As suspected, Cocky did not return to the hotel (we were sharing the beautiful Opera Suite at Inn New York) until 8.45am. He was kind enough to text me that night to state that he was not dead. As we were due to check out at 11am, I lay awake for a little while wondering how he was going to manage on around an hour’s sleep.
Nicky and I got up at 9am and while he went for his run, I scuttled about packing and the like. By the time Nicky returned, Cocky had begun to rouse. We broke the news that he might have to spend the day on a park bench. Apparently he had stayed in the Manhattan apartment of a couple of kindly gays, but hadn’t got much kip on their sofa before he realised he’d better get back. Rather than go down the hobo route, he instead asked the landlady if he could keep the room for the day, and it was agreed that he could, for $80. We left him to it and went off to see Linda and Martin, Nick’s aunt and uncle, who live in Queens.
We realised that this was the first time we’d been to see L&M in the daylight and so after lunch we decided to go for a walk around Forest Hills, which turns out to be a lush, woody area of the city with some old (for the US) houses. Apparently some recent migrants to the area have decided that the old piles are not to their taste and so large, unpleasant edifices with pillars, balustrades and every kind of tasteless architectural confection have begun to spring up in their place.
We headed back in the late afternoon and noticed that the traffic down towards the Hudson had started to increase. This was no doubt due to the Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks which were due to take place after dark. We said goodbye to Mrs Mensch, who said that the fireworks were not that good and that most locals prefer to watch them on the TV. For us, given the choice between watching the fireworks and then battling against the flow of people to get to the Newark airport motel we had booked for the night, and simply going when everything was quieter and thus getting a good night’s kip, the kip won out.
We took the subway to Penn and then the NJ Transit to Newark. Along the way we could see fireworks anyway. It was at around this stage that I realised why pregnant ladies don’t lift things. After about 6 months the production of a hormone known, self-explanatorily, as relaxin, increases. Ligaments and tendons become looser and you become more likely to sproing something. I successfully sproinged my neck, my shoulders and both hips in the space of 20 minutes, and ended up delegating baggage carrying to the porters.
We took the shuttle bus to the beloved Country Inn and Suites. Last time we stayed here I was kept awake till 4am by a stopover party, but as we checked in I noticed a sign stating that the hotel had now implemented a No Party policy. I was relieved to see this but then was dismayed to see that at least two separate groups of kids were tearing around the hotel, and one of them seemed to have decided to have a small but very noisy party in the lift. They were all wearing t-shirts indicating that they had attended a family reunion that day and were clearly in high spirits.
We wandered over to the neighbouring diner but found it to be closed. However, all was not lost as the hotel had a selection of microwave meals to buy, so we chose chicken pot pie and macaroni cheese, washed down with grape soda. Unfortunately the hotel only provided food, and not the means to eat it. Fortunately, I am wise and remembered our weird astronaut breakfast at the Country Inn and Suites in Florida. I tracked down the breakfast room and obtained cutlery and eating surfaces from inside.
Bedtime. We watched telly, Nicky swishing around happily in the jacuzzi and I lying in bed. The family reunion partyers must have tired themselves out because I didn’t hear another peep from them.
Ugh, 6am wake up call so that we could get the hotel shuttle to the airport in time for breakfast and an 8am flight. The shuttle bus driver was a well upholstered gentleman and I did begin to wonder whether he was going to die before he’d dropped us off, since he sounded about a minute away from a heart attack every time he lifted a suitcase. He was kind enough to drop us directly at the terminal rather than at the monorail, and a kindly security woman checked us in from the queue, before ushering us to the lounge for Rice Krispies and tea.
It was all a little rushed. We got through security after the usual interrogation about what Nick’s Super 8 camera was, exactly, and waited nicely at the departure gate. I was then pulled to one side and shouted at by a member of Virgin Atlantic’s ground staff because my case “looked heavy” and that it weighed “50 kilos”. I said that it did not, and demonstrated that I could lift it easily, and explained once more that I wasn’t quite so stupid as to pack a bag I couldn’t lift. The staff member remonstrated that the case was too big, and I showed that it was not. I observed that the case, rather than being big or heavy, was in fact red, and that was why she’d noticed it.
I was eventually allowed to board the plane, but was told that I wouldn’t be allowed to get away with such a transgression again. I resolved to purchase a black case of equivalent dimensions to avoid such altercations in the future, and also to get Virgin to print my boarding card so that it was edged in easily visible Upper Class purple (when applicable) rather than printing it from a kiosk.
The entertainment system was broken. Gradually, a plane-wide reboot took effect except (fuelling my persecution complex somewhat) for mine. Instead of a safety video and the V-Port cornucopia of delights, I was treated to nothing but white noise for 6 hours. I finished my book and found that the only other reading material on the plane was a magazine about polo and the Economist, which is fine, but hardly 6 hours’ worth of reading material. My other option was a hand-held DVD player and a copy of He’s Just Not That Into You, but the promised player never materialised. It is galling to note that the squalling 9-month old baby’s seat had a fully functional entertainment system but it did not offer to swap with me.
Boredom seemed to achieve for me what champagne and restless pre-flight nights never could – I actually slept for most of the flight, which was very smooth. The baby was reasonably well behaved, except during landing when the change in pressure caused it to complain. I was under the impression that you were supposed to feed babies or give them a dummy during take off and landing so that they’d swallow and pop their ears, but its mother evidently didn’t know that, resorting instead to shushing the infant constantly. Even I know that 9 month old babies don’t understand the concept of shush – indeed, this seemed to irritate the child even more and the only thing that did shut it up was a neighbouring passenger making silly faces at it.
We landed, and parted company with Cocky at passport control because we had registered for IRIS and he had not. We left him at the back of a long queue, glanced at the IRIS camera and were out of the airport and in our pre-booked cab within 20 minutes of landing.