Step One: Pack diligently for a five day work trip to New Orleans, making sure every tiny thing I’d need is in order. And everything that could get me anally probed by the US border cops (from tweezers to sleeping pills) are left behind. Go to sleep sensibly early to prepare for a 6am rise and a 12 hour door-to-door trip.
Step Two: Wake in the middle of the night, check the time, and discover that my new phone (which is on the fritz) had magically turned itself off. Plug in old-fashioned alarm clock, think “Phew that was close.”
Step Three: Get up, leave house at 7am, hop on train from Farringdon to Gatwick, chilled, calm and very pleased with myself for being so orderly.
Step Four: JUST to be extra sure, double check flight details. SHIT. Heathrow. Not Gatwick. HEATHROW. Bugger all.
Step Five: Spend a frustrated half hour on a glacially slow Southern Rail service, and begin to understand why it is the most loathed line in England. Curse myself and curse the transport system. Sit impotently.
Step Six: Change at scenic East Croydon, head back to Victoria right into the middle of a rushhour jam. Get a taxi to Paddington. Get the Heathrow Express. Call mother in a panic on the train, who assures me that I should still be ok for time.
Step Seven: Get to the kiosk in the nick of time, only to have the self-service machine have a digital seizure because it was unable to compute that I have neither an ESTA nor a Visa, yet am not an American citizen, but am still ok to fly to the US. (This always happens – Canadians don’t need the ESTA, but the American border system frequently spazzes at the concept of Canadians travelling to the US via the EU. Bless.)
Step Eight: In a panic, grab a Virgin Airways attendant who physically brings me to the back office – behind closed doors, into the actual admin office – to sort it out on the internal computer system.
Step Nine: Am given a ticket. Because I arrived so late, there was no room left in Economy. So I was upgraded.
Step Ten: Fly to the US, veins coursing with relief, with first class treatment and champagne.
I should be an idiot and head to the wrong airport more often.