The Chocolate Courier Trip

September, 2004

I’m in a complete panic. I’ve flown home to Los Angeles from Frankfurt on my own before. And I am, technically, a grown up. Flying to London alone, activating a few train passes, then getting myself to Hampton Court alive shouldn’t be much of an issue for me. And wouldn’t be, if I weren’t carting around about 18 tons of Sees candy (more on that later). But the very first act of my vacation, the act of glancing at my airline ticket just to confirm that I am in fact on my way to LAX on the correct date and at the correct time, incites a cold, gripping fear.

Inner monologue is going something like this: “Hmm, I think I’ll go ahead and bring a second pack of chewing gum. I wonder if I have enough book for the entire flight or if I’ll run out and have to resort to High Life magazine. I wonder if other people think of books in terms of ‘running out’. Perhaps I should work on thinking ‘finishing’ instead. Lets just glance at these airline tickets here and . . . .OH SHIT. These say Terminal B. THERE IS NO TERMINAL B! I am a seasoned traveler here! Perfectly capable of getting myself to Hampton Court Palace in one piece. I am a woman who KNOWS the names and numbers of each terminal at LAX and as such I KNOW that international flights depart from Terminal 4, otherwise known as the “Tom Bradley Terminal“. Oh, f#*k, phone ringing, that must be my ride . . . “

My poor ride. Spent most of the drive to the airport glancing at me nervously and commenting that he’d “never really seen me like this before”. The fact that I had visible wiggly stress lines coming out of my head must’ve been disconcerting. I spent most of the ride on hold with British Airways while they tried to find someone who could explain to me where exactly this mysterious “Terminal B” could be located. We circle through LAX’s upper departures ring passing terminals 1, 2 and 3 and come upon not Terminal 4 as one would expect but the recently and inexplicably renamed “Terminal B”. Immediately followed byTerminal 5.

I manage to hoist my chocolate-heavy luggage into the departures lounge and get myself into the appropriate check in line. I am in possession of all of the appropriate travel documents and ‘enough book’ to last me through a flight. Hey! That’s Ian Brown! No, really. He’s wearing sunglasses inside and has an enormous leopard print sack slung across his body. He’s smaller than you might expect, but as he walks by its almost like I can hear hippie gypsies with tambourines flitting about after him. And no, I haven’t started drinking yet, but thanks for asking.

The flight was long and boring and I refuse to discuss it.

Upon arrival I immediately purchase a bag of Walkers Sensations Sea Salt and Black Pepper Crisps. Then I mosey over to the “train pass validation booth” which I’m sure has some other, more official name. I get my passes and my parents passes validated and deposit myself into a black London cab, feeling quite smug actually at this point and enjoying my crisps immensely. I know the cabbie thinks I’m some kind of insane American under the delusion that I’m going to reside at Hampton Court Palace for the week. However,this happens every time I take a cab from Heathrow to HCP bearing tons of luggage, so I’m not exactly worried about it.

Now here’s where it gets particularly blurry. My arrival time is approximately noon. However, I’m not officially allowed to “take up residence” in our Fish Court apartment until 4. So I drop my bags with the HCP guards and venture out to Kingston to kill some time.

This is incredibly exciting for about 15 minutes. I make my way directly to the Kingston Mall Boots to prance around, spin in circles, and buy lots of face cream and lip gloss. However, the Kingston Boots, being just about the smallest Boots in existence, isn’t good for a four hour time kill. Approximately 32 pounds later, I’m on my way and pondering how exactly I’ll waste the next 3 hours and 45 minutes.

I find myself a nice WH Smith at which I purchase a current copy of NME (WOW! Only a few pounds!!! I spend 8 bucks for that rag at home!). I then do the math and realize its nearing noonish back home and I haven’t had a proper dinner yet, let alone a breakfast and lunch. I spot a Burger King and thinking back to a prior trip and an EXCELLENT BK Bean Burger, I decide this would be a good place to eat.

In retrospect, sitting down at that point might not have been the best idea I’ve ever had. The chaos and exhaustion of hours upon hours overwhelmed me the second my rear hit that orange, plastic booth. I spent at least thirty minutes staring glassy-eyed at my unopened NME while wiping mayo off of my burger with a napkin in a tic-ish, repetitive sort of way. What was that about insane Americans? I think mothers might have been pulling their small children out of my general direction, but since my eyes weren’t exactly focusing properly at that point I can’t be sure.

I somehow managed to get myself to Waitrose, procure everything on my mom’s “HCP foodstuffs” supply list and get myself back to Hampton Court at just 5 minutes til 4. I even mustered up the energy to walk across the bridge to the little corner shop next to the Prince of Wales pub for bottled water and “other beverages” that might have been a bit too heavy to carry home by myself from Kingston. And, wonder of all wonders,while sitting on the peach sofa flipping through my NME and waiting for my parents to come in from France I actually FELL ASLEEP! Alone! In a HAUNTED palace! Granted the guards were within screaming distance. And although it was pitch black outside it wasn’treally much later than 7 in the evening. But upon waking to hear my parents arrive I was “chuffed”, you could say, indeed to be alive, in one piece, in possession of all my travel documents AND some cheese and a few beers. And also in possession of 18 tons of Sees chocolate which, I suppose, was meant to be the theme of this little writing exercise. I guess I’ll have to save that story though, my mom will find some bribe to entice me to write another!