So, I step off the plane, go up through the tunnel and out into the airport. I head to the right as that's the way most people seem to be going, and come to the departure boards. I finally find my flight (everything's in perfect alphabetical order until you come to London Heathrow, which was just stuck in there randomly) and it says my flight is cancelled.
There's a lump in my throat, and everything seems swimmy for a second. I look again, convinced I've got it wrong, but it still says cancelled. The tears are building in my eyes now and I look around blindly for someone to help me. I spot an information desk and head over, but realise it's manned by a volunteer, who seems to know as much as I do. We walk back over the the screens, and he agrees with me that yes, it would appear your flight is cancelled. He suggests I go and find some American Airlines people, and then turns to help someone else.
I walk over to a desk nearby, and two women try to tell me that they are flight-attendants and can't help me, but then they see my face and ask me what's wrong. I hand over my boarding pass to them and try to explain while also trying to stop the tears from flowing. One of them helpfully says 'I didn't know we flew to Heathrow from here, I know we go to Gatwick', although frightening, her words are also comforting. I think, maybe they can send me there instead, I know that's London, so there must be a way for me to get home. Perhaps I'm not stranded in a foreign city after all.
The flight-attendants look on their computer and see that my flight was meant to be going to Chicago, and then on to Heathrow, but that due to bad weather in Chicago, nothing is going that way. They tell me that there is a flight leaving at 5pm (it's now around 11am), but that I will need to go to speak to a ticketing person. They suggest I head to terminal D which is where most international flights leave from, so I go up the stairs and head from the tramway.
I'm still trying to to cry, but I'm sure that by now my face is blotchy and my eyes bright red. I stand in a corner and try to hide. When we arrive at terminal D I get off and head down the stairs. As I walk in to the terminal I spot a man and woman standing at a desk idly chatting and go to speak to them. I blurt out my story, and it is only once I'm finished that I realise it's not an American Airlines desk. Luckily they were friendly when they told me they couldn't help, but it still made me start to cry again. I spotted the toilets and went in there to calm myself down andto splash my face with water. I thought for a moment that it had helped, but then when I put my glasses on I realised I still looked a state!
I asked a security man how to get to the AA ticket desks and he directed me out of the secure area to the check-in desks. I finally found the AA desks and got in the queue. I chatted to the couple behind me a little, and they were very supportive and understanding, and helped to make me smile a little. As I stood in line I was saying to myself 'please can I get the lady, and not the grumpy looking man!' I got to the front of the queue, and somehow the person the man was helping was more complicated that expected and I got to talk to the woman.
I told her about my plane being cancelled, and that I would be willing to go to Gatwick instead of Heathrow if they could get me on a flight there instead. She was wonderfully friendly, and although I did cry a bit more, she was able to make me laugh and smile too, and most importantly book me on to the 5 pm flight. She also took note of my baggage and was meant to be getting it put on my flight too. Finally, she let me ring home to tell them I would be arriving at Gatwick at 7.55am rather than Heathrow at 6.50am! (And it was early enough that my Mum was still at home and hadn't left to go to church small group).
With my new boarding pass in hand I headed for the phone to tell blest about my change in plans.