The morning is truly splendid. A cold breeze cuts through the blue Yorkshire sky as my mate and I set out for a pootle. Turned out he hadn’t been putting on a brave face about his leukaemia. The treatment is working and if you didn’t know, you wouldn't know.
We climb into his van and spend the day creeping up sheer Yorkshire hills, looking down into perfectly-formed valleys, where isolated stone farmhouses shelter behind golden-leaved trees, with only motionless sheep for company.
We find a warm and friendly pub, where we drain a pint of Tetley’s, snarf a slice of homemade steak and kidney pie and revel in our reunion.
Then I take the train to Manchester Airport and things go downhill.
My mood could not be better as I approach the Aer Lingus check-in desk. I’ve been a good boy: checked-in online, printed my boarding pass and only have my bag to drop. The lass behind the counter is engaged in conversation with her colleague at the next desk, so she waves her hand, beckoning me to come forward.
At this point I think I’ll get the usual corporate meet and greet, eye contact and a smile, all that sort of thing. Instead, she just carries on talking, putting out her hand to imply I should hand over my documents.
Being a bit of a prat, I lower my arms, stand to attention, stare at her and say:
She continues talking to her colleague.
“Hello. Human being here.”
Finally she stops talking. Handing over my passport I start over-compensating for my anger by continually saying ‘Sorry’ and ‘Thanks’ like a raving maniac, as if I had just spat in her mouth.
Shame really, because recently I’ve been raving about Aer Lingus, choosing them over Ryanair to fly from Shannon to Heathrow. That’s why I’d booked this flight, which originally was due to land at Cork at 18:15, giving me plenty of time to drive home to Galway. Other flights from Manchester to Dublin and Shannon arrived so late I’d have to stay overnight in a hotel.
So I was far from delighted a few days before I travelled, when I receive a text from Aer Lingus - and how they have my mobile number I’ve no idea - telling me that my flight was now arriving at Cork at 22:30. No explanation, no apology, but hey, sometimes you have to swallow the poop, go with the flow. It meant I’d have to book a room at an airport hotel after all, and lose most of a day’s work hammering back to Galway on Friday roads, but on the plus side, I’d have longer with my mate.
Back in the airport I’m through security and straight into WH Smiths to purchase vast amounts of chocolate for the Snapper. Up to the till, where a lass wearing a sash that reads: ‘I’m Here To Help’ is on the phone.
All around me people are struggling with the self-service video tills. We have to scan our boarding cards into the things to buy chocolate. It’s insane, made more so by the bewildering chorus of several identical female computer voices announcing “Illegal item in the bagging area! Illegal item in bagging area!”
My heat is still up after my non-encounter with the check-in person, so after failing miserably to scan my boarding card into the damn machine, I try again:
“Help please. Human over here in need of help!”
By this time Sash Lady is off the phone and helping somebody else. I turn to ask her if she could help me too, when out of her mouth comes a noise:
Little Britain’s Vicky Pollard would be proud of her spitting hiss.
After venting my spleen to a sympathetic gentleman in the Whisky shop, I feel a little more human, and venture back to the departure lounge, where the screen declares my flight had been delayed again.
Again? Yes, let’s not forget the original delay-by-text, which made my arrival over four hours later than the flight I’d booked and paid for. Finally, having seen the Dublin flight that I could have booked take off, the only passengers left in the terminal are going either to Cork or Shannon.
If only I’d booked that Shannon flight, I’d have been able to drive home tonight.
It looked too late at the time.
Hah. Yes, I know. Life’s little ironies. They are so funny. Ha. Ha.
Ah well, at least I’ve a lovely corporate hotel bed waiting for me in Cork. A big modern firm bed in a bland wonderful plastic menu hotel.
Finally arriving back at Cork around midnight, I stumble to my hotel where I am given a room in which is a glorified Z-bed. This is the bed the cousin’s kids sleep on at Christmas. I’ve stayed at this chain before, know they’re good, so what is this crappy pathetic bed with no headboard or base? Having called reception to complain, I collapse, exhausted, onto the bed, hear it groan, squeak and complain (irony grudgingly accepted), while I stay cold all night.
The next morning I go to Reception to pay for my room service breakfast, only to be told by the receptionist that she’s really sorry about the bed. My complaint had been registered and she knew that this room wasn’t the best. They had just been trying to comply with my request on the booking form. Nevertheless, she says that the hotel want to pay for my breakfast. She also wants to let me know that she is sorry that the room wasn’t well heated.
Could she please have my car park ticket, so that she can let the hotel pay for that as well?
She certainly can. Once again I’m reminded of why I love living in this country.
Irish Corporate Culture: 2 - Manchester Airport: 1