Dream of Being a Jet-Setter Is Bumped by Reality

Vacation Memories: This is one of a continuing series on Memorable Vacations that appears from time to time in the Travel section.

July 28, 1985|SUE MARTIN | Martin is a Times editorial employee.

I tried, I really did.

I almost joined the Learjet-set class. It was a four-star effort, and I nearly made it.

I was going to fly back to New York from London, where I was vacationing, to be at the opening-night gala for a photo exhibit sponsored by American Ballet Theatre. Some of my photos were in it. My first New York show. And as a topper, Baryshnikov was going to be there.

What made this so tres jet-setty, was that I was going to turn around and fly back to London the next day, as I had two weeks of vacation left, and I wanted to spend them in London. I hadn't been able to change my vacation dates, so it was the only way I could do both. The whole idea stretched my budget a bit, but I figured, hey, when was the next time this set of circumstances was going to roll around?

More importantly, how could I resist?

But, as I said, I almost got there. Here's the tale:

I was told by several friends that it would be cheap to fly from London to New York on Peoplexpress or Virgin Atlantic. At the most it would cost me roughly $300 round-trip. So I'd give up shopping at Harrods one day. No problem.

I arrived in London from Frankfurt on Oct. 1 after driving around on the Continent for two weeks. The next morning at 5:15, I straggled out of my charming bed-and-breakfast inn in Bloomsbury, and got into a cab which took me to Victoria Station for the Gatwick express. I hadn't realized when I got to Heathrow the day before that the charters worked out of Gatwick. Ergo the early hour, as Peoplexpress' stand-by tickets went on sale at 6:30 a.m. (on my vacation!) for the 10:15 a.m. flight to Newark, N. J. (I attempted to get hold of Virgin Atlantic the night before, but got no reply.) I arrived in plenty of time at Gatwick to watch a storm wash down the windows while I had breakfast.

Around 9:15 a.m.--lo and behold--my name was called! Ah, my ticket to jet-setdom! I went down to the Peoplexpress check-in counter and blithely told them I had no luggage except the two small carry-ons with me. "Just to stay the night you understand," I smiled haughtily.

So, I thought to myself: "This is a snap! How bizarre and fun! I'm on my way to New York! I wonder what's at the Guggenheim?"

The plane was way out in one of the satellite terminals that is serviced by an automatic monorail. By then, it had stopped raining.

I boarded the plane and was impressed with the nice, new interior and the friendly crew. I, in my ignorance, had assumed we'd be flying something small, like a 727. Nope, it was a nice, wide 747. This, I thought, was going to be a piece of cake!

Well, flight time came and went and the friendly captain came on and said they were having trouble with a gauge and they would have to replace it. An important one that the plane couldn't do without. OK, so we sat a little longer. The flight attendants talked about the upcoming Hitchcock film to be shown, "Rear Window." Everyone took it all in stride.

After an hour and a half, the pilot announced that the part was proving hard to find and we'd have to disembark. Hmm, this was beginning not to sound too good, but we went along with it. The airline gave us vouchers for lunch and said they'd make an announcement after 1 p.m. Well, this still would have given me plenty of time to get to Manhattan and change for the show which started at 6 p.m. New York time.

I got off, lugging the bottle of liqueur I'd bought for the people who were going to let me use their couch for the night, feeling, well, a little perturbed.

I sat in the departure lounge staring out at the now quite sunny day. I had lost my appetite for lunch, though.

Further Delays

Ah well. SIGH . I think it was then I suspected the whole thing was not to be. And I was right.

The Peoplexpress person announced that the flight had been delayed until 7 p.m. because the part proved to be unattainable and, I suspected, one had to be sent from the States. (I also suspected, in my heart of hearts, because Peoplexpress is the new kid on the tarmac, that management was a little tightfisted.)

So, I gathered my pitiful collection of little bags and slogged back through customs with a cheerful redhead from Airport Control and sold back my duty-free booze.

Now, I did try!

By then, there weren't any other flights which weren't booked solid with long waiting lists that would get me to New York in time. Other flights, later in the evening, would have put me in downtown Manhattan too late to see the exhibit and probably too late for the dessert at the tres chi-chi dinner that was to follow.

So, there it was.

There went my dream of breezing in: "Hi kids! Just in from London! Misha, darling , how are you?" Hobnobbing with the dancers and the New York patrons of the arts. I could have been in one of those snazzy cool photos in WWD! Or a snide aside in Liz Smith's column!

Instead I had to climb down off my high horse and take the train back to London. In a fit of pique I went and saw Galina Panova in "On Your Toes."

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