We’d already been sitting motionless at the departure gate at JFK for an hour when the garbled announcement from the cockpit came:
“Well, ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain. We’re going to try one more time to start the engine…”
Did he really say try to start the engine?
I was sure we weren’t going to leave, that I wasn’t going to get to London by the next morning, and that I wouldn’t make it to the Sternberg Centre there by Tuesday night to teach my class.
But the final try worked — there was also something about an oil filter or air filter being replaced; it was hard to hear exactly — and 90 minutes late we finally took off.
Combined with 20 minutes circling Heathrow, that meant that I didn’t land until almost 11:30am.
So I barely had enough time to make it to my hosts in Sreatham Hill (“Streatham” rhymes with “get’m”; the “a” and “h” are silent). Taking the underground Piccadilly line to Green Park then the Victoria line to Victoria, and finally the overground train to Streatham Hill is not quick. But at least the transportation network in London is extremely easy to navigate, and everything is well marked.
Then I reversed much of the process to get to North London, where I was scheduled to teach. We left at 5:30pm and arrived right at 7:00.
To the best of my jet-lagged recollection, the event itself was wonderful. My class was very well attended by an enthusiastic group, and we had a great discussion. I even got to catch up with some friends.
I hadn’t fully realized how big London is. Exhausted after a day that started with an airplane engine that wouldn’t start, included not enough sleep, and ended with teaching for an hour, I took a taxi back to Streatham. But even with no traffic, the ride took 45 minutes along roads that seem to meander at random.
Fortunately, I was able to relax the next day, getting ready to leave again the day after on a train journey to Amsterdam via Brussels.