My day began 32 hours ago, at 4am on Friday 15 May. My wife woke before her alarm, which of course meant I did too. I lay there in the dark for a while, pretending I wasn’t awake yet, trying to guess the sort of day I was about to have. Irrelevant Christian nomenclature kept interrupting my thought-train: ‘It’s Good Friday. Maybe I’m going to have a good Friday?‘ Well, I’ll let you be the judge of that.
At least we started off on the right foot: ahead of our travels, I’d booked a night at the Rydges airport hotel on Thursday, and we set off after packing (me:30 mins, wife:3 hours) arriving about four o’clock, which, OH MY GOD! happened to coincide with happy-hour at the Sports Bar! $5 alcoholic beverages! From there, we stumbled up to the restaurant where I ate something from their Twilight menu (hey! a complimentary glass of wine!) and went to bed feeling pretty damn clever.
Feeling a bit less clever, I woke the next morning about 4:30am nursing a sore head and choked down an early breakfast to be in the terminal at Kingsford Smith International airport by 6:30. We checked-in and were on our way through customs before the sun came up — with all of the documents ready and waiting the process was slick, and before you could say ‘filthy voyeur’ we’d negotiated the body-scanning gauntlet and were relaxing amidst the uncanny splendour of the duty-free shopping precinct, wondering if there anything was cheaper here than in New York. Nope, but if I have any money left on the return trip, I’m getting a couple of bottles of Jura Tastival.
For some reason, we had to wait in a boarding gate in order to wait at the boarding gate. Don’t ask me to explain this, none of it made any fuc*ing sense at the time and makes less sense now. All I can say is that America is different. America is paranoid that the security screening of other countries, even friendlies like Oz, is sub-standard. Time would prove this wrong, but I recall thinking ‘this is some fuc*ed up bureaucratic shit‘ as I clenched my teeth and restrained the urge to punch an elderly Indian woman in the face for trying to cut in ahead of me. That’s all you can do: not punch people in the face.
Easing my taut buttocks into seat 60F (yes, the dreaded middle seat) of QF11, I thought, ‘Wow, the Airbus is a spacious behemoth with plenty of leg-room, this will be a cinch” well, can i tell you, strict adherence to the Qantas video demonstrating how to avoid deep-vein thrombosis was the only thing that stopped me from going on a mid-air rampage and flushing the air-marshal out of hiding. That, and the splendid range of new-release movies available for my viewing pleasure. Even so, the last six hours of our trans-oceanic flight was a horrific grind that brought me as close to unleashing Mr Hyde as I ever want to go. But then, voila! America. Thanks Qantas.
Unfortunately, ‘America’ for most Australian travellers means the Escheresque nightmare that is LAX. I was full gf grim foreboding well before we landed, hoping the co-pilot (I mean, what else dos he do) would pop in with a useful hint or two on how to navigate the LAXian maze. All we got was a dong-dong, “Hello passengers, your co-pilot here. We’re beginning our descent into Los Angeles, local time 6:34 am, and it’s currently eleven degrees celsius. Passengers transiting to New York should collect their baggage from carousel number four then flip a coin to see whether they can negotiate security in time to catch the connecting flight. Good luck with that, and g’day.”
Except for a water bottle in my carry-on that may/may not have been a miniature biological/radiological weapon requiring close scrutiny by a dreadlocked woman of colour with a distinctly give-a-fuc* attitude, we scraped through–thanks to a combination of lucky breaks involving other persons of colour opening barriers for us at key moments to allow us to circumvent very long queues. Somehow, only one person from QF11 missed the flight, which meant the rest of us were delayed in commencing our final excruciating 4.5hour leg across mainland USA while they dug out the benighted turd’s luggage and chucked it onto the tarmac. But then the turd’s bags were out of the belly of the bird, and we were off.
JFK. Could do with a fresh coat of paint. But what did I care? I was in a yellow cab driven by a fellow from Guinea who is studying to become a police officer. He drives his cab like it was stolen, but had us in Midtown at our hotel in forty minutes. Which in NYC terms is ‘quick’ so, of course, I tipped generously and bade him study hard for his chosen career and best of luck. Then the hotel, and checking in, and the usual teething problems, a meal at some late hour that involved one of the best burgers I’ve ever tasted and one glass of wine more than my shellshocked body could cope with; then bed.
After a day that lasted almost twice as long as it should, it finally came to an end. It was only in the wee hours of Sunday 16 April 2017, so-named because it’s when your body forces you out of your slumber to empty your bladder, that I raise the blinds of our hotel room and looked out over East 41st Street and Madison, and realised something that had only been a dream for half a decade.
We are in America!