Well we are off again. We planned this trip with as much care and planning as ever (basically we wanted to go to Chicago, but it was cheaper to fly to Washington, we liked Nashville the TV show and the internal flights to Philadelphia were cheap as well, so boom, itinerary sorted). We have booked the flights ourselves and are staying in Airbnb’s. I did realise that we are actually taking 8 flights in 21 days, so can I apologise to the ozone layer and the next generation. By my reckoning though, even if I didn’t take the flight, then the plane would go anyway, and if I wasn’t sat on it, then that would be a chronic waste of resources and still damaging to the environment. So by me taking these flights I am in fact offsetting the damage. Yep, I don’t think that argument would stand up in a court of law either.
We flew out from Heathrow (after putting our first hole in the ozone layer by flying from Manchester). As we were flying out at 11:00am we went down the night before and stayed over in an airport hotel which was as bland and soul destroying as it sounds, but with fantastic double glazing (as we were directly at the end of the runway). I went through the usual panic of “will the hotel shuttle bus get us there in time; what happens if we oversleep; will it be busy with it being peak time?” Needless to say we left the hotel at 7:40; arrived at 8:00; were checked in by 8:10 and through security by 8:30. Still, if I hadn’t put all that effort into worrying about it, it may all have been very different.
We were flying BA on an Airbus 330 (the double decker ones). I’m an OK flyer, but I still don’t understand how they stay up and with this fella there was a lot of plane to stay up. I also get nervous on landing and again this one dropped like a very expensive stone. We had a bit of turbulence which always happens either when I have just been served a drink or, as in this case, when I was sat on the toilet. When the little return to you seat sign came on I was out of there like a flash. I’m convinced that if I am involved in a plane crash it will happen when I’m on the toilet and when they are going through the wreckage they will find me with my pants around my ankles with a piece of toilet paper in my hand and one of the crash rescuers will say to his colleague “if only he hadn’t been so pedantic with his paperwork and got back to his seat quicker he would have been saved”. But I digress.
Other than that, the flight was remarkably uneventful. One G&T, 2 little bottles of wine, 3 films and 2 meals later we descending into Washington Dulles airport, albeit with more haste than I thought polite. Now I haven’t been on a plane for ages (well since May. I really do hate the environment don’t I?) and there appears to be some major changes to take off and landing. Now you can keep your headphones on. In fact on this flight they even kept the entertainment on (and for 20 minutes after we had landed in case you wanted to catch the end of the film). I have always assumed they have told you to remove your headphones so that in an emergency you can hear all that “brace, brace” malarkey. It would appear now that in these circumstances they think it’s better that you go happy and you may as well spend the last 30 seconds of your life watching Seinfeld than having your head between your knees. Doesn’t bother me as in that situation I will be stuck in the toilet anyway. The lady on the row in front of us took up the offer to stay after we had landed and was watching the last few minutes of “Eddie the Eagle” as her husband was removing the luggage from the overhead locker (taking extra care as items may have moved during the flight). Forgetting she had headphones on she did that talking too loud trick and shouted at her husband (and the rest of the cabin) “MY GIN IS UP THERE”.
We disembarked the plane (do you disembark a plane or dismount it? Anyway, we got off it) and were quickly filed through 2 little doors. I was expecting to find an ever so friendly Immigration officer on the other side of the door, but in fact we ended up in a space ship. Ok, not quite a space ship but I’m sure they had one of these on Space 1999. It was sort of half tractor, half portacabin and half metro, train. It was not a bus like you get at Liverpool airport. It had wheels for a start (boom tish, I’m here all week). No, it wasn’t like the normal bus you get from a plane to the terminal, but it was fun.
When the moon buggy deposited us at the main terminal, we had the joy of immigration to go through. We patiently queued and a mere 25 minutes later it was our turn to be wooed with the witty charm of the US’s finest comedy talent.
“Are you going anywhere else other than Washington?””Yes” I said probably a bit too keenly “4 nights in Washington, 5 nights in Chicago, 5 nights on Philadelphia and 5 nights in Nashville then back here and home again”.Long pause”Philly is ok””Oh, right, good. What about the other places?” said with a nervous laugh.Long pause”Chicago’s ok. But don’t go to Southside””Oh, right, good, we won’t, we really won’t”. This guy looked like he knew someone in Southside who would keep an eye out for us and so word would get back and we wouldn’t be able to leave the country. Prints and photos were taken and we were off….to join the 15 min queue to get through customs.
90 minutes after landing we were finally out into the Washington heat (it’s about 36 degrees at the moment, and it’s 11 at night). I had asked my Airbnb host and he’d said that Uber was the best and cheapest bet to get us from the airport to the apartment. I ordered one on the app and I was allocated Lamees who was in a Toyota and 9 mins away. He texted me so I texted him back. This Uber is all very sophisticated and friendly. I could also see him on the map, and he seemed to be going in the wrong direction. 10 minutes later he as 24 minutes away and definitely going the wrong way! I texted him again. 1 minute later he cancelled. I was allocated another driver in a Toyota. l gave the licence plate number to “Rainman” Karen who immediately memorised it, and then 30 seconds later he cancelled and we were allocated a new driver (in a Honda). He did turn up 2 minutes later.
One of the joys of Uber is the ability to pool passengers. So if there is someone else going your way, you can share and hence the bill halves. The app told me that we were sharing with Karin, which was fine as this bought the fare down to $30 (a taxi charges $60+). We put are bags in and jumped in. Mateen, our driver pulled away.
“I think we have another passenger don’t we?”
Do we? I haven’t received it on my app”
“Oh, my mistake perhaps. I’m still a bit new to all this Uber stuff”
We headed for the city centre and as he was driving he kept getting message popping up on his phone. After about 10 minutes he half turns around to Karen and says:
“Can I just check, you, are Karin?”
“Ok, (to me) are you Andrew?”
“And you booked this?”
“And you are Karin and you booked this?”
“No, I don’t have an Uber account”
I muttered to Karen that he must have thought she was his other booking when his phone goes:
“hello….oh hello Karin…where are you?….oh….there has been a mix up…sorry”. We spent the rest of the journey in silence as you could see that he realised that he had left his other fare at the airport and was probably now losing money on this fare. Still, it didn’t stop him asking for a tip. I suppose he has to try and make that $30 back somehow.
Tomorrow “No reading or writing”