I thought I was a genius when I was planning our trip to England and I realized that we could squeeze in a trip to visit our friends in Cape Town for only a few hundred dollars more. A genius, I tell you! Our friends Daisy and Ed had just moved there and would only be there for nine months, so we Had To Go Now. Obviously. Cape Town is only a little further than Ethiopia, and the kids made it to Botswana last year! Let’s do this!
I was a genius until about three days before we were going to leave, when my friend Rob posted something on Facebook about snow on the day we were going to leave. Snow. Lots of snow. FEET OF FRIGGING SNOW. The biggest snowstorm in years! Maybe ever! Snowcalpyse! You get the picture. So, I called Virgin on Thursday, the day before we were going to leave, to find out what I should do. The highly charming Irishman on the other end told me that all their flights were scheduled as normal. Given that he was so charming, I believed him. (I am prone to doing that with Irish people. It’s a problem, trust me.) Two hours later, I got an email saying that my flight was cancelled.
I called Virgin immediately. I spent hours listening to Pachelbel’s Canon, over and over and over again. I finally got someone, who kept putting me on hold and then coming back. She could get us out on Saturday night. Um, no. She could get us on Trans Aero Airlines. What the fuck is Trans Aero Airlines? Hell no! Finally, at 4, after two hours on the phone, she tells me she can get us on the 7:50 flight to London.
Nothing in the house is packed, except Peeta’s bag, which I had casually been throwing clothes into as I waited on hold. I called Bucket, told him to meet us at the airport from work, and I turned into a hurricane of packing fury. Almost everything we owned went into our bags (South Africa in summer and England in winter, people). I am a maniac. I end up with two huge bags, which sickens me (we are generally very minimalist in our packing), but I Just Don’t Care. I have five minutes to take a shower, and I use it.
And then the cab is late. Ten minutes late, which is not ideal when you are trying to haul ass to the airport and you only had 90 minutes to pack for more than two weeks for four people. Guy shows up, and tells us all about the Very Bad Traffic and tells me it will be $50 to the airport. Sure, dude. Just drive. I cling to Noodle in the back seat as we almost get in a crash AT THE END OF OUR STREET. We weave through the back streets of Cambridge, with Noodle yelling, I love this taxi! And Peeta asking, Where are we GOING? We make it to the airport 45 minutes later (usually it takes 15-20), and Bucket greets us. He had arranged for a taxi that takes cards, and surprise! Shady driver does not! He throws $50 at him and we sprint inside.
We make it onto the plane. Four seats in the middle, kids in between. Children sleep. I do not, knowing it is going to be disastrous, but I am still high on adrenaline and they keep serving drinks. And I like drinks. And I like movies. And I like when the children are quiet.
We get to Heathrow, and go to the desk as instructed, to see if we can get a hotel for the night before our flight out on Saturday. Woman behind the desk is a total frigid bitch. I am standing there, exhausted, with two children squirming, and she coldly looks at us and says no. There is no note in our file. I tell her that the people on the phone told us to check if we could get a hotel. She says no. She calls someone on the phone, sighing loudly and talking intentionally so I can hear her, saying, They want a hotel, because they’ve got KIDS. No. She can put us on a flight through Jo’burg tonight that will arrive tomorrow, but we can’t get on the direct flight to Cape Town and if we want to wait for our original flight, we can pay for our own hotel. Out of the kindness of her heart, she will put a hold on our seats while we try to reach Daisy.
I glare at her and tell her we don’t have Daisy’s phone number (this always happens when we travel and I don’t know why we never learn) and we will have to email her. She glares back and tells me there are computers upstairs. We trudge upstairs, and these are the things I say: I Hate This Country! This is why I moved from this godforsaken hellhole! Fucking England! If I had a knife, I would cut a bitch! God forbid anyone in this miserable pocket of the earth tries to be helpful ever! We should have left you to the Nazis! (I didn’t actually say that one, but I wish I had, because English people hate that shit.)
Most of these things are said quietly, so the children do not hear. Many are not.
We get upstairs, and of course the stone aged computers cost something like two pounds a minute and we have no change. Bucket goes to get change while I contemplate going back down and pulling the woman’s eyeballs out with my bare hands. He gets back, and I get online. By online, I mean that the computer turned on. I do not mean that the internet worked at any kind of remotely reasonable speed, which cued more comments about British inefficiency (which is one of my favorite topics) and how England is like a third world country, with nasty, evil crones in charge, and why the FUCK does everything cost so much? I may have kicked things.
At this point, the children are withering before my eyes, Bucket is ready to strangle me, and we still haven’t reached the hotel we booked before our travel to see if we can switch our daylet room. We reach them after 47 phone calls (that each costs about a pound each) and yes, they can switch our reservation to today so we can rest before our flight tonight. I love the Holiday Inn. The woman tells me which bus to take, and we go back downstairs to The Bitch.
The Bitch is busy, so we have to deal with another, younger Bitch. Clearly, this one has done very well in her training, because she is as bad as the first, despite being 30 years younger. At one point, Original Bitch leans over to Bitch 2.0 and says loudly (without looking at me), They want a hotel, BUT WE AREN’T GOING TO GIVE THEM ONE. I consider leaping over the desk and kicking them each in the head, but I am too tired from the flight. Bitch 2.0 gives us our tickets and we walk to the bus.
The bus we are told to get is driven by a hideous, greasy man with long hair and the foulest, most disgusting teeth I have ever seen. He looks like the love child of Mr. Burns and a Roald Dahl villain. He immediately gets right in my face when I tell him we are going to the Holiday Inn. Which one? he keeps yelling, and I tell him the Heathrow Holiday Inn (which, by the way, is the official name of the fucking hotel). There are four Heafrow Holiday Inns! he yells back at me. I tell him the woman told me that we needed to get his bus, at which point he starts pointing his filthy, long-nailed finger in my face. At this point, I walk away. I can no longer deal with anyone at Heathrow, which is quite obviously The Worst Airport In the World, even worse than the ones we’ve been to in India and Africa. It is possible I make comments about British dental hygiene and politeness. Bucket takes over, and we get on the bus. Our hotel is the last stop, on the street I told him it would be, and is called (guess what?) THE HEATHROW HOLIDAY INN.
We walk into the hotel, and I immediately ask the beautiful desk clerk if she has our reservation. She does. I almost kiss her. She gets us our room immediately, and then looks at Peeta and asks where he’s from. Ethiopia, I tell her. She is Eritrean. She is happy we have adopted Peeta. She tells us God will bless us. I think that God has already blessed us by getting us out of that hellhole airport and into this wonderful hotel, where kind and lovely Eritreans help us without shaking fingers in our face or exposing us to their horrifying teeth and nails.
The room is clean and has two beds. We sleep from 10 to 2. We get up and watch TV and eat snacks. We reach Daisy, who tells us to come. Life is good again. We get the bus back to Heathrow, and it is driven by a clean, young man who has seen a toothbrush. We check in. We go through security. I am chosen for a random security check. A stranger puts her hands down my pants. I laugh. Heathrow is funny now. We buy the kids chips and candy and get ready for the flight. We are in seats of two, which have more leg room. Despite the leg room, I still take the opportunity to complain about the Fucking Useless Desk Women Can’t Even Put Us Together and How This Used To Be A Good Airline and If I Ever Meet Richard Branson, I Will Slap His Face. And then, we fly.
I don’t remember the flight, which means it must have been okay. Or else I blocked it. What? No! I didn’t drink so much that I blacked out. I wish! (Wait! I remember! I drugged us all! No, I am not joking.) We arrive in Jo’burg and have to go re-check our bags. We wait in an interminable line with a bazillion people until we finally reach the desk. Children are floppy at this point, and suddenly Peeta turns green and starts covering his mouth. Of course. He is going to spew. I pick him up and run through the people to the bathroom, where he pukes. Because hey! Why not? We take him and feed him some leftover candy and Coke and he perks up.
We get on the flight to Cape Town. I share a row with Peeta, Bucket with Noodle. I fall asleep for a while. Saturday at 2pm, 37 hours after we left Boston, we arrive in Cape Town and poor Daisy has been waiting for ages because the braindead whores at Heathrow gave us the wrong arrival time. Despite my guilt at making Daisy wait, I have never been so happy to arrive anywhere. It’s raining in Cape Town for the first time in months, but I don’t care.
We get back to Daisy’s and her kids have put out all kinds of snacks for us. The sun has come out, and Ed makes us tea. We sit and talk for ages while the kids run around, and then they take us to the cafe down the road for dinner. I eat a salad with green things in it and we sit outside and life is glorious.
I love South Africa already.