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Flew home yesterday from Heathrow to Boston -- its good to be back

By Andrew Pollack on 08/17/2006 at 10:35 AM EDT

I had a good time in London, but it's good to be home. The travel day was a bit long but better than expected. First off, I had no trouble at Heathrow. I arrived 3 hours before my flight, having stayed at the Hilton attached by a long tunnel to Terminal 4. On arrival, I was directed to a short check in line for bag drop and within 20 minutes or so was through that.

I had checked my large "Swiss Gear" computer backpack inside my luggage and borrowed a 2004 Lotusphere laptop case from Gab. It was a very tight squeeze, but my laptop did fit. I'd measured the bag with laptop in it to be sure it fit the restrictions, and had room for power supply, passport & wallet, two AAA batteries, noise cancelling headphones, two cell phones (Europe and US), and a couple of candy bars. I didn't even attempt the forbidden bottle of water.

At security -- which had almost no line -- I was "randomly" selected for a body scan using that new technology. This involved standing in a set place with footprints marked on the floor like dance instructions for three poses while some techno magic outlines my body for them on the scans. I'd heard in the US that this could be somewhat revealing in terms of general shape -- particularly for women -- but from what I could see it looked like women's scans were operated by female security agents just the way pat down searches are. I assumed my selection was due to my near perfect physique as they could use it for calibrating their machine based on my Adonis-like muscle tone, but it is also possible that I was just a creepy looking guy with a cheap laptop bag and a bulky sweatshirt. I prefer the former explanation. Even with the scan, the security check was quick and with 2 hours or more free I wandered the duty free shops and ate some breakfast.

When the flight was called, there was some delay getting on board as every passenger had to be checked again for liquids they may have purchased in Duty Free. Then, once the cabin door closed we were moved to a secure remote area of the airport while our passenger manifest was checked by the U.S. authorities. It took 20 minutes and we were off.

We arrived only 30 minutes or so late into Boston, and I had a good seat so didn't have a long wait in Immigration. Baggage was another story, however. Of the four baggage carousels in the Boston international terminal, 1 was roped off along with all the passengers from another flight. They were being brought sandwiches and drinks, and the officers there had started allow a few people at a time to charge cell phones so it looked like it would be a while. With only 75% capacity available on the baggage system which was already overtaxed by the doubling of checked baggage, it took nearly 90 minutes to get my suitcases. A 747-400 carries a lot of people, and the system was just overtaxed.

I had nothing to declare to customs, and was out to my car by around 4pm.

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