Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Loudshoes in Europe, Part 9: The Trip Home

I've been to hell and lived to tell the's crowded and noisy and food is so expensive it will make you hyperventilate: it's Terminal 4 at JFK Airport.

On our way home from Europe, we had to fly to New York City to make a connection to Toronto. We could have flown directly from Heathrow to Pearson, but that cost an extra thousand dollars for the four of us, and we figured we could do a LOT with a thousand bucks on our holiday. (This becomes relevant later.)

The flight from Heathrow to JFK was fine, but when we got into New York the airport was in chaos; there had been some terrible thunderstorms in the area, with them getting more rain in one day than they'd ever had since they'd been keeping records. Every flight in the place was cancelled, including ours. And, the young woman behind the counter, who clearly thought I was being unreasonble and a total downer for harshing her buzz, said that she couldn't find us another flight for 24 hours. I wanted to kill myself, except at JFK, they would charge you something for that.

After chasing a hotel room, fruitlessly, for an hour or so (including a $30 round trip taxi ride for nothing) we looked at each other and concluded we were going to have to sleep in the airport. Thing 1 was a bit upset at this prospect ("It's like we're homeless!") and Thing 2 thought it would give her some serious street cred for having slept in public in New York City.
But then I realized were were going to have to spend another whole freaking day in that same stupid airport, and nearly lost my shit altogether. That's when I bought a bottle of water for 5 dollars and realized that waiting for this flight would cost us as much at 2 weeks in Europe.

We did find a place to settle down, at least; a bench with some padding meant that we weren't sleeping on marble floors. (50 year old backs + rock hard surfaces = cripples for days.) There were plenty of other people sleeping in the airport too, so it wasn't like we were the only ones there. But it did feel a little creepy, sleeping out in the open where anyone could come and go, and the homeless guys scratching their genitals and talking to themselves.

Airports are fairly noisy places, what with the flight announcements and the security check points. Oh, and the airport personnell who have to shout to their friends on the other end of the concourse to see who gets their break next. Yes, I could not get enough of that.
I eventually gave up on sleep and took out my book to read; between my 20's and having young children, it certainly wouldn't be the first night I'd lost out on sleep; I'd live.
Around 4 o'clock in the morning, the Mister and looked at each other and figured that thousand bucks on that direct flight would have been very well spent.

Around 6 in the morning, the Mister and I decided to move over to the terminal we would be flying out of, and at least see if they would check in our luggage for us; we were tired of dragging it around.
You know, the people at JFK are just so pleasant, and nice and helpful. Just kidding. They are horrible; mean and surly and shouty. The woman at the check-in counter looked at me like I was an idiot and asked why I was waiting for the 8 pm flight and not trying to get stand-by seats for the 8:20 A.M flight. "Because the snot-bag I talked to last night didn't even tell me there was an 8:20 a.m flight" I replied, except I substituted "woman" for "snot-bag". She sighed deeply, and shook her head at me, like she was sorry I was such a loser and she had to deal with me, and told me she would book us standby seats for the 8:20. I thanked her, and I was so happy to find out there was a possibility that I might get out of that hell-hole 12 hours earlier than anticipated, I even smiled at her and thanked her. (Which is forbidden at JFK Airport, just to tell you.)

We got to the gate, which was crowded and noisy, because approximately every single person in there was trying to get out. I asked the woman behind the counter at the gate how this stand-by thing worked, since I'd never done it before. She laconically said "we call your name". Now, I think I'd made it clear I'm new here, I haven't done this before and by the way, I had to sleep in an airport and watch a homeless guy scratch his genitals for the past 10 hours. You're going to have to put the dots real close together for me: "So, if you don't call my name?" I say, and she gets her eyes all wide and toggles her head from side to side and says in a sing-song voice: "Then you don't. Get on. The flight." I tell you, if I hadn't really, really needed her co-operation to get me the hell out of New York City, I'd have leapt over that counter and choked the living shit out of her. But I restrained myself.

I was pretty sure we'd never get on that flight: four seats that morning? No way. But, because I have good karma and I did not choke the shit out of that woman, she announced "all stand-by seats are confirmed, all stand-by passengers can board now." (So you don't call my name, you lying little shit!)

You have never seen four people dance onto a plane like the Loudshoes did that morning.

And when we arrived in Toronto, I wanted to lay down and kiss the ground. Except I was too busy finding the nearest Tim Hortons with my phone app. After loading up on cheap coffee and bottles of water that cost $1.35, we got in the van, and drove home.

We had a wonderful trip, truly a once-in-a-lifetime vacation. But walking in the door of my own house was one of the sweetest feelings ever. Ever.

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