London, Here We Come!
I had been excited about this London trip. Bro-in-Law and I had planned to go to London to see our Dolphins play against our rival team. It would be history. The first division rivalry game ever played overseas. We would be a part of that. We bought our tickets through the Air Force base in England back in March when I visited my brother. Bro-in-Law has become quite the passionate Dolphins fan. I may have created a monster.
The waiting was over. The first three games had been played and the Dolphins weren't playing well (only one victory). London was going to be where we turned it around. This would be exciting! More exciting would be getting to see one of my military brothers. I hadn't seen him in a few years, but he would be there to pick us up when we got there! Bro-in-Law would get to see what that Air Force brotherhood is all about.
No trip goes perfectly. We found a STEAL of a deal on our plane tickets. The flight would be on Ryan Air. I had flown Ryan Air before. I hadn't had any issues. The annoying part of Ryan Air is the location of the airport, but that's what you get with low fare airlines. We took the bus to the airport. We got there an hour and 50 minutes before departure time. Now it was time to check in. No bags to check. Just get boarding passes. The woman at the desk said we had to check-in two hours before the flight to avoid a "late check-in fee".
- But we're here early.
- I'm sorry. You have to go to the customer service desk.
We got to the customer service desk and found out that there is "nothing he can do". We're supposed to check in two hours before. It's what low fare airlines do. I had received a text message (in Swedish) a few days prior giving me the option to check in. I disregarded it as spam. It was asking me to download a Ryan Air app. No thanks. What is the point of checking in days before a flight? What the fuck is a check in? You go to a desk when you get there and get a boarding pass.
So Ryan Air charges 475:- ($57.82) for a "late check in". I gave the guy an earful. There is no way to justify this besides saying
WE WANT TO GET SOME OF THE MONEY BACK THAT YOU SAVE ON LOW FARES
I hope the 475:- was worth it for Ryan Air to lose a customer. I will NEVER fly their airlines again. I encourage you to do the same. That's the only way they'll learn. A company should not be rewarded for nickel-and-diming their customers. Fool me once...
When the guy at the desk went through the horrible inconvenience of checking us in an hour and 45 minutes before the flight, I found out that because I have an American passport, it would be more difficult for me to check in on the return flight. I would need to get to a printer and print the proof of early check-in at some time during my trip. The rest of the travel went smoothly. We met a guy that was going to London to see his lady. They are in a long distance relationship. I hope it works out for them. He seems like a nice guy. We had beers and snacks as we looked forward to our trip. I slept through the short flight. Here we come...
It was good to see my boy. He's still a trash-talking guy like most of my old friends (and me). We swapped loving insults as we rode to the base. I was FREAKED OUT by the driving on the left side thing. Come on, England. This is just wrong. The worst part is, he has a car that he bought in the states. The steering wheel is on the left side. I sat in the front seat. Traffic was coming DIRECTLY at me! I don't think I've ever clinched my butt cheeks so many times in such a short amount of time. Left turns were the worst. You turn into the left lane and cars are coming in the right lane. I was certain that I was going to die at least seven times in this ride. I never want to try driving like that.
The hotel was nice! There was a full kitchen, washer, dryer, two bedrooms, whatever you need. I didn't know rooms like this existed on base. I guess all of my friends are getting pretty high up in rank. We got some American snacks from the lobby. A box of Pop Tarts, Nutter Butters, Chips Ahoys, two Klondike bars, an apple juice and grape soda. It cost us $6.84. Wow! That was awesome and kinda sad. Great deal, but not good for the belt line. It was fun watching Bro-in-Law demolish American snack foods. He's never been to the States, so this glimpse of junk food was great for him.
We got up early and watched some political coverage. I miss watching 24 hour news. The big story was the latest mass shooting. I won't talk about that now, but stay tuned. It was cool to hear Chris Matthews' voice again. I yelled at the television randomly and Bro-in-Law thought I was talking to him almost every time. Old habits die hard. We checked out and met with my boy. He took us to the BX (aah memories) and we showed Bro-in-Law the awesomeness that is the Base Exchange. We picked up a few items and then headed to get some food.
The restaurant was nice. It's called Nando's. It reminded me of Friday's or Chili's. Decent wings. Good sandwich. Some beer. I bought for all of us because I felt bad. My boy had been paying for everything. I did the math in my head from pounds to Swedish crowns and I immediately regretted my dumb ass decision. But whatever. We're on vacation!
My brother met us at the shopping center. Jason is here! My nephew was with him. I told him he's getting big.
- Actually I'm the same height, so you're wrong.
Yup, same old jerk of a nephew. We rode to Jason's friend's house in some part of England. I really don't remember. I had assumed we'd be in London the entire time. It turns out England is a big country. London was two hours away! I had planned on hanging out in London and trying to find an open mic to get on. I have jokes that the world needs to hear! That wouldn't be able to happen this time. What happened instead was awesome.
We met a wonderful family that opened their home to us. They arranged it so we could live on the top floor in four rooms. The guy knew Jason from their time deployed together in Djibouti. That's what I love about the military. You develop these strong bonds that can't be broken. You could see that the two guys were good friends despite only being stationed together for half a year. They would be having a barbecue. The pork provided was from the land. There were sheep and chickens in the back yard. This was some organic stuff! I went with my boy to get Madden NFL 16. There were some games to be played. Arguments to be settled.
When we returned, there were a bunch of people in the front yard. Some were locals and some were military. They were playing this awesome game called Beersbee. You combine beer, bottles, a frisbee and poles. Needless to say, it was awesome. Everyone got in on the fun until the sun went down. We all went in and watched English folk (and a Swede) eat s'mores for the first time. Of course they all liked it. Bro-in-Law was mad at me for not introducing him to these things beforehand. I guess I took the junk food for granted. The English went to watch a rugby match and we all split up for different games. The Madden players played Madden (Jason emerged champion) and the others stayed downstairs and played a board game. We played until past midnight and then went to bed. There was a game to get to in the morning.
When I came downstairs for a shower there was the wonderful aroma of bacon in the air. They were making a pancake breakfast! What kind of bed and breakfast was this? This was amazing. We ate and talked a while. I had sat and gotten to know the woman of the house the day before. She is such a nice and smart woman. She's from Alaska and I know a little something about Alaska. On this day, I got to know the man of the house. He's a great guy! We discussed some social issues and swapped thoughts and theories. Grown man bonding. I'm gonna keep in touch with this guy! We went to the base and got on the bus for the game.
Wembley is a beautiful stadium. Driving up to the place was awesome. We went through an
industrial area to get there, so it wasn't so poetic. We had good seats. You could see the field and still see the players' numbers. This would be fun. Miami gave up a home game to play in London. This would be considered a home game for us. They had Dolphins flags on every seat. The field was set up like the Dolphins field. It would be fun.
|Notice the random jerseys|
in the background
Then the game began and Miami looked uninspired yet again. We came out slow and did everything we could to get behind and have to try and claw our way back into the game. We lost. Again. The experience was fun, but the reality of the state of my favorite sports team is grim. We are not good. But we have a talented roster! Our record should be much better than it is (1-3). The owner agreed. He fired the coach after the performance of the team in London. I hope the new coach can save this season. Go Dolphins!
We got back to base and went directly to the cereal aisle of the Shoppette. Bro-in-Law needed to try Cinnamon Toast Crunch. We also picked up some Lucky Charms and Cheez-Its. We got back to our hosts and swapped military stories over bowls of unhealthy cereal. Everyone had crazy shit happen in Basic Training. Those were the best times of the trip. Connecting with other strangers and becoming friends is one of the best feelings in the world.
We printed the check-in for our return flight. It turned out to save us from missing our flight. Jason took one wrong turn and there was no exit on the highway for 9 miles. WHY? Bro-in-Law and I ran full speed through the airport after scanning that printout and skipping a service desk. We got to the plane as it was being boarded. We sat down out of breath and sweaty as we prepared to come back to Sweden. England was nice. I can't wait to host my new friends in Sweden. Until next time...