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Tuesday, December 16, 2003

New York, New York


How could you possibly have missed I was going to New York? I gave enough hints out.....

Where do I start? At the beginning I suppose.

Last Tuesday - it was the Christmas party in the afternoon, and me and D from work were doing the 'Team Oscars' only I had a nightmare with them. I spent ages making funny pictures at home and emailed them to work. I went in to work early on Tuesday - I must be psychic or something - because the emails never got there! So, in a panic, I had to come home again, and email them all one at a time to the secretary who then forwarded them on to me. For some reason, I am unable to email myself at work!

Anyway, it then got too late for me to get the bus to work, so I ordered a taxi. Me and taxi drivers - I should have known better...... What could possibly be worse (better?) than a taxi driver? A taxi driver who also works as a waiter in an Indian restaurant. I had no chance!! He promised to come and leave me all the menus and special offers - he made sure I put his number into my mobile - and was asking about the security in the building (main doors are locked, you can't get in!!).

The Christmas party was fun - all day drinking from 1 lunchtime! I gave up at 10 o'clock, because I had to drive down to Heathrow on Wednesday - I need to get the gossip from the rest of the party tomorrow.

So, Wednesday saw me get up at the crack of dawn to do my packing (nothing like leaving it until the last minute), then drive off to Heathrow for my 4 o'clock flight to Newark. Had a wonderful half hour or so with Pob, making sure he took at least a small break that day (apparently he had been in work since 4 am - poor thing!).

All was going well, I headed off for the departure lounge one hour before my flight was due to leave. Hardly any queue to get through security, wandered around the Duty Free shop a little bit, then glanced at the departures board. Ohhhhhhhhh bugger! Flight VS1 to Newark, due to leave at 16.00, delayed until 19.00. Great! Three hours, stuck in a packed airport. I couldn't even go and annoy Pob as I had passed through security. I spent a happy 3/4 of an hour on the phone to my friend K, who asked if Pob was going to take me for a ride on the luggage buggy he drives around the airport... Then I just sat there, like a lemon. For 4 and a half hours. Watching the board, and seeing 19.00 come and go, and still be the time displayed on the departure board for the flight.

Finally, they called us to a gate. Only they lied. They just wanted us to stand for an hour in a corridor. And you know when you get on a plane, and they make you board row by row from the back? Apparently that is not necessary in a delayed flight - it is first come first served! The words "Piss up", "brewery" and "can't fucking organise" went through my head several times.

Plane finally leaves - 6 hours late. I am not best pleased - I was planning on a nice dinner in one of the local bars, waiting for Nancy and Sexy Eric to come and join me.

Only thing is, the trip just gets better and better. To be fair, this part was out of control of Virgin, but still, it was the icing on the cake. Some poor guy has a heart attack on the plane. It was just like on the films - they came over the tannoy asking for medical assistance. Then they had to ask for someone who could speak an Eastern European language - I have no idea where he was from, but obviously they were having a lot of trouble communicating with his wife. Anyway, as soon as I realised what had happened, I realised we were going to get delayed even more.

So, we had to make an emergency landing at Gander, Newfoundland. Middle of bloody nowhere. Hang around there for an hour or so, paramedics on board, then taking this guy and his wife off, waiting for them to remove the luggage, refueling etc. Okay - why did we need to refuel? It's not like we went out of our way? Gander is not out of the way at all - every time I have flown to New York, you can see on the little map thingy that we pass right over it.

Off we set again, finally, and somewhat tired, but at least I am going to get there hey? Damn! No! In the air, captain comes on the tannoy - the crew have been working for too long, and they are not allowed to fly us to New York. So we are going to Boston. Huh? Just how much difference is 40 minutes (if that) going to make? And why did we not have a crew which could have dealt with just such an emergency - while I know they are not common, neither are they that rare? And Boston? Then what? Oh, great. Apparently, two (count them, ONE, TWO) members of Virgin staff would be greeting us at Boston, to make sure we weren't inconvenienced too much. For 400 or so passengers. Hey, thanks, you make me feel so special.

At 3.30 in the morning, I am settling in to a huge kingsize bed (alone, unfortunately, but at this point I really didn't care) in the Sheraton Hotel at Boston airport. I had called Nancy from Boston (before the airport gestapo shouted at us all for using our cell phones in a corridor with no posted signs saying we couldn't) telling her not to wait up. God knows what my bill is going to be like.

At 6.30 in the morning (wow, lot of sleep I got!) I wake up starving, having not actually eaten much the day before, and my body thinking it is 11.30 am. I head down to breakfast, with my $20 voucher from Virgin paying for it. I am not a coffee drinker, but I drank the whole pot they gave me I was so desperate for the caffeine. I also asked at reception if they knew what the plan was. Oh yeah, we had to leave the hotel around 3 o'clock, to go and check in our bags, but we wouldn't be flying out until 10 o'clock that night. What??? I contemplated going into downtown Boston, to do some shopping because this was now seriously eating into my shopping time. Luckily for me I was too damn tired and fell asleep again. Because at 11 o'clock they rang the room to say the plans had changed - we were now being picked up by shuttle bus between 12 and 1, and going to be taken to the airport, where they would put us all on buses to take us either to Grand Central station, or Newark airport. I wonder what they would have done if I had actually gone into Boston, and not got back until 2 which was my original plan?

Anyway, I head off to the bar with my other $20 voucher for some lunch. Too damn tired to get a drink though, which was a waste really. Started talking to this bloke, who it turns out had lived for 3 months in Jersey City, had hung out in lots of the bars I used to hang out in, and he was off to stay with his girlfriend who he met while he was there (damn, had to be some drawback!).

The damn bus journey was a nightmare. Luckily, me and Dean (the JC bloke) managed to manoeuvre ourselves double seats with no one sitting next to either of us (for the record - sit down, dump your bag and coat on the seat next to you and curl up against the window pretending to be asleep - people are far too polite to ask you to move your stuff until there are no other empty seats!). Unfortunately, it was near the back, with the "Yank from Hell" woman, and "Tosser from Hell" cockney wanker. Yank announced at the start of the journey how tired she was, then proceeded to talk for the whole journey. I know her fucking life story. And how Virgin also broke her bag. And how she was getting all her money back. And how she had been in England for 13 weeks. How all her prescription drugs had run out 3 weeks ago. SHUT THE FUCK UP I AM TRYING TO SLEEP! And Tosser was just as bad - he had spent some time in New York, and so became the self appointed know-it-all about what we all should do, and how we were going to get to our final destinations when we got to Newark airport.

Five and a half hours later, we got to the airport. With no Virgin reps to greet us. I mean, they hadn't had much warning had they? By this time we are all starting to become mutinous - no mean feat for Brits, I can tell you! We finally get some bloke with a booklet of taxi vouchers, so we could all go onwards at Virgin's expense. Unfortunately, there are quite a few of us, all throwing our passports at him when he says he can't give us a voucher with out proof of who we are (he literally had to duck from the shower of little books thrown at his head). After a few minutes, another Virgin rep approached me and this other woman, asking us what we were doing, as we were blocking the aisle and people couldn't get past us. I was too gobsmacked to respond, but this woman says "We are waiting for out taxi vouchers, if you help this man we can move along much quicker". Virgin woman replies, "I can't, I am too busy with these other people". Then this slow panicked look dawns on her face as she realises who we are, and she starts to bluster, "I am really sorry, I do understand what you have been through, but I have to deal with all these other passengers" and waves her hand in an airy-fairy way behind her. Me and this woman, and others who had also become aware of the exchange say, pretty much in union "YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT WE HAVE BEEN THROUGH, YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND OTHERWISE YOU WOULD BE HELPING US NOW AND NOT BACKING OFF AND RUNNING LIKE YOU ARE IN AN OLYMPIC SPRINT". Funny, but less than 2 minutes later we had another guy helping us with the taxi vouchers, and no-one else approached us to ask us to clear the corridor.....

Anyway, to keep a long story long, I finally got to Nancy's building. Greeted by a small party going on in reception (the security guys hold one every Christmas, in the hopes of getting a bigger tip). The doorman rings Nancy, laughs at me because her spare key has been with them for going on 36 hours waiting for me to arrive, and I head off up to her floor. As the lift doors open, and I get out, she is waiting for me. "You're late". Yeah, 25 fucking hours late!

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