Sunday, 28 March 2010
Saturday 27th March 2010
Despite checking in at Heathrow two hours before our flight time we still didn’t manage to get seats together, so Gwen, Ceri and Roderic had bulkhead seats (extra legroom, space to get up and walk about without having to clamber over several irritated fellow passengers) and Angharad and I sat behind them and worked on irritating the Americans sitting either side of us – a task made much easier once Ceri decided she wanted to come and join me on a regular basis.
As per the advice I once read in a women’s magazine, I had packed little wrapped presents to keep the children happy, promising them a new present to unwrap every two hours of the flight, and thus whiling away the eight-hour journey. Mostly they whiled those hours away by asking me how long it was until the next present and how disappointed they were in the last one.
We’d seen all the films on offer, but Ceri and Hari both fell asleep two hours before the end of the flight. We woke them up so that they could spend almost as much time standing at customs being photographed, fingerprinted and frisked. (I was frisked twice – once at Heathrow and again at Washington, and in Washington I had to wait in a glass cage for the nice lady to come along and run her hands all over me.)
It took so long that our luggage had given up forlornly going round in lonely circles on the carousel and was huddled on the concourse waiting for us. (I can’t help thinking that at Heathrow it would have been blown up.) So we greeted it, trundled it 200 yards to the next belt, and bade it farewell again.
The wonders of capitalist America hit us as soon as we turned the next corner. Huge, warm, soft pretzels, Wendy’s, Dairy Queen. But we had to find gate D21 and we had about two miles of concourse to cover, so we staggered thirstily past the fruit slushie stall, Dunkin’ Donuts (sic), and a Subway which also sold pizza. We eschewed the Obama baseball caps, the “Washington – Our Nation’s Capital” sweatshirts (because it isn’t), Starbucks and the California Burritos vendor. We limped past the sign saying “Last chance! No food or drink outlets beyond this point!” and finally collapsed at a very crowded gate D21, where the plane was full and there were 37 people on standby.
We did get seats, although we didn’t all get to sit together. Roderic was at the back of the plane, the three girls were together, but by dint of being ostensibly an adult I had to sit by the emergency exit and was asked whether I was “prepared, able and qualified” to assist the crew in an emergency. “Of course I’m not qualified,” I replied. “I haven’t been on a course on opening emergency exits.” Oddly, this didn’t seem to matter.
At the other end we queued for 30 minutes at Alamo to get our car, while the children conked out on the concourse, and then Roderic had to once again learn to drive an automatic, and how to drive on the right. Luckily out satnav worked. But it wasn’t looking good when we arrived at our resort either, at 2.30 a.m. local time, 6.30 a.m. on our body clocks. The security guard, whose job it was to check us in, was off on his rounds and nowhere to be seen. Eventually he appeared, and we were allocated unit 8-218, and very gorgeous it was too, although I’ll describe its wonderfulness another time.
The children were great, didn’t seem tired or make any fuss, but were happy to be tucked into bed all the same. But we hadn’t had a meal on the second flight (to our disgust) and were starving. So Gwen and I walked off to Walgreens at 3 a.m., confusingly full of energy and wide awake until we realised that our body clocks thought it was 7 .a.m – the time we usually get up – and had evidently decided not to bother with all that sleep malarkey. Crossing the road was a hair-raising experience with such a wide dual carriageway to cross. We had learned on our last visit that just because there was a picture of a little walking man somewhere on the distance horizon, didn’t mean some driver wasn’t going to do a “right on red” and mow down the unfortunate ignorant tourists. So Gwen shouted “leg it, Mother!” and we ran for our lives. Once safely inside Walgreens we spent $30 buying all those wonderful things we can’t get at home – Lucky Charms, oatmeal, Mountain Dew, Cheetos and a sandwich called “Ham provolone on rye”. (I only know what one of those things is, but it was all very nice.)
Our bed was so big that once we climbed in we found that we couldn’t reach each other. I commented to Hubby Dearest that I’d come and give him a cuddle, but I couldn’t afford the taxi fare.