Having slept several extra hours yesterday and this morning, I think I have largely recovered from flying back here to London from Newark on Friday night. Flying itself can also be “fun,” can’t it? Every time you do, there’s always something… or a variety of “somethings.”
After dropping off the rental car, on the monorail to the terminal I ended up in a carriage with two relatively attractive twenty-something American women who were heading to Manhattan. We knew that because one announced it loudly. The more talkative blonde was animatedly telling her friend that she wanted a photo of herself dramatically standing outside of Tiffany’s – like Audrey Hepburn.
Overhearing her – again, it was impossible not to – I exchanged “knowing” smiles with an older, business-suited African-American man standing across from me.
Separate from us, an older white man also in a suit decided to jump in. He began to share suggestions about where to go in Manhattan, and that he knew it well, and so on and, uh, well, you probably get the picture. She thanked him and declared that she and her girlfriend were from Minnesota…
[Eye roll time: She’s young enough to be your daughter, sir.]
Arriving at the British Airways bag drop I found myself behind an English school group, composed of about two dozen 16-18 year olds who’d just finished visiting Manhattan. Seeing them fumbling around unfocused, heads “in the clouds,” I remembered “Rule 1” in travel: People, international flying requires organization and discipline.
You pack your carry on carefully. You know where your passport is at all times; and it must be within easy reach. Same for your boarding pass (or it’s on your phone, as mine usually is). You also know what’s in your pockets, that you should not carry liquid in your bag, exactly when to take your belt and shoes off, and to get the laptop out of its case at Security smoothly. The list goes on…
And when an airline employee at the bag drop announces “Next!” you are supposed to stop trying to look cool to the girls next to you and instead quickly take out your passport and boarding pass and walk up to the desk as instructed. You aren’t supposed to stand there as if this is all new to you and you just got asked a question in class that you can’t answer.
The plane does have to leave in a couple of hours.
I also found in that line (queue) that I also had two French university age, or slightly older, women arrive behind me. From what I could understand of them, they too had been all over Manhattan.
Emma had noted on her blog recently how French people don’t usually speak to strangers on the streets in France as Americans often do to each other in the U.S. (Like that guy on the monorail?) And I have noticed that in France myself. She writes:
People do not talk to strangers, and if you ever start talking to someone in the street or somewhere else for no reason, you will be considered as very rude, it will feel like you are invading their personal space to them.
However, here, it wasn’t a matter of conversation. I was trying to mind my own business, but they chose to stand immediately behind me without a centimeter to spare. I realized one was so close I felt decidedly uncomfortable even turning my head around.
I know it’s the U.S. However, Americans aren’t THAT friendly. “Personal space” and all that.
Aboard the plane at last. I was in premium economy. When I saw my rowmates as I reached my seat, I was strangely relieved to see who they were.
They were all relatively, uh, “mature” folks.
Good grief, I must be “older” myself now?
Time to settle down. Laura Rahme awaited me on my Kindle, taking me to Venice in the 1400s. Before that, time for another read of British Airways Highlife magazine. I had already seen this October issue on the outbound trip 10 days earlier, but it was worth a re-browse.
Regular contributor John Simpson (a BBC World Affairs correspondent) had an article about Marseille. Somehow in it he ended up explaining how many years ago he had learned to drink Ricard in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He also recalled a French mercenary there with whom he had gotten along fairly well, and about how other mercenaries had earlier threatened him. In a hotel lounge, the Frenchman – who it turned out had attended an English private school – placed a revolver on the table in plain view. When those other mercenaries who had threatened Simpson finally appeared, they saw the revolver and turned and walked away.
Yep, I know the feeling. That sort of thing happens to me all the time. 😉
As Europe’s morning approached (it was still only about midnight in New York), I had a check of the in-flight map. We were shortly about to overfly a country I like a lot: the Republic of Ireland.
My seat mates – all British – were clearly veteran travelers too. We were in a row of four, and I was in one of the middle two seats. Everyone had understood how you behaved on a plane and were considerate and pleasant for the entire journey.
Time to start thinking about post-landing.
Made it. Heathrow arrivals at 6:30 AM is an adventure in itself. Those just off planes sometimes meander around apparently unable to read a directional sign. Or they stop walking in the middle of a narrow concourse blocking others behind them.
Out of the way! C’mon! The e-gates are right there! Some of us actually do want to get somewhere!
It’s great to be back. Britain in many respects is indeed my home now.
Last night, a text from my poet friend in Cambridge, Tracey Cracknell, appeared on my phone unexpectedly. I quickly replied to her:
“What” there is “want” – I corrected that in my next reply.
I had not done any “magnum opus” writing on this flight as I had on the flight to Newark. In fact, those few hours outbound had been wonderfully productive. And I’d done quite a lot during some free time at our house and at my dad’s.
But it’s still “creative chaos.” 😉
Have a good Sunday, wherever you are. 🙂