I was inspired to write about this life event by my blogosphere friend’s post ‘A matter of taste’

September 1998

Summer is over.

I spent the last four months on a new continent, visiting my dad and his new wife. I was happy to be around them and to visit my aunt and uncle at their new place. WOW! My cousin really learned English in such little time. Might be also that she’s only in third grade.

This was my first time flying. Mom packed my suitcase and sent me off into the unknown. She’s never been on a plane before either, so there was very little advice she could give me. She assured me that I would be in good hands and I was to board the plane accompanied by my aunt’s parents; first time flyers too. Let’s try everything once, right!?

The flight back was a different story. I was to fly back all alone. Nothing short of excitement and horror for a 13-year-old! I had the steps all memorized: come out of the plane in London, follow the signs for Terminal 3, go through the security checkpoint, and wait by the gate for boarding time for the next plane. Mom was to wait for me at the other end.

At the airport, dad had the brilliant idea of telling me the house phone number, just in case. He yelled out XXX-XXXX as I was walking the line to get to the security checkpoint. I nodded and smiled in acknowledgement. I walked the rest of the line repeating the number over and over.

After the security checkpoint, I forgot all about it.

I arrived in London. “Look for Terminal 3…look for terminal 3” I kept telling myself. At the end of the hallway, there it was Terminal 3 on the left, Terminal 1 on the right. A lady in uniform asked people which direction are they headed. As soon as I said “Bucharest” she pointed to the right. I thought nothing of it. “Maybe something changed and now it’s Terminal 1”.

Nothing had changed! The stupid lady heard Budapest rather than Bucharest and sent me to the wrong terminal… I know it was my fault too for not showing her the papers to where I was going and to double check her decision, but you know… first time flying alone!

Eventually, I arrived at the right Terminal, a couple of hours later, and terrified of the consequences… “the plane waits for no one” the man behind the tall desk told me. “rest assured we will put you on the next flight so you can get home safe.” I was waiting for him to say I’d have to wait only 2-3 hours…but nope. over 10 hours! What was I to do in London Airport for over 10 hours?? with only a few Canadian dollars in my pocket…

“WHAT WAS THE NUMBER DAD YELLED OUT???” I looked around for currency exchange booths and pay phones and the Info desk for someone to help me dial into Canada… No “dial out” combinations worked and I felt like I was at the end of my powers to make this better.

Then an older lady wanted to use the phone too and asked if I could help her dial the numbers. She needed to call Canada because she missed her flight and needed to let her son know… You don’t say!? Yup. She was on her way back to Bucharest too. I checked the scribbles on the paper and noticed a 416 prefix before the XXX-XXXX. I dialled it for her. The connection was successful. My turn came to use the phone and I dialled the same 416… EUREKA!

A dozen hours later, on the plane, exhausted but relieved, I was looking out the window, and tracing back my steps, trying to figure out how did it get to be so complicated…

“Would you like something to drink?” The flight attendant asked with a pleasant smile on her face. “uuummmm… what to have, what to have, what to have… I’ll have the tomato juice, please”. I copied the guy in the seat next to me so I can look cool too!


A new tradition was born: I now have a glass or two of tomato juice every time I fly and smile at the thought of the great memories of my first flight!


PS. Apparently, tomato juice tastes a gazillion times better when savoured at 30,000ft up in the air! Scientists (no, really!) have revealed that the bloody looking drink tastes better when flying. The study by German white coats revealed that out of 1,000 passengers 27% ordered tomato juice when flying (interesting to note that 23% of those who drank tomato juice said they would never have it on the ground, and tend to ‘suddenly like the taste when in a plane’). German airline Lufthansa, for example, reports their attendants each year serve passengers nearly as much tomato juice as beer. I’m sure you know Germans love their beer!

PSS. Had my dad lived in a different area, the 416 AREA CODE would have been useless… was it my luck? I sure considered it to be!

PSSS. When I arrived in Bucharest mom told me her end of the story and how she had a mild panic attack when she heard her name over the Airport PA requesting her presence at the East end Info desk. Story was: dad called a relative in Romania. The lady contacted her daughter, which coincidentally worked as a flight attendant, and she made the arrangements for my mom and step-dad to be notified of my ordeal. Back in 1998 we had no cell phones, okay!

Lesson to be learnt: do not underestimate things going wrong! Just expect them to do… and try to be proactive 🙂 And have a glass of tomato juice – you might actually really like it 😉