A taste of an epic

It took 38 hours, door to door, Castle Street to South Street.  The hitches were mild, and failed to be anxiety provoking largely because we were too tired to be provoked by anything short of diaspora. Our train to London had, we were told, over 900 reservations (that is, people with guaranteed seats) and there seemed to be about half that many walk-ons as well–who stood from Edinburgh at least to Peterborough.  It being the time of year–the “festive season” as it is called in Scotland–most had suitcases that weighed between 30 and 50% of their own bodyweights.

Fred, who walked us to Waverly Station, felt duly smug about the crowd, which truly threatened to overflow the extremely narrow Platform 19. “I am so glad to not be on this train!” he announced for all in the vicinity to hear. Meanwhile, a woman about his age was texting madly next to us. Without breaking stride, she asked me: “How do you spell ‘epic’?”  The reference librarian in me wanted to confirm that she meant what I have written and now epoch, but I had the good sense to know that such a question would throw us all into a turmoil where we did not need to go.

Because it was Britain, the stellar crowd on board the train–which made clambering to the toilet a bit like climbing Everest–did not cut us off from a constant supply of sandwiches and crisps.  One had to fight one’s way to the cafe shop because trolley service was understandably suspended, but at each stop, a new supply of comestibles was brought on board.

We were tucked into bloomsbury Square before 7 which is to say a mere three hours after dark.  We lasted long enough to go out again to our favorite Greek restaurant, on Coptic Street, but then returned to our cubby hole of a room to pass out for half a dozen hours.

Bob decided we needed to be at Heathrow by 8 and so made sure we were there by 7:30 (no one in my family is capable of accepting anything later than half an hour before the due time as adequately on time).  We sailed through baggage and then took on security, expecting that bob’s titanium knees would take longer than I would.  Oh how wrong.  he whizzed through while I got stopped by a loud buzzer announcing to the assembled multitudes–and multitudes they were of course–that my bag held some highly suspicious item.  What it was I couldn’t figure but having once–just pre-9/11–been discovered to be carrying a very ancient Swiss Army knife that had worked its way into the lining of my bag years earlier and had long been forgotten, I was game to find out.  The security agent was cheerful and the bag gave up a rather amazing number of forgotten items, including no fewer than three library conference badges, before yielding a bottle of water that I had put there during the flight to London.  How stupid is that?  

The punishment for such an infraction is that one must stand there and drink the stuff, so as to prove its lack of lethal properties, but the security person remained cheerful and continued to unpack as I drank.  She found my Flip camera.  She fell in love with my Flip camera.  She thanked me for getting us in the situation where she could discover the existence of Flip cameras.  I felt like we were in a Flip camera ad.

The plane to Halifax was huge and completely full.  And when we got to halifax, only two customs agents were on duty, processing 300 of us with as much deliberate speed as care allows.  We had, needless to say, lots of time to stand in line.  And our linemates were worth the time:  there were Thomson and Thompson, adult boy twins whose hair, clothing and posture conspired to make them look as though they were standing in a stiff wind.  They were truly caricatures, thin guys in tight blue trench coats and pointy black shoes, an Eiffel Tower pin stuck on the lapel of one so you could tell that you weren’t really seeing double.  And Dean‘s double was back. He’d been on the flight out with us two weeks ago and, no, it wasn’t a mistake, this kid looks exactly like Fred’s best friend from kindergarten.  I called Dean’s mother on the spot and we had a good talk about it.  What else is there to do in a line that you know is yours until you get through it?

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