I was dreading the Heathrow experience and as justification, to my friends, of this dread I could only mention the general air of confusion and inefficiency that has been the common denominator of all my prior visits to it. Let me try to put down on paper a rough approximation of how this dread was vindicated.
To start with, the plane did not fly to what we in India call an aerobridge; instead, we halted on the tarmac, where a bus and staircase was waiting. So I walk down to the waiting bus `with a little help from my friends' and am informed that there will be a wheelchair waiting for me when I get off the bus. I suppose that was the hope. When we got there, there was no sight of a wheelchair. An Indian BA official there politely and diffidently asked me if I could please walk just a little more, which translated to about a 50m walk till we got to an elevator. That, fortunately, was almost the end of my forced exercise for the morning, because that's when we were met by the driver of a buggy with a no-nonsense Anthony-Quinn-look-alike who made no attempts to conceal his opinion of his organisation's mess-up and consequent ordeal I had been subjected to. He eventually drove the buggy into a large elevator which then took us to Level -4, meaning deep under the tarmac, and on getting out of the elevator, we must have driven what felt like about 1.5 km, then back up a similar elevator into the more peopled higher parts of the airport, where he left us at the next `pick-up point' where we spent a pleasant ten minutes or so, discussing the charms of Scotland with a lady who was from there, before another buggy came and took us to the desired gate almost an hour before boarding time.
Then I had the bright idea of trying to use the available time for my morning ablutions. The problem was that I had been deposited at a spot from which I would need to walk about 50 m. to go to a toilet and my weary limbs would have none of it. Just then, almost as if by divine providence, a BA attendant (clearly Indian by appearance and accent). When he was requested to take me, he agreed and offered to wait for me to come out. As soon as I went in, I tried, unsuccessfully due to the number of plastic things which had to be opened, to brush my teeth with the little packet they give all fliers along with the earphones at the start of the flight. At this point, I noticed that my wheelchair attendant had come in and was glaring at me. When I asked him if he would help me open that tooth-paste - which was beyond my clumsy fingers - he blew up. `I thought you wanted to use the toilet; you can brush your teeth in the plane', and thus chastised, I was taken back to the gate. As we neared the gate, we heard them giving the boarding call and my man immediately perked up with `I'll take you to the plane; you have a good flight' this translating in any language to `time for you to tip me adequately'! I got into the plane, tipped him and looked forward to returning home, to `known devils'.
I got to thanking: what would I have done if my disability was more severe so that I couldn't even get out of the chair?