Heathrow Slater QUEUE nation

Early this week I washed my AFC Wimbledon season ticket, having left it in the rear pocket of my jeans - somewhere I rarely carry anything, much less important stuff. Such a lapse is rare for me, but I'm sure it was just a one-off.

But enough with the confessions of idiocy and on with the travel show. It's Saturday April 2nd as I type this, around 1030am local time, where "local" means Dallas, Texas. I'm only bloody here on a bucket-list-tastic trip to fuckin' Wrestlemania weekend, holy shit!

Also, I'm not alone. There are 4 of us on this pilgrimage - me, Ian, Wooj, and Del. Ian was sent to the states through work so made his own way here; the trip for me started with a phone call from Del at 0830 yesterday telling me he was in a cab, en route to our flat to pick us up and take us to Heathrow.

Primed in my indie Heath Slater merch, which I hope to be the only person I see sporting all weekend, me and Wooj hop in the car and sit listening to the front seats engage in postman chat, what with Del being current and the driver being former employees of Royal Mail. I try and sneak in wrestling quotes or references any time I speak. To be the man, you gotta beat the man.

At the airport we stroll straight up to the boarding pass scanners, and all three of us are rejected. Since we're going to the states we need our passports checked manually, so off to desk B1 we go via a lass who tells me I can use fast track. Yes, I know I can, but the others can't (I don't think) and I'm not going to play the billy big bollocks. Anyway normal track security is perfectly fine, we're through in no time and I lead us straight to Wetherspoons.

I write so much and talk so much shit that I don't expect most people to remember the stupid new year resolutions I've made so let me recap: travel somewhere foreign every month, and try not to drink the same beer twice all year. Since it's April 1st I'm on track for the former, and the latter was broken in late January but I'm still going strong and so 'spoons proves a better location than any lounge because it can furnish me with a new beer, and so it does: Dark Lord. It washes down a full English well, and is followed up by a Trentsman which is less nice.

We're departing from T5C, a monorail trip away. Even I am tired of this now. Also T5C has no fucking bars, so we just sit around by the gate waiting for boarding. I reckon at least 50% of the people hanging around are people going to Wrestlemania, judging by the amount of merch on show.

Smile fellas. Into the massively bright sun behind me, that is.

Boarding is eventually announced and we join the long queue. It takes a while to get through but there we are, past the boarding pass and passport check, about to descend the escalator (there is no escalator back up) to the airbridge to the plane when I think, hang on, didn't I have two bags with me? I've got my rucksack, where's my messenger bag?

Y'know. The bag with my iPad and chargers in. The bag with the fucking tickets in. The bag with the tickets to NXT and Axxess and the Hall of Fame and Wrestlemania and Monday Night Raw.

Yes, somehow I had managed to leave said bag on the seats at the departure gate. Fucking hell! Threw my other stuff on the floor and said to a member of staff, I've left a bag on the seats! He directs me to another member of staff who takes away my passport and boarding pass and says I can go get it. The departure lounge is basically empty now, as are all the seats. Fuck. Tell me the bag hasn't been cleared up by a diligent member of securty or cleaning staff. Tell me it hasn't been taken away and exploded. Fuck. Fuck.

A couple more blocks of seats later and, phew, it's still there. No-one around. I grab it and run back to the boarding pass area. They let me through and do a cursory check of the contents of my new bag. Wooj and Del look somewhat relieved; Del found it much funnier than Wooj. I think my lapse of concentration is fucking hilarious, but only because I've managed to fix the fail. Had I lost that bag, I have no idea what would have happened. Jesus H Christ.

Aaaaanyway. Ahem. On the plane we take seats 32DEF, a middle block because this way there's 2 aisle seats and whoever's in E needn't hassle two people to get out, unlike any window seat occupant. The legroom is pretty ropey but the screen seems decent, better than other recent economy experiences. (I think "recent" here means September 2014!)

Plane; economy screen size; shitty legroom.

I plug my headphones in before we even take off and start watching The Program, a dramatisation of David Walsh's relentless pursuit of exposing Lance Armstrong for being the cheating prick he was.

Meanwhile, the boys play asteroids.

As soon as we're airborne the bloke in 30H signals across the aisle for a flight attendant to do .. something, I don't catch what. Then Pre-meal drinks come round and I get a gin and tonic. Holy shit, the tonic is Fever Tree! I'm not much of a tonic drinker - I fancy it for the hydration aspects more than flavour, and having a decent flavour certainly helps. 30H manages to have a 5 minute chat with the attendant again. He takes up a LOT of their time all flight, and I can't fathom why but it annoys me.

The first person in the cabin to violently recline their seat as far back as it will go, and then seemingly try and push it back even further, is of course 31F, the bloke directly in front of me. When food comes round the attendant asks them to straighten up a bit because it's almost impossible to put my stuff on my tray, so he does a little bit only to recline all the way once they disappear. This bloke is an arsehole and he gives me evil looks when he stands up too. Wanker.

By this time I'm one page in with writing notes with my new Uniball Gel Impact 1.0mm pen. It's lovely to write wth but just a little too thick. However I get no complaints from the three pen-less people I have to lend it to to fill out the customs declarations forms. Get your own damn pens! Ahem.

Food is chicken korma (which tastes of fuck all), a bread roll, some potato salad (which is nice), some cheese and crackers (which are like cardboard), a chocolate mousse, and another gin and tonic. I've had worse, and it fills a hole which wasn't really there.

After The Program I move onto the A Team, the recent film with Liam Neesson and stuff. It's great. Again. The bit where it throws "BA" on the screen as an anti-piracy measure occurs just as the only person on the screen is BA Baracus, which is pleasant.

I briefly wonder if my inability to explain why I do and enjoy certain things is actually a problem. Michael at work had grilled me about why I love flying so much and my answers were wholly unsatisfactory. I've also been asked why I'm doing the unique beers thing, and I really don't have an answer. Maybe I just don't care enough about 'why' to bother analysing it too much? It's just stuff I enjoy so I do it. Meh. I dunno.

After this boring bit of reflection I realise, ooh, now that it's April that means I'm flying next month to somewhere I've never been, in a cabin I've never flown in, to a place where I can get a bunch of new unique beers. Woohoo!

But that's May. Back to April. After the A-Team, the Hateful Eight. Enjoyed it, and it being almost 3 bastard hours long is a great time killer on a 10 hour flight. The staff wander around with trays of plastic cups of water and juices throughout the flight, which is nice. The film finishes and I watch the first 4 episodes of Peep Show series 9 which I somehow missed on TV, and then some surprising food arrives.

The surprise is that it's actually really bloody nice.

There's 90 minutes still left of the flight and I move on to Curb Your Enthusiasm, but then it all starts to get a bit "we're landing soon" and "give to our charity" and people queueing for toilets and stuff and, well hello 4pm local time, we're in Dallas.

It's a hell of a walk to the immigration hall where a shitload of people are in multiple queues. We join the ESTA queue for the automatic kiosks, and after, I dunno, 25 minutes or so we finally get to the machines and all 3 of us walk up to one as a group because none of us are familiar with these things. I'm the guinea pig and go first: scan the passport, have a terrible photo taken, give my fingerprints, answer the same questions on the form, get a print out and the screen says something about "this is a referral". I walk through and in front of me are a couple, the bloke is being allowed straight through but the woman being directed into a new queue up the yellow channel.

would you let this man in your country?

I am also directed up the yellow channel, but am hindered by the woman shouting back at the staff member "EXCUSE ME! EXCUSE ME! HELLO! WHERE DO I GO?" a lot. There is really no choice of where to go and it's excellently sign-posted.

I end up at the rear of another giant queue, this time to go to desks manned by people, i.e what appears to be the regular immigration desks I've used at every other US airport. Within a couple of minute an entire family queue jump around 10 people, and then schadenfreude kicks in because another staff member then directs a whole bunch of us - now after the queue jumpers - into another, shorter queue.

Short does not mean fast. I look back and can see Wooj is suffering the same as me but no sign of Del. Eventually I reach a desk and the guy asks me why I'm visiting. Wrestlemania, of course. Apparently I'm about the billionth person to say that today. He asks who I like, I say Undertaker, he says man, is that guy still wrestling? And then he talks to me about Diamond Dallas Page. I like this border patrol officer.

might as well take photos of planes while I wait

Through, I wait for Wooj. He takes another 5-10 minutes and says Del also got shunted into an even bigger queue. He takes another half hour or so, apparently the kiosk hadn't even liked his fingerprints. So now it's fucking 5.15pm but at least we've got no baggage to wait for.

Downstairs, therefore, we scoot past the carousels and ... into the next giant fucking queue. It says both EXIT and CONNECTING FLIGHTS but people ahead of us all look like they're connecting. A member of staff manages to tell us this is indeed the proper exit queue, but in a way that lessens our reassurance rather than greatens(?) it.

The queue moves really fucking slowly, again. Eventually I reach a desk and the guy asks me why I'm visiting. Wrestlemania, of course. He says me, as he lets me through, "you know it's not real, right?". I don't like this border patrol officer.

FINALLY we are through and in a cab by 1745. Almost 2 fucking hours after we touched down. What a pile of shit. Anyway, the cabbie takes ages to type the hotel address in so Del shouts LET'S BE HAVING YOU like Delia Smith in the back. We're fucked up a bit by traffic and roadworks but eventually reach the Holiday Inn Express & Suites, a hotel next to a motorway by a drive through off licence and the hotel has no bar. For fucks sake.

This is where Ian and I are staying, and indeed Ian is already in room 223 which we are sharing. I get a key from the desk and go up there, regale him at lightning speed with tales of fail and then we go back down to get Wooj and Del. Time for an Uber to their hotel.

The drive takes us through proper Deliverance-ville bits of badly paved awful Dallas until suddenly, oh hello, we're downtown and FUCK ME the Sheraton is big. This is the hotel which came as part of our Wrestlemania package, but you only get a twin room (max occupancy: 4) hence needing rooms in another hotel. I kinda regret being the gentleman I am because the Sheraton is amazing and there's a WWE merch booth in the foyer and everyone who isn't staff is a wrestling fan and fucking hell.

Check-in for them two is slightly confused by the fact it's in my name not theirs, but once that's sorted me and Ian go to the bar and wait for them. A vanilla porter is bought and is perhaps the nicest porter on earth. Wooj joins us, buys one, agrees, then Del comes down too. Another drink and then it's 8pm - with NXT starting at 9pm, maybe we should leave.

I open up Uber and before offering me a car, it offers me a $400 per person helicopter ride on Sunday. Wow.

Our driver swears blind that Wrestlemania is not at the stadium on Sunday, but a small indoor arena in downtown Dallas. He's totally fucking wrong and this makes us uneasy about his ability to get us to the convention center this evening, but he manages it and the streets are teeming with WWE fans. Obviously.

Inside the queue is ENORMOUS, but fast moving. We fail to find anywhere to buy beer, and as we take our seats at 8.40pm there's a match already in progress. The lad next to me says the show actually started at 8.30pm and this is the second one. The tickets say 9pm. This is a surprise.

Our view is fucking fantastic.

There's no point in me writing about the matches. Go watch NXT or read about them elsewhere. I'll talk a bout me though. I was so fucking tired that I actually dozed off for a few seconds here and there, in a loud crowd. I almost missed the end of Asuka vs Bayley because of that, but thankfully the crowd pops kept me in the moment.

It was a fucking great night, but I also felt a bit ... I dunno. I didn't participate as much as I did in London because a) I was tired b) I wasn't drunk enough (I really wanted more booze, but we had none at the venue!) c) I didn't care who won most of the matches! It was "just" fantastic wrestling between people where winning and losing really wasn't important.

End of the show and we all walked back to the Sheraton, which is actually a pretty easy walk. Me and Ian wanted more beer but Wooj and Del bailed out. Again with the queueing, it took us 5 minutes to be seated by which time it was only 8 minutes until the kitchen shut at midnight. But we got an order of quesadillas in, as well as some beer. Oh dear, this is 7.2%, that's kinda not what I expected or wanted.

Still fucking drank it though eh. And then the 7% IPA which came afterwards. By which time I was basically dead on my feet. I've been awake for over 24 hours here, and we're still at the Sheraton not the shitty HIX. So we left the bar and, of course, I had to go back because I'd left my coat there. Another Uber, this time surge fare to 2.6x for fucks sake. And then it's 0130 and I feel dead, so I sleep. Think I'll have a lie-in, since there's no wrestling to watch on Saturday.

Created By
Darren Foreman

Made with Adobe Slate

Make your words and images move.

Get Slate

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.