We delighted to welcome a writer new to the Moving Dragons, James Morrissey. Here James describes the way fate can intervene in even the most carefully laid plans…
This was a life changing trip for me. So much depended on it
As part of my usual punctual paranoia, I had planned my journey with military precision. I had left nothing to chance. Heathrow was 130 miles from home. 130 miles of potential obstructions to catching the plane. Too many things might, just might happen. I could break down. I could have an accident. There were always delays on the M4. That one way system around the airport always has me mystified and lost. By far the safest and least stressful way was to be there the day before. By ‘there’ I mean as near to the check-in desk as I can possibly get without pitching a tent in the departure hall, thereby cutting the risk of missing my flight to virtually zero, well at least due to reasons over which I have any control.
At the time of starting to plan this trip, which was about 6 months ago, it just happened that my friend David and his wife Liz were staying with me for a few days. They live in Kingston, only 10 miles from Heathrow. ‘Stay with us the night before’ said David as I obsessed about my dilemma. ‘We won’t be there to give you a lift to the airport but there’s an express bus from the town centre. It takes about half an hour to Heathrow. The walk to the bus stop in about 15 minutes and you can leave your car in my drive until I get back. ‘Thanks David’ I said gratefully. ‘That sounds like a perfect plan!’
Of course, the doubts and uncertainties start to invade my head like dark clouds that merge in from the edges. But what could possibly go wrong? How many plans and contingencies do I need to build in?
Having arrived at their house in Kingston at noon the day before the flight, I parked my trusty little car in the drive. Miraculously, there were no hold ups, breakdowns or accidents.
David had told me the times and location for the airport bus but I had never been there before. What if it took longer to walk than he said it would? What if I can’t find the bus stop in the morning? I had plenty of free time, it was a lovely day and I needed the exercise so I decided to do a dummy run to the bus stop. Surprisingly, it was very easy to find and took exactly 15 minutes to walk it. I took a leisurely stroll back to the house confident that I had done everything possible nothing goes wrong in the morning. If that big A380 airbus to San Francisco leaves without me then it was never meant to be.
It had been a stressful day. Have I packed everything? Do I have all my travel documents and money? Did my hold bag conform to airline requirements for weight and size? Did my cabin bag contain any liquids and gels? Did I pack the bags myself? Was the flight really tomorrow and not next Sunday?
The alarms sounded in the morning. Yes, alarms. I had set two of them. Well, I thought two couldn’t possibly fail to work could they? I set off to walk factoring in dragging an enormous suitcase so doubled the time it had taken me to walk the previous day. Strangely it took exactly the same time and I was at the bus stop at 05.30 on a Sunday morning in the deserted town centre, half an hour before to bus was due. All I had to do now was wait for that big red London Transport bus. It arrived at the exact scheduled time of 06.00. There were no more buses for 90 minutes
The yawning driver looked blankly at me as I waved a £5 note in his direction. In an irritable and snappy way, he said. ‘I don’t take cash. You can pay by oyster card or travel card’ There was an instant rush of panic adrenalin running through me. I was surrounded by a bus full of curious but seemingly indifferent passengers as I blocked the door with my massive suitcase causing more irritation than compassion. ‘But I don’t have either of those I finally said with a choking anxious voice. ‘Then you’ll have to leave the bus’ he said in a blunt and contemptuous way
I stood on the pavement at 06.03 precisely on a cool Sunday morning. No shops, no banks, no car. My only means of getting to the airport on time was now just a speck in the distance.
The butterfly wings had beaten. My destiny changed forever by the most miniscule and most would argue, insignificant lapse of my knowledge of local buses. We can take every precaution, plan every move, dot every ‘I’ and cross every ‘T’ shit still happens just when it really makes a difference
©James Morrissey 2016