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a blog by Chris Barrow

Not so speedy boarding

I arrived at Terminal 1, Manchester International Airport (MIA) on Tuesday lunchtime for my Easyjet flight to Northern Ireland.

Whenever I'm departing from MIA, I always book Fasttrack, to avoid the queues at security.

Between us, Phillippa and I had simply overlooked the need to specify Speedy Boarding with the airline and so, to my dismay, I was obliged to join an enormous queue of holidaymakers.

It appeared that I was the only person in hundreds who wasn't in sunshine clothes and escorting old and young relatives and the paraphernalia of vacations.

Slowly, we made our way up and down the lanes created by the MIA staff and it took around 45 minutes to get my tags and take my bags to the check in desk.

The bag containing this week's workbooks was a soft case (so that I can put it inside the hard case with wheels for Friday's return) - and my friendly check in chappie explained that I would have to take the soft case to be scanned at the soft case scanning place - ugh.

That done, with a sigh of relief I entered the shorter queue to security and emptied my valuables, odds and ends, digital equipment and rucksack into three trays. I always make a point of emptying my bag of leads, connectors and plugs as that has previously freaked out the x-ray machine.

I wander through the body x-ray (I'm always disappointed that my metal collarbone doesn't set the system alarm off) and then another heart sink moment as my tray full of leads, plugs and connectors slides sideways into the further inspection queue.

Another 20 minutes before the handler tells me that there is nothing wrong - my tray has been randomly chosen to be x-rayed twice "mate".

All told, about and hour and 15 minutes to get to Pret a Manger just in time to shove a baguette down my neck before take off.

Why am I telling you all this?

Three lessons:

  1. I wrote about "context" a few days ago. As I scurried through Duty Free to Pret, bemoaning the fact that my check in had taken so long, I noticed a happy smiling face beaming at me, belonging to a young lad (late teens?) who was clearly going on holiday, dressed in his tracksuit, in a wheelchair which, very clearly, was his permanent abode. It really did stop me in my own tracks to have a word with myself about the inconvenience I had just suffered;

  2. During last night's Study Club meeting in Northern Ireland, it suddenly dawned on me that membership of a private dental practice (and perhaps even membership of a dental plan?) could be likened to "Speedy Boarding" - a little bit more expensive, but worth it if you want to jump the queue.

  3. At least I did catch my flight - in NHS dentistry, 90% of the time they have cancelled the flight before you get to the airport. That happened to us back in July when our 06:30 Friday morning flight to Kefalonia was cancelled at 03:45, with no alternative on offer. Annie and I are lucky enough that we were able to rebook within 90 minutes, travelling to London that afternoon to stay at the Sofitel in Terminal 5 and fly British Airways the next morning. We paid a little extra to avoid the 48-hour potential delay back in Manchester.

I bemoan the fact that air travel becomes less glamorous (in fact zero glam) over time.

Perhaps we can explain to patients that our Government have made NHS dentistry the same - the equivalent of a low-cost airline that has inadequate funding and record cancellations.

In the meantime, count your blessings for what you have and remind yourself that all that work you have to do, that irritating team member/clinician/patient, that bit of kit that isn't quite working, that traffic jam, that pile of paperwork/ironing, that Imposter Syndrome - it would all seem very minor to a teenager living in a wheelchair.

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