The US has granted me entry. And till July what’s more. I smile at the blonde rather sexy security lady who opens the glass door to allow me through to the baggage claim area. I worry about Kit. The last I saw of her was as I was dejectedly led away for interrogation. Well OK I didn’t get the full good guy bad guy interrogation act. Just the American version of mild piss taking but she doesn’t know that and I look for her by the baggage carousel …
No sign. I look around despondently, maybe she gave up and left without me? I must admit the thought does go through my mind. I wouldn’t blame her I suppose. Then I think … yep I use my grey cells. Maybe she is still upstairs waiting for me at the immigration desks. Simples. I will go back and look for her. I head for the escalators to take me back up. Ha-ha. No such luck. There are two escalators and neither of them are heading in my direction … i.e. up! I can’t even run up as both are occupied by downwards heading people. Damn. Damn. The fuck up fairy has struck again.
Only one thing for it then. Back to the sexy blonde security lady and ask her if I can get back to immigration. Luckily she allows me. It must be my winning smile. Ha. Back in the lift to immigration and I hurry to the desk that I was stopped at. No Kit in sight. I am bereft. I am lost. I am also mightily pissed off but another security guard notices me and tells me that my lady is definitely down in the baggage reclaim area. Run back down again then and there she is. My Kit is by the carousel picking off our luggage.
Much hugging ensues and again I realize. I am in the US. The buggers let me in. This is America. Matt Spears has arrived. Fortunately our luggage has arrived also and we load it all on to a cart for the short push to book it all back in again for the next flight. And it is time for American food for this guy. I spot a Hudson news stand and we grab coffee and croissants. Best damned croissants I ever tasted it seems although the coffee is crap. Can’t win them all I shrug.
And after food … well onwards and upwards. Newark airport is made up of three terminals and we need to move on to another one for the next flight. Eek. Suddenly I realize I have another flight ahead of me. Just great. All the immigration shenanigans have taken my mind off of this but now it hits me. The forthcoming terror of another take off. I imploringly ask Kit if maybe we can take a bus. She smiles and tells me that I am welcome to and she will meet me at the bus station in two days when it arrives in Columbus. OK I will fly then. I groan as we get on the small train connecting the terminals. Kit relents and must feel some sympathy as she hugs me. I smile heroically, well OK unconvincingly.
We arrive at our departure terminal and it is damned busy. Last Sunday of the holidays I suppose. Nowhere to sit but we get lucky and find two stools in the bar. Great. I need Gin & Tonic. LARGE Gin & Tonic and I duly get one. Nectar. The bar is packed. American football is on the large screen TV and Americans around me speak the foreign language of the aforesaid game to each other. The Gerbils are playing the Axolotl’s or something. I grin cheerfully. I have gin and if their sportsmen want to play rugger with crash helmets on then I am happy. I don’t understand rugby either. I have gin. I no longer care.
But the fear does rise again, dulled by gin I must admit but it is there and we head out into the lounge to find information about our flight. It does not look hopeful as others are delayed or cancelled. Fear or not I just want to get on it and reach destination. It has been a damned long day by now. We join the hundreds of other disgruntled passengers and hope.
And so we find ourselves at our gate awaiting the flight to Columbus Ohio. 8pm departure it says. Hmm. I look at my watch and it says 8:15pm. We had started embarkation but all of a sudden the doors were shut just as we reached the gate. A very flustered lady is talking on her phone. She sighs as a smart suit clad man arrives. He also seems to have a phone attached to his ear. I listen in to the phone conversations. Apparently we are all waiting on a guy called Bernie. I smile at the flustered lady and tell her to tell Bernie that he needs to get his ass in gear. She smiles and raises her eyes to heaven but yes .. yes… yesssss. The gate opens again and we are allowed on to our flight at last.
Now this plane is small I find as we enter. Only 57 seats. One aisle of double seats and one of single seats. Only one flight attendant. We are led to row 19, the very last seats on the plane at the rear. Brilliant. I notice that we are right next to the only bog on the craft. Excellent I think and smile at Kit. She takes the window seat. No way will I. Our plane I find out is an Embraer. It looks like a long skinny Lear Jet and I am filled with joy and confidence to find out that it is a Brazilian plane. OMG. Not exactly renowned in the world of aeronautics are they. Not to me anyway. Will the bloody thing fly? I pray and squeeze Kit’s hand as we ready for take-off.
The aircraft seems to take a tour of the taxi-ways of Newark. I even think we might be driving there at one stage but eventually we swing out on to the main runway. We sit there for a minute or so and then my moment of terror. My palms sweat. I pray to unacknowledged gods as the engines spool up. I watch as the pilot (no doubt called Manuel or similar) tests the air brakes/ailerons etc. and then we are off. Engines roar. The wheels bump over the runway cracks as we speed up. I just know we aren’t going to make it. The damned Brazilians forgot a wing or something but then just as I am mentally making a will the nose lifts and we are airborne. The lights of New Jersey are below us and fading fast. The horrible bump and whirr as the undercarriage retracts.
But we are up and everything is seemingly OK as the stewardess starts towards us with the trolley. Nothing exciting. Just a coffee and the ubiquitous Continental Airlines bag of Pretzel sticks. Yummy I think opening them. Just like salty matchsticks but I eat them anyway. I drink the coffee, well I think it is coffee. You’d have thought it would be good on a Brazilian plane but then again I suppose they only built the infernal machine and it resembles mud in taste. I try to doze. The fight will only take an hour or so and I am shattered and in doing so I notice the problem with being in the back of the Embraer’s cabin. It is a small plane. As I said it looks like a stretched Lear Jet and the two jet engines are mounted at the rear of the fuselage a matter of feet from us and the buggers are noisy, and vibrate. Almost impossible to sleep but I do for a while along with Kit.
We fly over Pennsylvania in the clear cold night and soon into Ohio. Before we know it the lights of Columbus are below us. I must admit that I thought Columbus would be a small place but it seems massive in the night. The place looks beautiful from 15,000 feet in the night sky. All colours of lights twinkle happily for as far as the eye can see. As we descend I can make out the free-ways and cars on them. I can see sky scrapers lit up and advertising hoardings. It seems to take hours to descend and the plane tips alarmingly several times as it changes direction. I pray that Manuel isn’t lost and has brought the right map but he seems competent and we land pretty much on time at about 10pm. The usual taxi-ing and announcements but praise the lord we are here and in one piece too. I take Kit’s hand and we step out into a cold crisp Columbus airport night. Flight over and destination reached safely.
As the plane was such a small one we soon collect our luggage from the carousel and yippeeeeee. We are here. 3500 miles and 22 hours from Haverhill in Suffolk UK. Kit and I take each others hands. She smiles at me and leads me to the exit to meet her daughter who is hopefully picking us up. I smile back and think of things to come.