Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Planes, Trains and Buses and Taxis, Too

When we last left our traveling hero, I was sprawled out in my underwear on the hard mattress and thin pillows of Jury's Inn Glasgow, drooling beer out of the corner of my gaping mouth and snoring like a machine gun. My 9 a.m. wake-up call rousted me from this pitiful scene and I stood uneasily, scratched my balls and splashed some cold water on my face.

My plane from Glasgow to Shannon, Ireland left at 11:55, but I was warned that RyanAir, my carrier--the Southwest of Europe--closed their gates a half-hour BEFORE departure for some stupid fucking reason that has nothing to do with security since they let stand-by passengers rush to the gate at the last minute. But I am an early-to-the-airport guy and Prestwick, the (much) smaller of the two Glasgow airports, was a simple 45-minute train trek from my hotel.

I planned to get the 9:30 train from Central Station, located conveniently two blocks from my hotel, but I missed it by a couple minutes. I had packed the night before (the night before, as in, before I went out and got hammered), so had little to do but shotgun a gallon of water with a java back. I was hydrated, but still feeling like shit.

I caught the 10 a.m. train and all was going swimmingly until about halfway through the journey when we stopped dead on the tracks. And stayed there for a half-hour. I kept glancing nervously at my watch, seeing the minutes tick away, knowing I had to check-in by 11:25 to make my flight.

The train finally got moving and pulled into the Prestwick Station at 11:18. I was standing at the doors when they opened and dashed across the walkway. The terminal is a small one, without the post and fabric barriers to mark serpentine queues. It was just like one blank space with people milling about. I saw a RyanAir sign and sprinted up to the customer rep.

"Is this where I check-in for RyanAir?"
"Yes. Where are you going?"
"Shannon's closed."
"Whaddya mean it's closed?"
"It's closed. Forty-five minutes before departure. Go over there," he said, pointing toward a line 20-deep with purple-faced people in various stages of agitated and profane.

RyanAir WILL NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES let you on the flight if you are not there before they randomly "close" it (when they made the announcement at 11:45 that Passengers Fuck Face and Dick Head should report to Gate Asshole for stand-by boarding to Shannon, it was a good thing I wasn't armed, because I'd have taken out everybody in a blue polyester vest). I, and a dozen others on my stalled train, found this out from a Stepford Wife, who could only offer a glazed look at the pleas of now-stranded travelers. She also gave us the oh-so-inviting option to switch our ticket to their Dublin flight leaving two hours later and hope to get on as stand-by passengers. For the privilege, we got to pay an extra 56 pounds, better than $100 US.

Having decided mass murder was out, I glumly accepted. I was quietly pissed at myself for not making the 9:30 train until I found out the reason my train was delayed was because the 9:30 took a crap on the tracks and had to be towed, never even making it to Prestwick. I slouched in the terminal, shotgunned another gallon of water, nearly broke 60 at St. Andrews on my PSP and hoped I'd make the Dublin flight. I did. And slept the hour trip westward.

Now in Dublin, I had to get from the airport to their central train station. A bus was on hand to do the trick. After a 45-minute wait and the cost of 5 euros, I rode to the city centre. It was quite a picturesque journey, traveling along the River Liffey that intersects the city. The weather was unseasonably hot and a lot of people were out walking, their white freckled shoulders burned bright pink. There was plenty to look at, from hilltop churches to modern hotels to the exceptionally hot redhead on my bus who felt compelled to remove her jacket and stand with her cannonball breasts jutting forward provocatively. Once we got to the train station, I stalked her for an hour while I waited. No, not really.

I got a train from Dublin to Limerick. Two-and-a-half hours, 41 Euros. I slept almost the entire time, eventually waking up with a sweat-soaked t-shirt because it was 80 freaking degrees in Ireland, quite a switch from the seven straight months of rain they'd been having (possible I exaggerated the length of time there). At Limerick, I caught a bus (20 minutes, 4.20 euros) to Adare, where I walked into the nearest pub and ordered a taxi to take me to my hotel (5 minutes, 7 euros).

So, to sum up, a tale of the tape if you will:

Planned Journey
Total Travel Time: 3 1/2 hours
Cost: About $90. Train from hotel to airport: 6 pounds), Air fare from Glasgow to Shannon: 36 pounds, Bus from Shannon to Adare: 12 euros.

Actual Journey
Total Travel Time: 13 hours
Cost: About $276. Change ticket: 56 pounds, Bus: 5 euros, Train: 41 Euros, Bus: 4.20 euros, Taxi: 7 euros.

Surprisingly, my ire stayed mostly in check. I'll chalk that up to my massive hangover. I had neither the energy to expend nor the desire to do anything but sit down and sleep. Check-in at my hotel went smoothly and I planned on a shower (which I predicted would be one of those Top Five showers I'd speak about in referential tones along side such Greatest Hits as The First Shower Back After a Weekend of Camping in Mexico or the First Shower I Ever Took With A Naked Lady), a Guinness and a bite to eat in the hotel bar.

Alas, I couldn't get the lights turned on in my room. Only one worked and it did no damage in the bathroom. Again, I had no energy to trudge back down the lobby an perhaps be forced to move to another room, thus delaying the shower experience, so I just proceeded in the dark. I had to guess at which of the two pump bottles was shampoo and which was body wash (and found out later I'd guessed correctly). It was a pretty impressive effort, aside from flooding the entire bathroom. I stepped out into water two inches deep on the floor, which presumably escaped because I left the shower curtain open to all what little light there was to filter in. Screw 'em, I thought, giving a guy a room with no lights. Serves 'em right.

I changed into jeans and a linen shirt, refreshened to a point, and went downstairs. I complained about the lighting situation and the helpful desk jockey informed me that that little card on my key ring? the one that looks like a typical door key for most hotels? there's a slot by the door that you stick that into to activate the lights.


I have traveled more than most and while I see the reasoning behind such a move to prevent people from wasting electricity, how's about we INFORM THE GUESTS OF THIS LITTLE QUIRK at check-in so they a) don't have to shower in the dark and b) don't look like total dickwads when they come to ask about it later at the front desk. The hotel dude wasn't condescending about it. In fact, I saw him later that week in a pub (it's a very small town) and we had a short conversation and a laugh about it.

I headed for the bar. Guinness, please. Ham and cheese toastie, please. There were two couples there, all four of them intently watching one of the two plasma screens which was showing "Lost." Ah, Irish ambiance.

The sandwich was good, the chips excellent (as they would universally be on this trip) and the salad a delightful mixture of sweet and mustard. I inhaled all of it quickly and decided against another pint. It had been a long day and there was much to do in the morning. I collapsed on my bed, flipped on the BBC and fell asleep immediately, right about the time my friends were boarding a plane in Boston. I hoped they made their flight.


At 12:53 AM, Blogger thetank said...

I was feeling guilty about you missing the 09:30 from Glasgow Central until I heard of it's track crapping.

At 6:33 AM, Blogger "The Rake" said...

Glad to see it wasn't all fun and games.
You know the rest of us were back here drudging out our daily existence.


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