June 27, 2022
I just returned from a long overdue vacation to Scotland, where Lisa and I were joined by our son, his fiancé, and her family for a hike along the West Highland Way. We covered about 75 miles over seven days. The scenery was spectacular, the weather was a combination of glorious and miserable, the experience was both wonderful and physically exhausting, and… I will never do it again!
It was good to disconnect and enjoy the simplicity of a good walk and good Scottish fare with some well-earned Scotch and pints of beer in the evening to refresh our weary feet. Along the way, we encountered some unintended consequences of the pandemic.
The UK shrugged off any remaining restrictions some time ago, and initially, things seemed to be running reasonably well, but slowly, cracks appeared. Several hotels were closed for lunch as they could not hire enough staff to serve the guests. Buses were running on a reduced schedule for similar reasons. Then, a national train strike was called at the end of our trip, and we had to scramble to get on a bus to make it back to Glasgow for our flights home. The strike prompted a sense of nostalgia that took me back to the many strikes in the UK during the 1970s. My nostalgia heightened when confronted with inflated prices because the 1970s was also an era of high inflation. By 1980 the British inflation rate had reached 14%, so we still have a way to go by comparison.
The strangest experience of all was on the British Airways flight back to Atlanta via London. Our departure from Heathrow was set for 4:00 pm. Our plane left the gate promptly, but after a short taxi, we were told we had to return to the gate for the mechanics to check a faulty brake failure light. After a three-hour delay, we left London Heathrow at 7 pm. The delay meant our arrival time was pushed back to 11 pm. Once over the Atlantic, the captain announced that he had some unfortunate news. We were being diverted to Washington DC for the night because the Customs and Border Patrol team at Atlanta airport had gone home! What? Atlanta Airport, the busiest airport in the world, was unable to clear our flight? As a result, British Airways had the pleasure of putting up some 200 or more passengers in hotels for the night, canceling the return flight to the UK, and ultimately flying the plane back to London empty after we were delivered to Atlanta the next day. I have no idea what the three-hour delay cost, but I am sure some Customs and Border Patrol employees would have been delighted to show up for a few extra hours to earn a fraction of that cost.
Even excluding the war in Ukraine and the shutdown in China, we are dealing with a lot of hidden problems in the global economy, and they are not going to be resolved as quickly as many might wish!