The honeymoon didn’t start off great. We got to the airport on time, bags bulging, a faint whiff of ‘are we overweight,’ about us. We were. The blonde cheeky chappy checking us in said nothing about my 5 kilo overload, popped the bags gingerly onto the conveyor belt and explained that for some reason the system had separated us on our ten and a half hour flight to Vegas. “I can’t put you sitting together,” he said, his Aer Lingus badge glowing. “You’ll have to talk to British Airways when you get to London.”
I was worried. Why would they separate newlyweds who had clearly booked together? We had been been hoping for an upgrade to first class, not an upgrade to seats together. Don’t worry, pressed the new hubby. Everything will be fine. I wished I had his optimism.
We got to London and queued in the connections terminal. BA in all their British glory had a large row of customer service desks ready and open. ‘Not her, not her, ‘ growled my new husband as we reached an open window with a lank-haired poe-faced young woman behind it. “Com-pew-ur says nooooo,” she purred and handed our boarding passes back to us. We tried pleading. She stared back.
Tiny tear pricked my eyes. Don’t cry, I thought. You’re a married woman now. Blubbing mess at the airport does not get you anywhere. Hadn’t I seen those orange airline reality shows? Tantrums at the airport were entertaining, not problem solving.
Deflated we made our way to security. “What a bitch,” we said in loud hearing of the security check-in agent. “Yeah, she was such a cow.” We were so caught up in self-pity we failed to smile or even acknowledge the woman in front of us. She handed us new boarding passes. “I noticed you weren’t sitting together,” she said. “You are now.”
The first hurdle in our journey down. We were so happy to have won the battle to sit together that we didn’t mind taking off our belts or shoes or getting our benign belongings out of our bags. We had no idea what lay ahead of us. Let’s call them… THE HEATHROW AGENTS FROM HELL.
Despite having already passed through security in Dublin, landing in a connections hall where got off our plane and straight into a queue for another, we were herded through security again. Except this was no ordinary security. This was finger swabbing, saliva collecting, ask and you shall be deported, SUPER security. I think they had guns.
I thought I had done a pretty good job with the handbag. Hand creams, foundations, moisturiser, even my contact lens lenses with their 3ml of eye juice, were primed in the plastic freezer bag we’d last minute remembered on the way out the door at dawn. I proudly displayed it for their attention. No liquid bombs here.
But, London’s Heathrow Airport has magic security machines. If a bag has a suspect item in it, it doesn’t come through the other side. Instead, a new conveyor belt comes along, takes your bag out of the queue and plops it into a new queue only accessible to THE AGENTS OF POWER.
My bag had a suspect item in it.We joined a small crowd of travellers who had, like me, watched their bag being kidnapped. We crowded round the criminal’s conveyor belt where thorough security checks were being carried out. A Frenchman, agitated and acting, well, all French, was getting exasperated. “I av bin ere for over alf an our,” he said. Still his bag had not reached the top of the queue.
Swabs were taken. A supervisor was consulted. Finally it was Frenchie’s turn. He stepped up to the glass panel. The security guy walked off. Le Bleu went red.
The Frenchman was very angry. When the security agent finally got back to her 15 minute shift, there was a bit of a rude off. Neither were talking to each other. We watched in agitated silence, our two hour window to catch our flight now reduced to twenty minutes.
In desperation, I left the conveyor belt in search of a supervisor. I found a pleasant man who accepted my pleas and hand-wringing and rescued our bag from the queue for another.
Turns out it was the lipgloss’ fault. There it was tucked away in a pocket, all pink and innocent looking, when really, it could have been nitroglycerin, or worse, exploding toothpaste. Offending forgotten lipgloss put back in its rightful plastic bag and with the loss of one small bodywash, we raced to our gate and planted ourselves on the airplane. Five minutes later, we taxied down the runway for Las Vegas.
We finally relaxed into our flight, putting our panic stricken beating hearts back to rest with the champagne offered by the friendly air hostess. When the lights dimmed we drifted in and out of groggy sleep, waking with scratchy eyes and air conditioned throat. Ten and a half long hours later, we got off our flight and straight to our hotel in search of bed.
We had been warned about the post wedding tiredness. We were now experiencing it. All the highs of the build-up and the ceremony and the day itself, had taken our energy resources and disposed of them. We were knackered.
Like many American hotels, the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas didn’t look too impressive from the front. The main entrance was in the middle of a car park, allowing valets to whisk your large motor machine away. Our taxi pulled up and let us out and we made our way into the hotel to be confronted with a casino.
This offered a clue of Vegas. No signage. Want to make your way out of the casino? Tough. Get lost, spend some money, why leave? Gaining our bearings we located the check-in desk and joined a long queue. There was only one agent on and a lot of people looking to stay.
Our agent, when we reached him, was unable to tell us how much of a deposit would be taking off our credit card. “It’s a little bit extra,” he said nonchalantly, waving a handheld machine at us. We duly signed our honeymoon nest egg away, desperate to reach our pool view room with king size bed, which we’d paid extra for.
It was a twin room. Two beds lay blinking at us, in another two finger salute, to what had been a rather problematic day. I peeled back the curtains to look at our upgraded pool view. A large, grey, carpark stared back.
‘I’m not happy,’ I huffed, sitting on one of the beds, my eyes searching for the non-existent happy honeymoon bottle of champagne. I called reservations and attempted to sort it out. Apparently when you book and pay for one type of room, this is not a ‘guarantee’. As the hotel was so full, we were lucky to have a room.
We finally agreed on a compromise new room and I was told to collect my new keys at reception.”I’m not queuing again though,” I told the agent on the phone. “No, no, you won’t have to.”
Back at reception I made my way to the top of the queue. I waited while the new lady at the desk, finished dealing with two guys in front of her. I stepped up when they walked off. “You’ll have to join the back of the queue Ma’am,” said the lady. “No,” I started, “I was told I wouldn’t have to.” “I’m sorry,” she replied, “but there’s a line.”
And that’s when the little explosion happened. The threatened separation on the Vegas flight; the power obsessed Nazi agents at Heathrow and now this crappy hotel who had messed up our reservation, erupted in what can only be described as ‘an exorcist moment’.
“I AM NOT GETTING TO THE BACK OF THE QUEUE. I HAVE ALREADY QUEUED FOR FORTY MINUTES. YOU HAVE MESSED UP OUR RESERVATION. WE HAVE BEEN TRAVELLING FOR OVER 24 HOURS. I WAS TOLD I COULD GO TO THE TOP OF THE QUEUE. I AM NOT LEEEAAAVVVVIIIIINNNNNGGGGGGG!”
I think my head spun around a little. There may have been some spittle. And I could definitely taste bile.
The agent was staring calmly at me. She looked like she moved back a little. “That’s fine Ma’am,” she said. “But my computer’s gone done and I can’t cut any keys.”
I looked around, unsure what to do and still high from my out of character outburst. I sidled up to the agent beside her. “Can you cut room keys?” I asked meekly. Without a word, he typed a few things on the computer, never taking his eyes off me. The keys were zapped. He handed them over. You are a customer from hell, he thought. And so did I.
We were in Vegas. We had arrived. We climbed into bed and began anxious dreams of white airports and long queues and luggage and conveyor belts and security checks and plastic bags and boarding passes and tiny meal trays with bread rolls and tinfoil and in between a grotty casino where naked girls swung round a greasy pole. We wondered what tomorrow would bring.