After a night of finishing off a few work loose ends, packing and coffee I was already up, showered and ready for Toby when he came to pick me up. He was somewhat bemused by my approach to Transatlantic travel, i.e. staying up all night intending to sleep on the plane, even more bemused when I agreed that it was probably a very bad idea. We had a little false start when it transpired that my suitcase was a little too tall for the boot of Toby’s car, but then we were off after some excellent jury-rigging on his part.
I’m not sure how I managed to stay awake, apart from the very definite desire to be sociable in the face of this smashing favour, rather than simply fall asleep while he did the driving. We had a little trouble getting into Terminal 4; to be honest I really did not help, and then as quickly as it had all begun I was trundling my suitcase carefully with my one good arm into the Terminal. I checked in and got myself through security and then went to have some breakfast by my gate. Garfunkel’s is not my usual choice for eating establishments, but of the choices available through security in T4 there really is no competition.
I was just finishing my meal when I overheard a woman at a neighbouring table mention that she had recently been photographed by an eminent British photographer who I am not going to name-check. She was making the point that famous photographers can get away with a lot and then proceeded to quote him as having said the following to her on the shoot:
“Stop being a bitch and move your pussy to the left.”
While the rest of the restaurant gasped and looked in her direction – the poor girl did of course get bitten by “accidental quiet” as she uttered the above – I just sat there laughing away. Of course that meant that she leaned over and asked me what was so funny… I replied that as a photographer who often works with naked people I was especially conscious of not being able to say such things to models if I wanted to be able to continue to work in that vein. I went on to say that I rather felt that being famous did not excuse that kind of rudeness, and even if I could get away with it I wouldn’t, but I was amused that even in this case fame could cancel out ignorance. She nodded, smiled and then went back to her friends and their conversation; an odd interlude, but these things tend to stick in my mind…
Shortly thereafter there was an announcement that my gate had changed to exactly the opposite end of the Terminal, so I paid my bill and headed off to get on my plane. I arrived to discover many other bemused travellers who were also flustered, hot and bothered by the sudden forced march across the Terminal. We all banded together in typical British, Blitz spirit (not that there was any remotely comparable level of indignity, suffering or even inconvenience). We were kept waiting for a while and then the very tedious process of pre-boarding and then priority boarding for other people with more money and then people nearer the back of the aircraft all began. By the time I was in my seat I was actually starting to feel pretty exhausted, and a little hopeful that I might indeed sleep on the flight.
As it turned out I was asleep before the captain turned off the “Fasten Seatbelts” sign and I awoke as he announced that we would be landing in approximately twenty minutes. This was a good thing; my sleepless night would have really taken its toll if I had not got some sleep on that plane.
We landed, bundled off the plane and stood in orderly lines to enter the US. Before I go on, I would like to say for the record that I completely understand why border control and security is necessary and I realise that every sovereign nation has a right to limit the passage of foreigners across its borders. That having been said there is a grim irony in the disparity between the poster that one gets to look at while waiting at the US border, which extolls the DHS’s values of extending a courteous welcome to those visiting the “Greatest Nation on Earth” and the __actual__ welcome one __sometimes__ receives at said border. The gentleman who inspected my passport and visa waiver documentation, for example, was quite offended by my quaint English use of the word “holidays” instead of “vacation” and when I tried to correct my “error” spent a moment accusing me of lying to him **rolls eyes** (though not in front of said official). Suffice it to say I was the very soul of humility and contrition and he waved me on into the States with an admonition to “watch myself”. I am afraid to say that the unspoken coda to his comment did feel as though it was “because we’ll be watching you”.
I wandered downstairs to baggage reclaim to discover that having rescued my checked luggage I had to join a queue of people who were being randomly subjected to luggage searches. Again, I have no problem with this, apart from that at this point I was pretty bored of waiting in lines and just wanted to hand my luggage back to the airline staff to have it put on my next flight, so that I could go and get a beer. Still it did not take long and on exiting the secure area I had only to walk fifty or so feet to hand off the case. I headed for the Air Train (the monorail that connects Newark Liberty’s three terminals and the car parks) and Terminal A, to await my flight to Halifax.
As I had done last summer, I wandered into TGI Friday’s and plonked myself down at the bar. I looked up from sorting out my hand luggage to see the same woman that had served me the previous August, Katie, who introduced herself without recognising me. I did rather knock her socks off by letting on that I remembered her, and at first she did not believe me until I pointed out that I was hardly likely to forget the first person to pour me a beer in the USA. We caught up as she provided me with a cool Sam Adams and conveyed my order for fried chicken to the kitchen, and in the process I was heckled by some older gents from Dundee who decided it was time to take the piss out of the hairy sassenach.
Beer and food consumed I decided to head through security and await my ride to Nova Scotia. The departure gate area was full of people suffering delays and my heart sank, but luckily I was premature in my disappointment and my flight did actually leave on time this year.
The flight up to Halifax is less than two hours and by the time we had taken off, received complimentary snack and drink and I had listened to a playlist on my iPod we were there.
The border was a little less troublesome in Canada, and twenty minutes after touching down, I was on the street, so to speak, and getting into a cab.
I had received a text message from Janice that she was still at work, and so I asked the cabbie to take me there. Of course, fate and unreliable SMS being what they are, Janice had actually finished her shift and so the only people there to greet me were her bemused colleagues. As has always been my experience of people in the Maritimes they were lovely and helpful despite the relative oddity of having a Brit appear in their restaurant at ten-thirty on a Thursday night with a suitcase and a broken collarbone.
After a little ringing around Janice was located, at a local pizza takeaway place called Alexandra’s, and I hopped in another cab.
It was lovely to see Janice again. We met the night before Eric and Sarah’s wedding last summer, and while we spent a relatively short period of time together then she is definitely a “friend”; one of those people that one immediately feels connected to. We had remained in touch, on and off, all year via Facebook and it was as easy as pie to just fall back into each other’s company. We ate pizza and then she quickly biked home to grab her car, as she had forgotten about my injury and conceded that I was probably not going to be able to walk back to her apartment.
Once ensconced back at her place we cracked a bottle of wine and kept talking. Shortly thereafter her two room-mates, Alison and Jill, joined in and before I knew it it was 0130h (ADT) and I had been on the go for nearly twenty-four hours, albeit with a plane-sleep under my belt. We had talked about politics and movies and their up-coming bike trip and my itinerary across the East of North America, and once again I felt the warm welcome that I had discovered in Canada, fifteen months before. I know it sounds corny, but these are genuine, open and friendly people. Alison, who stuck around to chew the fat much more than Jill as she had work to finish, had never met me before. Still, by the time we all turned in we were already bouncing off one another conversationally as though we were old friends. It is these little experiences that make travelling alone, and travelling to see friends such a joy, to me at least.
We turned in after setting three alarms and I slept like the dead.
Coming Next: Thanksgiving, Musquash Style