London Calling – Part 1 of 7

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty the ocean does not become dirty. – Mahatma Gandhi

A view of the River Thames from one of our first nights in London

The older I get the more appreciation I have for others that are able to show compassion. I believe there is still a lot of good in humanity. Despite what you might read in the newspapers or see on the television news, there are still many honorable people that are willing to help others in need. Perhaps, the best demonstration of this for me was on a recent trip that my wife Amanda and I took to England and Ireland.

Amanda and I departed for England on September 1 from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. As we got to the airport we checked in with the airline and then went straight to security. The TSA agents were polite and professional. However, getting through security at an airport has always been a particular “treat” for me. This time was no different.

I was escorted to a chair and asked to remove my belt and my shoes. Then once the security agents realized I was also wearing leg braces, I was asked to remove them as well. Next, my crutches were confiscated so they could be rubbed down and x-rayed to see if they were carrying any illegal substances. I guess my idea of becoming an international drug smuggler will never come to fruition, as my crutches are not the perfect hiding place as I once imagined.

So, there I sat with my pants half way off, no shoes, and no crutches. It really was a helpless feeling. After sitting there a while I began to wonder if they had forgotten that I was there waiting. Would I just be left there to spend the rest of my days in the airport? Fortunately, this did not happen and everything was eventually returned to me. Then the arduous task of putting everything back on began before I could leave the security checkpoint.

After passing through security we realized that our gate was at least a 10 mile walk, or so it seemed. I had already been violated by the TSA and now I was required to walk what felt like a marathon. However, the goal was worth it so I pressed on and we finally made it to our departure gate. Then, after a relatively uneventful 45 minutes we were told that it was time to board. Thankfully, since I have crutches, Amanda I were given priority boarding, which basically means only Amanda and the flight crew got to see me walk clumsily through the gauntlet of tightly packed rows of airplane seats.

Once we reached our seats, the flight attendants were very accommodating and helped us get our carry-ons in the overhead bins. This is the part of any flight that makes me a little anxious, as my crutches are usually taken away from me and stowed away in an overhead bin that is packed to the gills with baggage. What happens if I need to get up and use the bathroom during the flight? Digging through an overpacked bin to get a pair of crutches out is not an easy task. However, I figured I’d deal with it if and when the time came. Luckily, that time did not come until we touched down at Heathrow at about 11 p.m. London time.

When we disembarked there was an airport attendant waiting for me with a cart. I asked her to take me to the nearest restroom, which was just a short ride from the gate. After 8 hours I was finally able to find relief!

We then made our way to customs, which consisted of two grouchy agents asking us what we were in England for and where we’d be staying. Upon the conclusion of our brief interrogation our escort asked us where we needed to go. She then called a cab for us, which was a black Mercedes Benz. We knew that our hotel for our first night in London was just a few miles from the airport, however, our cab driver took us through an industrial area, which by night, looked like a perfect place for a murder to be committed. Where were we going and why did it seem like we were being driven to the ghetto?

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