Monday, January 31, 2005

Best Search Phrase

As previously mentioned, there's a feature that lets me see how people came to be at the blog.

One way is search engines. And, happily, it tells me what they were searching for when they found me.

Best phrase yet?

"Where to sell your hair in Montreal"


I have no idea, but now I'm kind of curious.

Damn Locksmiths!

So, you know when you move into a new place? And you think “right, I’m going to do all the normal things like get keys copied and give them to friends because I live by myself and I certainly don’t want to lock myself out”? And then you don’t get around to that because you’ve only lived in your new place for two weeks? And then you do a very complicated key/cash/laundry juggle when you’re trying to go and do your laundry and you get outside and realize that you have your cash and your laundry, but not your keys?

No? Not familiar with that particular situation?

Well, let me tell you that it sucks. And not only does it suck , but it’s very expensive.

Imagine, if you will. Sicily. 1929.

No, wait. I mean, London. 2005. A girl, let’s call her Alice, is going to do her laundry. She gets out to the street, and realizes that she is the stupidest human being on the planet. She has locked her keys inside her flat. She is an idiot. She is also an idiot holding an Ikea bag full of laundry. She may as well take that to the laundrette.

So, once Alice pays the £3.50 to run the washing machine (it’s a double-loader, and that’s really quite reasonable), she goes to try and call a locksmith. This is when she realizes that in addition to her keys, her mobile phone is also sitting on her desk. She curses quietly to herself. It’s 9:30 on a Sunday morning. Only about two of the shops on her street are open. She decides that the coffee shop is a better bet than Sainsbury’s.

The kindly shopkeeper offers to let her use the phone. After several failed attempts to contact a locksmith open on a Sunday morning, she finally hits the jackpot. Alice, our resident idiot, has found a locksmith who has promised to be at her flat by 11:30. This is excellent news.

She thanks the kindly shopkeeper and returns to the laundrette. She figures that she may as well keep doing her laundry, so she transfers from washer to dryer and sits reading two year old Cosmo. Did you know that Casey Affleck is about to hit it big in Ocean’s 11?

Alice realizes that she doesn’t have watch. This isn’t really a big surprise,as she hasn’t worn a watch for over a year. She is used to having her phone with her, though. And her phone has the time conveniently displayed. She does not have her phone with her today. She is an idiot.

A random woman is startled by her request for the time and seems concerned that Alice going to mug her, but eventually tells her that it is almost 11:30. This is good. She goes to meet the locksmith. Alice worries that she is going to irritate her new neighbours by ringing random bells and asking to be let in. Fortunately, the kid who lives upstairs is very willing to leave the front door open for people he has never seen before. Alice decides to be worried about this lax security later. Now is not the time.

The locksmith, or Jack as he’s more commonly known, arrives. Alice thinks to herself “yay! I’m sure I’ll be in soon! And how much can it cost?” As previously mentioned, Alice is an idiot.

It turns out that Alice’s flat has a very, very good lock. And this means that it takes almost two hours to drill through it. This reassures her that thieves will not break into her flat at night while she is sleeping and murder her. Alice does not feel bad about mixing up murderers and thieves in her mind. She has other things to worry about.

Like the fact that it’s taking ages to open her door. But, finally, it is done. Two hours later. Conveniently, Jack has a new lock for her in his truck that perfectly matches her old lock. Unfortunately, it is chrome, rather than brass. He apologizes for this. Alice gives him a look that is intended to convey “are you kidding me?!?” and says chrome is just fine.

It takes almost an hour to put the new lock on. Alice drinks two cups of tea as she stands in her kitchen and watches this. It is very complicated. Alice begins to hate the makers of Yale locks. They are clearly sadistic bastards.

Jack finally puts the lock on. There is much rejoicing. And then Jack tells Alice how much this three hour odyssey will cost. There is much sadness. Alice is now broke. Fortunately, Jack is not a bastard like the makers of Yale locks. He only charges Alice two half-hour labour charges, rather than the six it took to actually complete the job. Alice is still broke.

This is a lesson to you all. Get your keys copied. Give copies to friends and/or family. Leave a copy in your desk at work. Make friends with your neighbours. Leave copies with them. Tape a copy to the front of your door. Do whatever it takes.

I paid the price for you all. Don’t make the same mistake I did.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Moving, illness, "misplaced baggage", Ikea and more!

Well, I have my luggage back. And no, it does not have a tan. Nor is it covered in stickers from all its travels around the world. But it obviously went somewhere, because it took them over a week to get it back to me. That is ridiculous. Did it come over from Canada in a canoe? Because that's the only reasonable explanation I can think of for the delay.

But, oh they'll pay. I will be writing a very sternly worded letter to Air Canada and Lufthansa (who, even though they aren't the ones that got me in this mess, are the ones responsible for my luggage) will be paying me the impressive sum of £42.01 to reimburse me for the toiletries I had to buy.

The "misplaced baggage" situation was even more irritating because I moved 5 days after getting back. So, they didn't have my correct address. And when I called to give them my work address to simplify things, they told me that they'd attempted to deliver the bags earlier and hadn't been able to because I wasn't home. When I pointed out that they were supposed to call me when they were arriving to avoid precisely this situation, I was given the killer response "Uh, yeah. They probably should have done that."


But the new flat is delightful. I'm very very happy with it. I don't have internet access yet (boo hiss!) or good tv (boo hiss!), but I'm working on those things. I am very pleased with the fact that I have a bathroom with a bathtub and a sink and a toilet. It's been two and half years since I've lived in a house with all of those things. And I have a kitchen. With an oven. And shelves that I put up myself. I'm so handy.

The move itself went fine. Thanks in large part to Clare and Jamie. Damn Ikea had oversold the slats to my bed, which is the part that holds the mattress up. A fairly essential part. Bastards. So, I had to go back this weekend. Annoying! But, amusingly, they actually gave me two bedframes when I'd only paid for one. And really, I only need one. I didn't realize I had two until I went to put it together on Sunday. Good times. I plan to sell the second one on eBay. I figure I can get at least £1000 for it. That's not unreasonable, is it?

Because I was off sick most of last week, I actually unpacked most of my stuff and I'm pretty much moved in now. Of course, the being sick wasn't any fun. It was the flu. Only, I don't think British people use the "the" when referring to it. So, since I'm in England, I had flu. That sounds silly. I have an unrelated cold now, which is fun. Keep the illness coming, body! I can take it!

That was me trying to be tough. I'm lying. I can't take it. I'm a wuss.

So, that's the story of the last week.

What's new with you?

Friday, January 07, 2005

Luggage 2: The Reckoning

I still don't have my bags.

It's now approximately 59 hours since I've seen my luggage. With all my toiletries, my cutest clothes, and my phone charger.

I called Lufthansa, for it was they who promised to find the bags, and they're still being traced. I'm somewhat alarmed that they haven't located them.

I wouldn't even mind if they were all "Oh, we sent them to Australia, you won't have them until they complete their world trip. Don't worry, at least they'll get a tan."

Then, at least, I'd know where they are. I went and spent £42 on toiletries after work today, since Apologetic Lady and Surly Man (the two people I spoke to today) promised me that I can get reimbursed for 100% of the cost of my toiletry needs. I still need to buy shampoo though. They didn't have the kind I liked at the Boots near my work. If it comes down to needing to buy some replacement clothes, they've said I can get 50% of the cost of that.

But let's hope it doesn't come to that.

Oh, and it's 2:34 in the morning, and I'm wide awake. Tired, but can't sleep. This jet lag is kicking my ass.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Jetlag Rocks!

The travel gods have it in for me. That’s the only way I can make sense of the travel nightmare I have experienced. Join me, won’t you, for a look through my attempt to get back to London.

(all times are listed first as Local Time, then on Alice's Body Time.)

Monday 3rd January, 2005

09:30 (09:30) I wake up to get ready to head back to London. There is laundry to do, there are suitcases to pack, there is lunch to be had.

14:00 (14:00) My ride arrives at the condo. I’m packed, things are looking good. We’re right on schedule. We sit, we chat, we laugh.

14:42 (14:52) Mandy suggests that we get on the road, and I concur. The timing, she is going according to plan. Mandy and Tim take my bags to the car and I lock the door and go and lock the keys in the parents car. I forget to start the dishwasher and leave Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell for the parents. Such is life. I meet Mandy and Tim at their car.

14:50 (14:50) We’re on the road. The plan, she is good.

15:20 (15:20) We arrive at Lester B. Pearson International Airport. Hugs and kisses goodbye are exchanged and I get in the line at the Air Canada International check in desk.

15:22 (15:22) I am approached by an Air Canada representative handing out flyers asking us to volunteer to be bumped from the flight in return for $500 in vouchers. I ask when I’d be flying. She says “maybe tomorrow, more likely Wednesday”. Sorry, I say. I have to be back at work on Wednesday. No can do.

15:40 (15:40) I reach the front of the line. I go to the check in desk and the very friendly check-in man informs me that I have been put on standby, despite the fact that my ticket was purchased three months ago. I ask him what that means exactly. I am informed that it is extremely unlikely that I will be on my booked flight. Air Canada will, however, do their “best” to get me on a flight today. Even, apparently, if it means connecting through Montreal, Halifax or even Vancouver. I point out that Vancouver is in the wrong direction. I think they must be joking.

15:55 (15:55) I normally would spend the time post check-in and pre boarding in the duty free shops or having a refreshing beverage at one of the fancy new Terminal 1 restaurants. But, as I am full of hope that I will get on my flight, I head to the gate so that when they call my name and tell me that I have a seat and it’s in business class I’m around to hear it.

16:15 (16:15) After a ridiculously long trip to gate 521, I take a seat and open my book. I would ask if I have a seat, but there is no one at the gate. This does not seem to deter a small but determined band of travellers, however, who have gathered in front of the desk.

17:20 (17:20) An Air Canada employee approaches the gate desk some what hesitantly. I understand her concern, as there are about ten very irate travellers hovering in wait for her. Her conversation as she sits down goes something like this: “Let me just get settled here… no I don’t have your information yet … please just let me … can you wait one second … I’ll be right with you”

17:45 (17:45) Hesitant Lady is joined by Assertive Man. He quickly gets on the PA and makes the first of two announcements: “If you are on standby, we will be unable to tell you if you are on the flight until 6:30. If you have any other questions, we will be happy to help you.” And then, about six seconds later, the second of two announcements: “If your question is regarding your standby ticket, we have no information for you. If you are asking about anything else, please come to the desk.” People, however, do not listen and continue to ask questions about their standby tickets. I begin to feel bad for HL and AM.

18:05 (18:05) I hear Assertive Man telling someone who is asking questions about their standby ticket that there are 35 of us in the same situation. This does not sound good.

18:20 (18:20) A few people have been called to the desk. I am not one of them.

18:30 (18:30) The plane begins to board. This is not a good sign.

18:50 (18:50) The plane has finished boarding. I go up to the desk to ask what’s up. As Hesitant Lady is telling me that they’re trying to get the 23 of us who didn’t make it onto the plane on different flights, I am interrupted by Angry Family who begin to rant about the fact that they’ve been repeatedly lied to and life is horrible and Air Canada hates them and blah blah blah. I am annoyed and sit down again.

19:00 (19:00) Angry Family has finally been subdued and they have found five spaces on a flight to Munich. They offer them to the first five people on the list. I am not one of those people. However Irish Girl has to make a connection to Dublin and would rather take her chances on the two later flights which are also overbooked. I am next in line, and head to gate 521 to receive my new boarding pass and my $500 voucher. The official “Air Canada screwed up and now they’re buying you off” voucher.

19:05 (19:05) There is much confusion at gate 521. Pregnant Lady and Scary Lady can’t figure out how to transfer us. Fortunately, I am the first in line and they figure it out for me. Unfortunately, the connecting flight from Munich is at 19:00 the following day. That doesn’t sound fun. But who knows? Maybe a day in the Munich airport will be fab. I am given my $500 voucher and promised a meal voucher in Munich. I have to run as the plane is boarding now.

19:20 (19:20) I board the flight to Munich. At least I’m moving.

19:45 (19:45) The plane takes off. I am treated to a delightful showing of Shark Tale and Sliding Doors. I cannot sleep. I am sitting beside Fat Winking Man and he’s taking up too much arm room. I can’t sleep. I fall asleep and then wake up after approximately ten minutes. I can’t sleep. This flight is long. I read. I can’t sleep.

Tuesday 4th January 2005

09:45 (03:45) We land in Munich. The airport is nice. Fortunately, there is much English spoken as I speak no German. I can’t believe I’m in Germany. This is very surreal.

10:25 (04:25) I convert my money to Euros, and go through Customs. I get a lovely new stamp in my passport. I call work an inform them that I will be taking an additional day off and I am so very tired and don’t anticipate getting any sleep today. This is agreed.

10:40 (04:40) I join the line for check in at Lufthansa. My plane isn’t until 7pm, but I figure I should check in now and then I can sit in the airport and read German magazines and eat German food. What better way to spend the day? Well, I could be at my flat already if I had been on the flight I had booked. But let’s not dwell on that.

10:55 (04:55) I reach the front of the line, and have a briefly confusing conversation about my luggage. We finally come to the conclusion that it is very likely that I will not be seeing my luggage for quite some time. Nice German Lady hands me my boarding card and tells me that I should be at gate H26 at 18:45 and what am I doing on such a late flight? I tell her I have no idea as Pregnant Lady in Toronto arranged it all. She suggests I go to the ticket people and get an earlier flight. I think that Nice German Lady is very smart.

11:10 (05:10) After heading over to the ticket area, the Ticket Lady with Too Much Makeup gets me on a 13:00 flight, which is clearly preferable to my 19:00 flight. She asks me what the ticketing people in Toronto were thinking. I have absolutely no idea. Crazy Crying Woman appears beside me and seems to be asking the ticketing people beside me to do something impossible. I am very intrigued and wish I spoke German so I could eavesdrop.

11:30 (05:30) I go through customs. Again. I visit a lovely little establishment that sells German food and beer. I have a beer and something called “meatloaf” which is just a really large hot dog. It’s odd but comes with potato salad. There are few things which potato salad cannot make better. The beer is a mistake. It makes me very sleepy. Or, I should say, sleepier than I already am.

12:30 (06:30) The plane to London boards. This is very exciting. And, I have an exit aisle seat! How fabulous. Wait, is this really exciting? I seem to have become delirious with exhaustion.

13:30 (07:30) After some kind of a delay, the plane takes off. I can’t sleep. Thankfully German Kid beside me isn’t taking up more than his fair share of armrest space. Is this flight over yet? I can’t sleep.

15:00 (10:00) We arrive into London, and for the first time ever in my travels the non-EU immigration queue is shorter than the EU queue. I get through fairly quickly. I have been awake for over twenty four hours.

15:30 (10:30) With some kind of deranged hope, I head to the baggage claim to look for my bags. As expected, they are not there. I fill out a “Property Irregularity Report” and am told that they’ll call me when they turn up. All my clothes, my makeup, my jewellery, and my toiletry bag are in my luggage. As well as my two cutest pairs of shoes. Damn.

16:00 (11:00) I get on the Heathrow Express. Thank freaking god. I debate the merits of getting the tube from Paddington and then realize I’m kidding myself and that I’m going to take a cab. I am so so tired.

16:15 (11:15) I get a cab to my house. I have never been happier to be home. Until I open the door and realize that I left my flat in a hideous mess. Fortunately the fish are alive. I give them some food and do some dishes. This pushes me to the edge of exhaustion.

17:00 (12:00) I have been awake for almost 28 hours. I lie down with the full intention of just resting my eyes.

Wednesday 5th January 2005

02:00 (Who knows?) I wake up. I am still tired but can’t sleep anymore. I check the status of my baggage. It is still being traced. They suggest I check back later. I check my email. I decide not to respond to them. I am too tired for that foolishness. Fortunately, there is enjoyable television on in the middle of the night. I watch some of it. I finish my dishes and have a shower. I think about tidying. I think about starting to pack for the big more. I decide against either of those things. I watch more television. I think about eating breakfast, but I have no food. I have ramen noodles. They are delicious.

I managed to survive the rest of the day. I have to go back to work tomorrow, then move on the weekend. I am still tired. Jetlag rocks.