Ah the London Eye – possibly the only tourist attraction in London that Londoners will voluntarily go on, partly because it is big game of ‘you can see my house from here’ but also because it is, in the end, quite cool.
Not so cool that they haven’t tried their best to ruin the experience, of course. And they’ve done it in the time honoured fashion of trying to make it more like a flight. They can’t strap us in to uncomfortable thrombosis-inducing seats, and even they haven’t thought to install little screens in the capsule yet (surely only a matter of time) but they have managed to introduce the essential element of all airport-related nastiness the endless queue and its close cousin the arbitrarily early arrival time.
I booked our ‘flights’ – yes, they really call it that – for 5:30 so we could watch the sun setting over London. The non-refundable, non-rearrangeable tickets were to be picked up at five and I arrived a few minutes before that in a sweat of anxiety because the rest of my party were caught up in traffic and were last heard of on the mobile announcing they had just turned onto Oxford Street and did I know the way to Waterloo? So I checked at the information desk – would it be okay if they were a little late? What should I do? The answer – just relax, the tickets were valid until eight.
Obviously I was relieved, but also a little annoyed. Nowhere on the site where I booked had I seen any indication that we could show up to three hours after the stated time. All that wasted fretting and contingency planning and anxious pacing up and down just wasted. Just like all those two or three hours early we ‘have’ to turn up at the airport to catch our flights (the latest time is actually forty minutes before – but that’s only if you read the really fine print). They don’t want to wait for us, so they make us wait for them. And of course the five thirty time was the time to start queuing, not the time to ‘fly’.
Ah well, we made it in the end. The sun had just set as we started to rise over London in the velvety dusk. London was lit up and the traffic and trains were reduced to so many sparkling points of light. Not a sight for any self-respecting Disgruntled Commuter to confess to seeing. Normal service resumes on Monday.