Friday, 16 November 2012

What a long day (part 5)

It was like a scene from the book Incompetence. Only one check-in desk was open and the trainee manning it didn't appear to know that everyone in the queue had been transferred from Salzburg and that they had been told they would be flying to Heathrow even though they all wanted to go to Gatwick. The fact that they would ordinarily now be half way across Europe around 30,000 feet up meant that the passengers were all getting increasingly frustrated. Had this been a hotel, Oscar wouldn't have been surprised to see John Cleese striding in telling them not to mention the war.

It took a long time for a senior member of staff to turn up and explain to the trainee what was going on, realise that they needed more man-power and call more staff in to open another few desks. Oscar hadn't checked what time it was when they started queuing but it was now half past one. He should have been arriving in London in half an hour. He would then have taken a taxi into the centre of London, in time to get a train to Bristol before rush hour. At this rate, he didn't know if he'd get to Paddington before the last train. He started to plan ahead just in case, working out the scenario in his head so he wouldn't be a shock if it happened. If he arrived too late for the last train, he would check in to the Mercure hotel at Paddington. He would then get the first train in the morning to Bristol Temple Meads station. That probably wouldn't get him there until after 9 o'clock, as commuting out of London is rare. He would have to find a quiet carriage and conduct his first meeting over the phone. That would not be easy, so he might have to rearrange the meeting. Would it be worth doing that now, just in case? He did not want to inconvenience or insult the people who had travelled to meet him where he was based in Bristol by having to call in from a train because he could not be there in person. The meeting had taken months to set up; he could not cancel it now.

“Oscar.” He didn't hear Delta say his name the first time. When she touched his elbow, he nearly jumped out of his skin. She pointed forwards. He looked up to see that the lady at the check-in desk was calling him forwards. He was pleased to see that she was not the trainee. She was, in fact, very efficient. She checked in his suitcase, handed him his boarding card, gave him a voucher to use in any of the airport's many restaurants and bars, and told him which gate the flight would be leaving from. As he walked away from the desk, he checked the value of the voucher. £3 was not going to get him very far. He was grateful that he would be able to claim lunch on expenses.

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