Nope. Customer service at its finest.

It was a lovely flight indeed after all that baloney. I had treated myself to a $124 upgrade and was very comfy, the plane being only about a quarter full. Arriving at Terminal 3 and cruising through passport control like a boss, or at least a British Citizen, I had some time to kill before my mandatory day 0-2 Covid test at the airport. I enjoyed a nice flat white coffee (like a strong latte to you) and strolled with my lovely black and yellow bag in tow to Terminal 2. This is quite a long way since Heathrow Airport is a ginormous complex.

All well and good until I see the line — or queue — for the Covid testing. Nooooo! I scream inside my own head. Fortunately, there was someone checking the thousands of people who were clutching their vital paperwork in hand and wildly hoping they were in the right place. I wondered, briefly, how many folks would skip out on that little mandatory requirement and take a chance that the Covid police would not have the energy or resources to be checking that everyone had followed the rules. You can have thoughts like that after 10 hours on a plane, an eight-hour time difference and unusual bag dramas.

“Oh no,” the nice cockney lady tells me in her fluorescent jacket. “YOUR testing place is OUTSIDE the airport!” Outside, like around the corner? “Oh no, you will have to get a cab.” Hmm. The instructions very clearly stated Terminal 2 and not outside the airport. My wish to follow the Covid rules was quickly waning.

I grabbed a London taxi and he proceeded to dump me in the middle of nowhere; a Covid parking lot to be exact. I couldn’t help but wonder how on earth I would find my way to London from here. Quickly tested (throat and nose, hate the throat part) and the parking lot director pointed me toward an alleyway, leading to a road, where I might be able to take a bus to take me back to the airport. At this point it was drizzling and my black and yellow bag was no longer feeling quite so light and fabulous.

I finally jumped on said bus where I proceeded to limp onto an underground tube station that would then take me downtown. Goodness me, what a palaver. Leicester Square was where my hotel was hiding, and I say hiding because I had to walk twice around the sizeable square to find it. I asked the nice doorman at the Radisson, and he told me they had available rooms at his place, but I had already paid for my hidden room, tempting though that was, especially since it was raining proper by now. He did steer me in the right direction though — more than I can say for the Monterey County bus company — and soon I was in the dry.

The first room the Victory Hotel tried to give me didn’t have a window and I told them I couldn’t sleep in a windowless room. It was upwards from there, however, and I soon got a back-alley room with an inoperable window. I had to be happy with that. I had arrived, I had my luggage with my clean clothes. I could take a shower and sleep a bit. What more can you ask for after that kind of adventure? Oh, you can ask for a lot apparently. I managed to squeeze in two West End plays in one day. Yes, it was that kind of crazy adventure.

Lucy Jensen
Soledad Columnist
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