Flying solo, in a commercial airplane of course, means one thing to me: handling a single point of failure. Flying solo on a transatlantic red-eye from NY to Edinburgh via a 6 hour layover in Heathrow means that single point of failure is also supposed to be reasonably functional while operating at her lowest frequency. Tired, strung out on sleep aids, carrying everything I own of current use and value in 3 extremely heavy bags, and on my own with nobody to check behind me for droppings, I find myself again, beautifully aligned for disaster. However, through no fault of my own, I managed to arrive with everything I left with (Except for a bit of dignity, but that grows back in time.) No one is more surprised than I.
An ex of mine claimed there was a whole community of people who live on the things that I leave behind. They are The Gleaners. They live well, but never better than when I tour alone. "Where's my Leatherman? I could have sworn I just saw it. How can I tour without a Leatherman?" You're welcome, Gleaners. How many of those things do you have now? My dear husband offered me his fancy multi-tool as I left, and I took it, knowing, if I don't have him, I need his tool.
Upon arrival in London, I gathered my things from my economy nest and did a bleary-eyed, fuzzy-mouthed, dummy check. As I disembarked the plane I saw the nice attendant who lent me a pen earlier and remembered the customs form still in the seat pocket! Going back for the form, I also uncovered my headphones under a blanket, outsmarting my lesser self. Get back, Gleaners. I remember faces better than things, so it helps to make friends that serve as reminders. You're not really alone if everybody you meet is on your team.
Heathrow Airport is a sprawling land with several climate zones. Wear layers and comfortable shoes. I'm impressed with ladies who wear heels on a plane, but I've never been one of them. Alternately, I don't abide by adults wearing pajamas to the airport. I can't stand the infantilization of grown women. Because while I say "adults," I've never seen a grown man do this. There are lots of comfortable clothing options that do not include flannel drawstring trousers with print on the rear.
After 4km walking through hot tunnels, fully laden, I am at the correct terminal for my connecting flight (one elevator trip was repeated 3 times in a row, surreally.) Security Lady asks, predictably, for laptops and tablets to be removed for screening. Thank you, Security Lady, for being my 3rd dummy check, which finally reveals what a dummy I've been. The iPad mini, oh latest love of my life, does not appear in my Bermuda Triangle of a bag. Apparently, I've left it on the plane. Is there any way to communicate with the Delta gate in the other terminal? No, there is no Delta at this terminal and therefore, they could not be rung. Since when can you only phone people who work at the same company? After 4 more km of walking against moving sidewalks and an hour-long wait, the iPad mini appears before me. Exhausted and relieved, I almost cry, I do not. I give the kid a tip. Good thing I did.
"Did you leave anything else?" he asked, happy with the tip.
"I don't know, did I? Honestly, I barely know my own name right now."
"Did you leave this?" Bringing out my iPhone 5.
Gleaners 1, Amy G 3. Thanks, Michael (I got his name, for my first born.) Considering my record, I really shouldn't have nice things. But considering my record, I won't have them for long anyway. It's a sort of carpe diem I enjoy while these beautiful objects are still in my employ. I head back to the other terminal with happy in my lesbian loafters, with even heavier bags and a much lighter step for the hour I had been able to sit still and the hour I still had to sleep once all this palaver was complete. As I go through security again they pull me aside to inspect my bag.
"Do you have anything sharp in here?" No, I do not. I put the surrogate husband, multi-tool in a checked bag. There's fun to be had whenever they open my carry-on to find my paraphernalia: Swarowski'd rollerskates, a yoga mat, and a wireless microphone transmitter stuffed inside a fluffy chicken head. He swabbed all these silly things with sufficiently stiff upper lip and then found my Leatherman tucked neatly underneath it all. I knew I'd seen it somewhere! I'm not crazy, I just have a lazy eye, or two. Many thanks to the powers that be that they did not find it at JFK (after all the health-risking-high-level-radiation scans, it does seem odd they did not. By the way, I opt out of the new x-ray machine. Any excuse for a full pat down works for me.) At Heathrow they have a system to post forbidden items to your address. Scorecard lights up, Gleaners: 0 Amy G: 4! Note to self: 6 hours of layover at Heathrow should be a minimum for me, considering all these red-eyed delights.
All the bags appeared in Edinburgh, which is rare going through Heathrow. In some cases, it's even preferable to have the bags come late, so they are delivered to your door instead of doing the "I-have-more-bags-than-arms-Shuffle." However, I was happy to be reunited with all my effects, and managed to take the airport bus with them all, to the station near my new digs. For the 2 blocks I needed to travel after that, I employed a taxi. Yes, it's extravagant for a crowd-funded self-production like mine, but if you'd seen me wrestle the 3 heavy bags, clanking with metal set-pieces and precious microphones over the cobblestoned pavement, for the short 25 meters from the bus stop to the taxi stand, you'd have slipped a wooden spoon in my mouth and called me a cab.
I made it up the 3 flights of stairs to my flat for the month thanks to my very friendly hosts. But unpacking proved difficult since the TSA agent who inspected my bag locked it. Neither the factory setting nor the code that I'd set worked to open it. One search online revealed this exact design flaw in my model of suitcase. I busted it open with my surrogate husband multi-tool, and proceeded to move in. I felt like one of the Gleaners, myself; breaking into what I'd kindly left behind.
I went on instinct and budget in booking this apartment for the festival, so I couldn't have been happier to find such a comfortable and lovely flat, peopled with fine folks, waiting at the end of my journey. My hosts sat down with me, gave me the lay of the land in fine Scottish brogue and fed me pizza and tea till my feet touched the ground. I feared I would not want to live with strangers, but the fear, like most, was baseless. Sometimes it's not only cheaper, but also preferable, to be not so very alone.
(Correction: 3 days later, I realized I left my ukulele on the airport transfer bus in Edinburgh. Very irritated, and not surprised, I made at least 3 new friends organizing a new one from a local shop. Nothing is ever so valuable or terrible as it seems.)