Monday, 3 May 2010

TEARS FELL LIKE RAIN

To the airport and after no sleep since before the show a parting of the ways.
We had been dreading this moment for months. So the Dark Lady and I clung to each other for as long as we could before I had to go.
The plans for the trip had been laid before we met. It was too late to turn back now.
On the plus side she is joining me in Orlando in three weeks. It is going to be a long wait and an even longer journey.
Interesting to see how the immigration/emigration and customs have altered since the last trip.
Didn’t go last year as it was too expensive and so I needed to save up.
This time I was allowed to keep my sandals on but had to take my belt off as I passed through the various scanners.
The long haul worry for a miserable git like me is the fellow travellers. The acme of hell on wheels would be a spectacularly overweight woman (other genders are available) with a teething baby.
On this occasion as I sat down and surveyed my fellow passengers; I think I was going to be lucky.

A Danish couple sat with me on my row of three seats. I occupied the aisle position which is ideal for leg stretching and loo visits on a nine hour flight as this one was going to be. Or as the Captain told us, “9 hours 4 minutes”.
I had an acre of in-flight entertainment thanks to the little screen set in the back of the seat in front. I find it easier to watch than to read on flights for some reason. Plus as I was tired I could always doze. This was going to be a breeze
Things were destined to take a turn for the worse…..
The Danish couple consisted of a large but not judderingly massive woman and a small and seemingly timid man, who was exhibiting signs of OCD. He was a “cleaner”; he wiped the window. Then the LCD screen. Then the table. And then started again.
The in-flight entertainment was not functioning as it should. This meant vast swathes of its content were unavailable and the bits that were kept looping.
Admittedly attempting to see 3D “masterpiece” Avatar on a 9 by 4 inch screen was going to be a bit of a stretch. All I could access seemed to be a couple of episodes of Nurse Jackie and a documentary on Charles Lindbergh.
Still this was do-able.

I hadn’t counted on “well travelled woman” in the row in front.
You may have encountered this species on your travels. Fifty something, gym hardened body but with a face destroyed by too much sun.
1) They have been everywhere
2) They have been everywhere you are going and can tell you how awful it is now that is has been ruined by tourists. In other words you.
3) They discovered the bits you are thinking of going to in the future and know just the right place and the right restaurants to go to. Although you will have to hurry as it is fast being destroyed by over commercialisation. You.
4) They have special “kit” that they travel with that you don’t that sets them apart from the common herd…..you!
We took off and I selected a TV channel then went off to sleep.
As I drifted in and out of consciousness it appeared to go like this:

“When I was in Mexico…..”
“Charles Lindbergh was born on a farm in 1902”
“Squeak squeak rub shine clean”
“Of course it has all been spoiled since I first went”
“His father was a lawyer and a politician”
“wipe rub wipetty wipe shine clean”
“I always take my own coffee even when in Brazil”
“The Spirit of St Louis was constructed in record time…”

I cannot claim to be the poster boy for perfect travelling companion.
I suspect that the Great Dane who spent much of the journey doing Soduko which I think is Sudoku in Danish as well probably remarked to her furiously polishing husband;
“The man next to me keeps snorting and he is beginning to drool”
Nine hours later we were in Vancouver. All I had to do was to go through the conveniently sited US Immigration and er Sam’s yer Uncle.
It wasn’t quite that simple……


No need to collect my bag as it had been cleared through to Seattle.
Followed the signs for US immigration and ended up all alone in an area known only to the Canadians as “Moose Creek”, I think it was called. I was required to fill in another form by the man in the booth. Followed more signs and found myself back in the main body of the airport.
No flights to Seattle indicated. I asked and was told I was in the wrong place I had to go back the way I had come. Flapping along with my computer and I was stopped by a large man with a spectacular handlebar moustache. “This looks like a story” he said. His name was Pieter
For some reason I had taken a wrong turn and left the airside and entered Canada. We had to retrieve the form from the guy in Moose creek and pretend it had never happened.
Then it was into US immigration which has been the bane of the last two American Adventures. First year it took and hour to exit LA airport. The second year two hours.
They let me keep my belt on but my sandals had to come off.
“How long you here for?” said the unsmiling man at the desk.
“Month”
“WHY?” He barked.
“Holiday”
“ALONE?”
“I am meeting my girlfriend in Orlando in three weeks I said, weakly.
He clicked his mouse and turned the screen toward me.
“That your bag?”
Security is now so tight they photograph you luggage.
Next time I must paint a smiley face or a slogan on my suitcase. Then they may crack a smile…..

“Right hand fingerprints all four then the thumb on the scanner.” Seem to remember it was only a thumb and a forefinger last time. Terrorists are obviously getting more dexterous.
“Left hand” Blimey. both hands now is it?
“Left foot”
“?!!!”

He smiled and then started to laugh.
“You’d be surprised how many people start to take their shoes off when I tell ‘em that” he chuckled.
“You’re in. Enjoy your vacation”
I think it must be that as he was sort of on Canadian territory although it is notionally America for diplomatic purposes. Some of the relaxed Canadian attitude had rubbed off.
Found the gate and waited.


We were walked out to a small aircraft. It must get used a lot as it smelled of sweat.
It was almost full for the 30 minute hop to Seattle.
I had a seat at the front facing the rest of the passengers. Once we took off I noticed 80% of them had fallen asleep.
Arriving in Seattle after skimming the trees it took five minutes to collect my bag and I was in a cab. Driver said not a word and rather unnervingly made a phone call and only had one finger on the wheel a lot of the time. Luckily it’s a straight road.
Into the hotel into my room minimum of fuss.
It was still “only” about 4pm US time although I had been awake for 19 hours at this point. I felt sort of OK and went for a walk up to the Space Needle a few blocks away.


It was closed for a private function. So I wandered down the commercial district an up market bar had a woman giving it the full Aretha Franklin to three patrons on the patio. It was early.
I was hungry and bobbed into a burger joint who did a fabulous chilli cheese burger the like of which we never seem to be able to manage.
Now for beer. Luckily there was a bar right next to the hotel. Got the paper. Found a seat got a drink and felt very strange even before I had taken my first sip. The fatigue had begun to catch up with me. Little man you had had a busy day.
Finished up just as group of regulars who I gathered worked as train drivers for AMTRAK met up for their weekly card game. Their routes took them all over the US. One guy had been down to San Diego and back which is about as far as you can get on the Pacific West coast. I wondered if he had anyone to talk to on the journey.
Into an acre of bed and slept for 11 hours.


6 comments:

  1. Wonderful commentry. I was with you all the way!

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  2. I am pleased the computer is fixed Alex, now we can follow your fantastic trip!

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  3. We off ! Sleep well, Mr Lester.

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  4. Make sure you keep a count of all the burgers eaten for "blubberwatch" purposes

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  5. I too have met those who have been there and done that. But ask them a question and they rapidly change the subject.
    Looking forward to hearing more mishaps the Alex way.

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