Last week, I decided to forget I’m doing a degree (a skill I’ve perfected over the past few years) and take an impromptu trip to New York City. My reasons for this were threefold: I wanted to visit the office where I’ll be interning post-graduation, my mum was doing business there (read: no need to stay in a hostel full of foreign drug lords), and I’d never been before. All of the above, plus I couldn’t really be bothered to sit through a two hour Chaucer lecture, and this seemed like a far more exciting alternative.
The travel day began in typical bleary eyed fashion, and things had kicked off before I’d even managed to check in. I had arrived three hours before departure, checked in online already and only had hand luggage, so check in at the desk should have been a doddle. I could see some airline ground staff asking passengers flying to New York questions, so thought nothing of it when it came to my turn. However, instead of the three or so questions everyone else seemingly got asked, I was on the receiving end of a mini interrogation for several minutes, asked to produce secondary ID (which I did in the form of my driving licence) and then informed the supervisor was being called. After he rocked up and asked me some more questions, I was told to follow a security guard upstairs. Where, I hear you ask? Well, at this point, I had no clue, so I traipsed up the stairs with my twelve year old Reebok holdall in tow, wondering where on earth I was being led to. I did ask the security guard what was going on but he told me he didn’t know, he was just asked to perform this duty when signalled by his management. Reassuring.
It transpired I was being taken to a special bag x-ray area of the airport, which they had to open up for me as it was 6am (which really helped the situation). Anyway, the bag was x-rayed, I was deemed as not being a threat to my fellow passengers, and then led back downstairs to the queue I had been stood in ten minutes earlier, desperately trying to avoid the quizzical gazes of the other flyers. I did debate quietly informing them that I wasn’t a terrorist, but I thought that probably wouldn’t help matters. Once I’d eventually checked in and had my bag x-rayed (again), everything was fine, and I sat drinking coffee and reading a novel in a reasonably civilised manner (I had obviously covered my Reebok holdall at this point).
But once I’d got on the plane, further problems arose as my television monitor wasn’t working. This probably sounds incredibly trivial, but when you have eight hours to kill, no entertainment is a bit of an issue. I asked several times over the space of two hours if the air stewards wouldn’t mind trying to rectify the problem, and was eventually moved to a seat three rows in front. Why I had to wait for confirmation for this minor adjustment, I really have no idea. My new seat, although complete with a working monitor, had the unfortunate accoutrement of an elderly West Indian man who kept shouting “GINGER” every time the drinks cart rolled around. He was really a rather nightmare-ish neighbour, elbowing me violently as he ferociously tucked into his chicken meal and generally grunting a lot.
I noticed him gesticulating wildly for several moments and presumed he needed to use the bathroom, so I asked if he would like me to get up so he could leave his seat. He grunted a bit and then shoved me as soon as I’d stood up, causing me to fall on the earphones I had plugged in which broke, ripped a huge hole in my leggings and left me with a bleeding scratch on the back of my thigh. I then waited in the aisle whilst feeling rather indecently exposed for him and his wife to do their business (which they did in separate bathrooms, but were still gone for a worrying amount of time) before sitting back down. Post-poo, he decided to sprawl out, something that is unadvisable in economy class when you have people sitting either side of you, and fed up, I returned to my old seat. I had no television monitor, no dignity as half the plane had seen far too much thigh for that time of the morning, and was generally not a happy camper.
When the journey finally ended, I boarded a bus to Grand Central station and spent half an hour traipsing in the rain, hood up, Reebok holdall slung over my shoulder and leggings verging on indecent until I found my hotel. It later transpired it was actually a two minute walk away but I managed to get painfully lost, of course. The rest of the trip was far less stressful, and I managed to pack in lots of sightseeing, saw a great play, went to a couple of exhibitions, experienced Chinese New Year in Chinatown and had a lovely meal (The Shop at Andaz, Fifth Avenue. Seriously, go there).
I did meet a rather interesting man in Starbucks, who I can only describe as ghetto fabulous (I suspect he must have been a drag queen in his spare time as he kept making hair flicking motions. He was bald). We chatted about everything from slavery to Sandra Bullock (he hates her, by the way), and said of Shakespeare: ‘She’s so overrated.’ I kid you not. Our chat ended up lasting two hours, and whilst it delayed my sight-seeing, it was a wonderful little interlude in the middle of the day.
The trip was a great getaway and a really good chance for me to experience the city, which will be my new home in a matter of months. Whilst I’m not sure I will ever love it as much as I do London, I’m excited to try something new, and if everyone thinks I’m as ‘fierce’ as the man in Starbucks did, I should be okay. I should probably add that he says he doesn’t feel sorry for victims of molestation and therefore is perhaps not the best judge of character, but his compliments were nice all the same.