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4:11pm on Tuesday, 4th June, 2019:

Fight or Flight


I'm in Sweden at the moment for the annual Gotland Game Conference in Visby.

I'm not staying in a hotel this time, but in a university apartment. This is very convenient but I needed to check in by 16:00 because that's when the people with the keys shut up their office and went home.

My flight was scheduled to land at 15:35. The airport is close to the town, so if I arrived on time it would qork; I'd be cutting it fine, but it was definitely doable.

If I were to be late, though...

The (SAS) flight to Stockholm was due to leave Heathrow at 10:35 UK time. However, it took slightly longer to board than usual because someone on it was allergic to nuts and the ground crew had to do a deep clean to make sure there were no rogue nuts lying around that might kill this passenger.

Because the flight was 5 minutes late for taking off, it missed its slot; because this was Heathrow, it was given a replacement slot 50-minutea later (which had become 55 minutes by the time it finally took off).

The time it would take us to get to Stockholm from Heathrow was, we were assured, an hour and 55 minutes. For a flight that took off at 11:30, that would mean we'd arrive at 13:25 — except there's a time difference, so that's actually 14:25.

My flight from Stockholm to Visby was due to leave at 14:50. I was in seat 27D: it would take at least 5 minutes to get off the aircraft when we landed (in the end, it took 7) then I had to get from terminal 5 through passport control to terminal 4.

It was going to be tight.

We came in to land at Stockholm as expected at around 14:25. We did not land at 14:25, however: the pilot pulled out of the dive. The aircraft in front of us had suffered a bird strike. We circled for 15 minutes while the runway was cleared of debris.

We eventually landed at the very moment my next flight was due to take off.

I went to the SAS desk to ask them what to do. It was the wrong SAS desk. The woman didn't tell me where the right desk was: she called her supervisor. He didn't tell me, either: he called his supervisor. He also wouldn't say where the desk I should have gone to was, however he was able to tell me to run to gate 36 because the Visby flight was being held for me.

It was now 15:00.

Well, I did run. I stopped running on the escalators, because people were in the way, then I stopped a bit later because I didn't want to have a heart attack and die. I stopped further at the security desk to join the queue to have my jacket X-rayed, then stopped for longer because I triggered a random alarm and they had to pat me down.

I got through and looked for gate 36.

People at the desk were shouting at me in Swedish. I went through it faster than I've ever been through a check-in desk in my life. I was shouted at in Swedish as I ran down the mobile corridor to the plane, switching to English when they realised I was about to run under a propellor (static, but it could have hurt).

At 13:12, I was in my seat and ready to go.

My luggage, however, was not in the hold. The flight was further delayed until my luggage arrived. It took to the air at 15:28.

I have to say, the passengers were very good about this. They didn't give me any disapproving looks or anything. I expect they'd been told about the bird strike, too, so were unaware that they could have taken off earlier if I'd been able to run faster.

The flight time to Visby was meant to be 45 miinutes, but it was actually quicker than that. We landed at 16:00 — exactly the moment that the university check-in desk for my apartment closed.

This was the first time I'd had the ability to send text or email to tell anyone that I was going to be late. I could have done it from Stockholm airport if I'd had my hand luggage with me, because that's where the phone number and email address I needed was written down. Unfortunately, my hand luggage was taken off me at Heathrow for weighing too much; I was told to remove my laptop and leave the rest (which, ironically, meant my luggage no longer weighed too much).

It took a while for my bag to appear, but at least it did so. When I did make it to the university, the place where I could get my room key had long been shut.

Ah, but I had a back-up plan! I have a generic keycard that's supposed to last for two years! I could use that to gain entry to my room.

I could, yes — if it hadn't been set to last for two weeks instead of two years. It expired September 2018.

Eventually, the kindly departmentaal administrator (who was working late) used her key to let me into my room. This did, however, mean that I couldn't leave it if I wanted to get back. I'd have to go to the check-in place when it opened at 08:00 next day.

This I did, and I can now enter and leave the apartment at will.

Yesterday, however, I was trapped inside. I spent the evening playing Civilisation V on my laptop.

So, pretty much te same as any normal evening, really.

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Copyright © 2019 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).