I mean did I walk under a set of stairs? Did I break a mirror, did a black cat cross my path. I can’t help thinking that something was amiss. I pondered my superstitious nature, during a 3 hour wait, standing patiently in line at New York’s JFK airport. Walking through my day to date to see if I had riled the Gods of Fate, if I may have slipped up and caused myself unnecessary woe…. But I couldn’t really pin point one particular moment, maybe this had been sent to test me, to see if I was really up for my grand American adventure. I remembered something Steven had said about pioneers needing significant levels of resilience, this seemed appropriate under the circumstances, and events of the previous 12 hours.
The first sign that things weren’t going to go well, was around 12pm, when the ebb and flow of traffic on the M25 meant I didn’t get to the airport until 10 minutes before my flight was called. I quickly swigged a bottle of complimentary beer, and realised that I was planning on a shave to look less like a terrorist (I understand the American’s are tetchy about such things), and this wasn’t going to happen, leaving me looking like a particularly dirty tramp!
On boarding the plane, I was hit with another two unfortunate incidents; one, that we had no pilot (stuck in the same traffic as me) and that my TV only wanted to show movies in shades of blue. So after 90 minutes on the tarmac and a couple of glasses of “please don’t get mad at us” champagne we finally got underway. The rest of the flight passing without incident.
On arriving at JFK, I had my one and only bit of luck for the day. Immigration was empty, and after filling out the wrong form and then filling in the right one I got through and picked up my bags in record time. It suddenly occurred to me that the airport had 8 terminals, and I had no idea which one my connecting flight to Pittsburgh went from. I got in a lift, and in typical Firth style went up, then down, then up again as it wasn’t clear which floor I had to get out on (sadly people witnessed this faux pas, and laughed). After this I realised I was in the wrong terminal, and promptly got back in the lift again to go back down to the airtrain.
As soon as got off the airtrain at the American Airlines terminal, I was hit with the news that my flight was cancelled due to bad weather. I wasn’t particularly concerned as I had been here before on route to the Democratic National Convention in Denver 2008. I turned the corner into the main terminal building. I can only describe the scene as something close to a very disorganised ant hill, with people running hither and thither, precious little signage and no AA employees on hand to assist. Finally I was told to get into an ominously long rebooking line.
3 hours and plenty of good natured banter later, between a Swiss Indian Canadian, Bangladeshi, Goan, a Texan from the Bronx, an Australian and I. I was told that because my entire flight itinerary wasn’t with AA that I would be booked on tomorrow’s flight but had to sort myself out for somewhere to stay. Went to tourist information, got booked into the Quality Inn (as I found out somewhat ironically named). Agreed to share a cab to the hotel with a Nigerian man who went to get food and didn’t come back.
To pay for the cab I was now getting on my own I had to get cash. ATM, Lloyds card, declined. Hmmmm. Tried again for a smaller amount, rejected because the previous transaction was, however logical this appeared it was still frustrating. Went to the currency exchange desk, they only take cash! Balls. Try to ring bank on phone, tried 6 different ways of dialling it, but failed on all occasions. BALLS! Go back to ATM, use credit card…… we have a winner (with 2.5% interest on cash withdrawls! Yikes).
Cabs in New York has a nifty little feature, an interactive map in the back of the cab, not the front…. A fatal error in this cab drivers case. He had no idea where the hotel was, I politely prompted him to make some changes to his approach based on the fact I could see the map. Obviously sensing that I had view of the map, he started driving in completely the wrong direction (not a big game player this guy, cracks under the slightest bit of pressure). So I rather forcefully told him to do a U-turn and proceeded to direct him to the hotel myself, which resulted in a $5 deduction (I thought he should’ve paid me!)
On falling out of the taxi I was confronted by two rather “well made up” ladies. Who no doubt were amused by my struggles with two heavy bags. As I got closer, my sleep deprived bloodshot eyes realised they were prostitutes. Excellent I thought, I checked the name of the hotel for a geographic region, I was in Queens, which from my very limited research on the subject, I knew wasn’t exactly the New York equivalent of Kensington and Chelsea. Checked in and asked if they still served food, how foolish of me, they didn’t even have a restaurant! But they gave me two menu’s for takeout, one of which wouldn’t deliver to the hotel, and the other I was informed was probably no longer in business…. Thanks guys!
Having been up for 22 hours, I decided to get some rest.
5am the next morning, the well made up ladies decided to serenade me with motown classics from the sidewalk right outside my window. I got up for breakfast and remembered why Americans have such a problem with obesity (being diplomatic there!). As my breakfast options consisted of waffles, donuts (of many flavours), sausages that looked like recently chopped off fingers, and bagels with mandatory cream cheese spread. When in Rome do as the…. I just couldn’t do it, so I had some toast and a banana (I know fresh fruit, at this point a life saver).
No more incidents at JFK, nor on arrival in Pittsburgh. Unjinnxed? We’ll see.