Friday 2nd January 2009

The allure of travel! The open road! The excitement of airports!

All right.

We had to depart Gulf Tides today and it was a terrible wrench. We delayed for as long as possible, sitting by the beach and helping Kareon do some badly needed laundry. However, there came a point where we did have to go. We drove to Tampa airport, listening to Christian Rock, and wondering if it really is just the grace of god (as they would no doubt argue) which allows the christians to purchase more powerful transmitters than PBS.

We noted that the Chrysler Indigo which we were driving averaged about 24.6 mpg – this is significantly less than the Judge’s gargantuan Volvo S70 T5, and wondered why anyone seriously considers the American car industry worth saving when a compact car about the size of a Ford Focus does less per gallon than a car the size of a London bendy bus.

We paused along the way in St Armand for a little present shopping and an enormous lunch in the diner – pancakes and eggs for me and a cesar salad for Trellis. Then onwards.

After dropping off the hire car, and not looking back once, we checked in for our flight to New York. I was briefly entranced by a sign directing us to the Viewing Platform, but this turned out to be a euphemism for Smoking Verandah, with nothing but a view of the monorail and some people having a last gasper before their flights.

Through security we went. I was very naughty because I had (a) not put my toiletries in the compulsory baggie and (b) had not put my laptop in a separate box for the x-ray machine. Still, they let me past. We found that our flight was delayed by over an hour due to foul weather at Newark, which made us anticipate a bumpy flight and perhaps the excitement of a sideways landing. Half way through our wait, I was called to the main desk over the tannoy. I thought for a second that we were going to be bumped from the flight, but instead I was asked if Trellis and I would like to take an exit seat, with extra legroom and some exciting responsibility. I jumped at the chance and accepted on Trellis’s behalf. In the event of an emergency, where better to sit than *right next* to an exit which you can operate?

The flight was, as anticipated, turbulent, with the Airbus’s trademark bounciness spilling coffee cups and soda and waking grumpy babies on a regular basis. Trellis and I were happy to spend the trip watching a Dog Whisperer marathon and were sad when our landing meant we missed Cesar’s tribute to his favourite dog, Daddy the pitbull.

Stepping off the plane at Newark felt like jumping into a paddling pool of iced water. I had, fortunately, planned for this. Knowing that we were going to visit two very different climates, I had organised an ingenious system of layering. I had packed two cotton frocks and three coordinating long-sleeved tops, along with a few pairs of woolly tights and a jumper. In zero Fahrenheit New York, everything was piled on, and then in balmy Florida, peeled off to a single layer of frock. It did mean that I got on the Airtrain looking like I had been kicked out from a particularly exclusive girls’ boarding school, but at least I was warm.

We were booked into the Newark Country Inn and Suites. Whilst Trellis checked in, I scampered over to the diner for takeaway burgers and other bad things. I chose a turkey cheeseburger for Trellis and a mushroom Brooklyn burger for myself. We dined, as is becoming our custom, cross-legged on the floor next to the jacuzzi.

In bed, I noticed that the pipes were making a lot of noise and I could feel a rumbling. It eventually dawned on me that someone in the room next door was having a jacuzzi at 1am. And not just a late-night jacuzzi, but a late night jacuzzi party, with cigarettes (the smell percolated through the air conditioning), shouting and loud music. The revelry was occasionally punctuated by other guests’ thumping on adjoining walls and ceilings. I couldn’t sleep at all. Earplugs, I know from experience, don’t help as I have tiny pixie-ears and find them very uncomfortable. Trellis, cosy in his fleecy sleep-earphones, reacted uninterestedly and went back to sleep.

Eventually, at 4am, I phoned the front desk. The racket stopped a couple of minutes after that, so I at least got 2 hours’ sleep. When our alarms went off at 6am, the party kicked off again. I suspect the culprits were cabin crew on a layover and can only imagine the Bacchanalian delights taking place.

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