What do the words ‘Courtesy bus service’ conjure up to you? I was thinking some reasonably priced option, if not actually free, something that would be (politely) waiting for me at the airport seeing as I had made the effort to let the hotel know I would be using it and when. Ah, how wrong I was. The courtesy part extends as far as the free call you get to make at the airport to the hotel to summon the bus. After that it’s 30 of your US dollars (mysteriously rising to 44 when the bus arrived), plus a forty minute wait in an area that was part building site, part parking ramp and entirely unprovided with seating. Fortunately I had obeyed Disgruntled Commuter’s first two laws of airline travel: One: always bring twice as much reading material as you think you’ll need, and Two: always travel with a suitcase you can sit on.
All this after the usual strange world of airline travel: the oh-god hundred hours start, a blissfully empty and clean tube train to Paddington, tracking down the elusive ‘Quiet coach’ on the Heathrow express, a half empty jumbo and a three hour wait in a deserted terminal (sell your airline shares if you have any …), the delights of the JFK ‘Sky train’ system (it takes a special kind of commuting genius to stuff up using a circular airport transit system, and it appears I have it) and then one of those teeny weeny little commuter flights down to North Carolina in a plane barely wider than the average American car.
Still, I have arrived safely, the bus is on expenses, and I found that one small courtesy has survived these paranoid times. The two little kids in the seats in front of me got invited up onto the flight deck to meet the captain and came back with eyes like saucers. I always remember that happening when I was a child and I thought those days were gone (and this time the plane was safely on the ground), but it seems that one small part of the old magic has not entirely vanished from the world of travel.