Date: 28 May 2018
Location: Gratefully squished into my TAPAir seat on the flight from Lisbon to London Heathrow.
My flight home is delayed. Read that was a groan and a very long ‘ayyyyy’ in ‘delayed’ and my feelings about this come across more effectively.
I soothe my anxiety and quiet my annoyance with cava and jamon in the ANA airport lounge. (My Plantinum Amex was a huge indulgence this year but the lounge access it affords has earned its keep. I don’t think I can ever give it up!) I reflect on a lovely, sunny three days in Portugal.
The 3.30 flight is delayed until 4.30, then 5.50, then 6.30, then 6.50. Not gate shows until almost 6pm. I slowly pull my very sleepy self from my lounge sleep pod and wander down.
What I hadn’t realised was that there was passport control to follow. Which would have been fine had the gate for the flight to Toronto not also just been announced. Three hundred people had flocked to the line ahead of me, another two hundred soon followed.
Fine. It was 6. My 3.30 flight had been delayed to 6.50 after all and I was all checked in and security screened so all I needed to do was get my passport stamped and walk onto the plane. Easy breezy.
Which would have been fine, had they not just had one immigration officer for non-EU passports. At first this was just funny to start with. So European! However, it became clear just how seriously the one officer took his duties. After ten minutes we hadn’t really moved. The Canadians around me began to grumble. “We’re going to miss our flight.” “Well, at least we’re all in the same boat.” “You on the Toronto flight too?” one burly Canadian asks me. “No, London.” “Yeah, you seemed more relaxed than the rest of us! What time is your flight?” “6.50. You?” “Ummm 7.30. Darlin’, you should hustle!”
He’s right, I realise with a shock. Somehow the time has crept up to 6.30 and I’ve barely inched forward.
My brain screams every swear word I know.
I wave to get the sole attendant’s attention.
He reluctantly wanders over.
“Hi. I’m on the delayed flight to London which leaves in 20 minutes. Am I going to make it?” I gesture at the long line of disgruntled Canadians before me.
He shrugs with Portguese insouciance.
“Hard to say.”
“Ok. Look, can I —“ I gesture forward again. “Skip ahead?”
“Sure,” he agrees with a lazy smile I don’t trust. “If everyone is ok with it.”
“Yes.” He smirjs now. “You must ask everyone.”
“Are you—?” But yes, I can see that he’s for real.
Well here goes. I take a deep breath, hitch my hand bag up my shoulder and tap the shoulder of the Canadian in front of me.
“Hi, my name is Alex. My flight leaves in 20 minutes. Would it be ok if I went in front of you? God, thank you so much.”
“Hi, I’m so sorry to ask but my flight to London leaves in 20. Might I go in front you? Thank you!”
“Hi, I’m really sorry to ask but is there any chance…”
And so on. I’m met with sympathetic looks, annoyed looked, bemused looks, but all wave me forward except one guy. He looks at me, startled.
“I’m on that flight ok!”
“Well… “ I say impatiently, “want to come with me?”
“I had better!”
Together we move down the line.
“Hi, we’re on the flight to London in 20 minutes, could we go ahead?”
“Hi, we’re so sorry to interrupt but could we go ahead?”
“Hi, you might have heard a moment ago? Our flight leaves in just 20 minutes, could we go in front of you?”
At least one hundred requests later we’re at the front and my new British friend turns to me with a grin. He’s staggeringly handsome, I realise for the first time.
“Thank you. I never would have done that!”
“Too British,” I say, dismissively. His handsomeness is wasted on me. I am hot, sweaty and very annoyed and have no time for British wet-blanket pathetics. I step forward to finally get my passport stamped and then dash to the gate and make my flight with minutes to spare.
This was a truly humbling experience. Take me home.
And, finally, Lisbon tips!
For a drink with the trendy locals in a bar that looks and feels like a Melbourne e house party and where you can get a gin and a beer (nickname: ‘a Lisbon’) for about €5, go to ZDB after 10pm and club all the way up through the cultural society to the roof.
Apparently Cervejaria Amigo António (R. de São João da Praça 76) is a lovely ‘mom and pop’ local place — though it was closed when we went.
The Mill is an Aussie / Portguese breakfast spot. They have vegemite and flat whites.
And Mantegaria makes the best pastel de nata outside of their native Belem.