It's been a week since I left Florida and at long last I feel settled back in sunny Leeds as opposed to sunny Buttonwood Bay. Yes it really is sunny today and very nice it is too. It might only be 66F in the sun and so a tad cooler than I've been used to but hey, it's England in Springtime.
Sleet and maybe snow are forecast for the weekend !
Anyway, I said I'd say more about the trip back here last week so here it is.
To start with, Miami airport sucks. It really does. Like most major airports these days, it's a work in progress with new bits being added and old bits being upgraded. The result is an organised mess and following temporary signs is the order of the day.
I didn't help myself by having 3 wheeled cases and my camera bag to lug around and as any fool can see, 4 items and 2 hands do not compute. I did think about paying for a cart but the check-in desk was a few feet from where I'd been dropped off so I didn't bother. That was my first mistake.
The check-in desks I headed for turned out to be for poxy 1st class passengers and the snotty AA lady guarding it looked me up and down and instantly decided I wasn't a 1st class type at all. Oh no. Not in this lifetime, pal. YOU need to go along there and check-in with the other rabble.
So I dragged my reluctant luggage several hundred yards to join a heaving mass of humanity and Puerto Ricans who were all jostling to get to a personal check-in terminal which seemed to be the only way to get an AA boarding card. It was like dragging 3 supermarket trolleys as all 3 wanted to nip off to different parts of the concourse and when tugged into line, would just go all limp and fall over on their sides.
Have you ever tried to 'right' a fallen wheeled case with 2 others in tow ? Well let me tell you it's a nightmare. As soon as you twist the handle of the fallen case to get it up on its wheels again, one of the others will decide to take its place and it falls over too. Bloody cases are in a union. One over, all over. I headed off to find a free computer terminal with 2 cases on their sides and one on its wheels but in the knowledge that if I stopped and got the others upright, that one would just follow the union line and tip over.
I did have the advantage of bulk though and when a terminal eventually became free, me and my union members thundered towards it scattering Mexican families like nine pins. I so wanted rid of those cases.
I used the touch sensitive screen to enter my details and all was going well as for one thing, it recognised that I wanted to fly today. That was the high point as it then told me it couldn't print me a boarding card and I needed to see an agent. Didn't say why, just see an agent please.
Feeling somewhat dirty and unwanted, I approached an agent. Well I say approached but really my middle wheeled case fell on her foot which got her attention at least. I was told I needed to go to a check-in desk ( really ??) but wasn't told why I'd been singled out for this honour. So I joined the masses again and finally got to the desk.
With some relief I handed over my documents and put my cases on the weigh scales. I said a few unkind words to them and almost waved them goodbye while saying "see you in Leeds". Just as well I didn't as to my astonishment the agent said, "ok please take your cases over to the inspection area !!!"
What ??!!! Me ? Inspection area ?? You've got to be joking ????
She wasn't. So I hauled the cases off the scales and off we went to the inspection area. Given this extra time in the concourse, all 3 cases acted like frisky lambs in springtime and went their separate ways again. Thankfully the 'inspection area' wasn't as bad as I'd feared it would be and in fact I just had to pass the cases under a barrier where they were taken away to be branded or neutered or something. Contents stolen probably.
Finally they were gone and I was overcome with emotions on a par with grandparents who wave their grandkids off in the car taking them back to their parents after a week with them.
I was free, free I tells ya.
Unburdened, I fairly skipped along to explore the terminal but there wasn't much to explore so I headed for my departure gate. Security wasn't bad and nothing on me or in my carry ons caused a problem and I passed through in no time at all.
I was 90 minutes early at the gate and so I settled down to do what I like to do at airports. I people watched.
As you'd imagine, airports are huge melting pots of classes, cultures and cretins. You see people who shouldn't be allowed out into society and just hope and pray that they aren't your pilot. People dress up and dress down......and some look like they were dressed by Stevie Wonder. Prada handbags mix with WalMart carrier bags. Versace dresses mingle with Habitat castoffs. Gucci shoes give way to Woolworth flip flops. And that's just the clothing !!
What is it about male and female tree huggers and open toe sandals ?
The men usually have shaved heads and over compensate with unkempt ginger beards so long they have birds nesting in them. They wear brightly coloured knitted cardigans and corduroy trousers to give that 'we care about the planet' look. Ironically that's as far as their caring goes as they usually have 5 kids in tow and enough carry on luggage to hold 3 more as political refugees.
The females have unwashed looking hair tied back so they look like 1930's school teachers. It's held at the back with multi-coloured clips and bits of ribbon made at home by the eldest child who is called "Deciduous Forest." She is 'gifted' and so gets to be home schooled and thus looks remarkably like a clone of mommy.
The whole family will constantly dip into carry on luggage to find things to eat, play with or read. All the hours of careful packing back home in the treehouse counts for nothing as now they look like they've been mugged by case bandits and nothing is where it should be.
Mommy tree hugger wears a home made flowing garment that sags at the front as her hands are always in the pockets. And pockets ? These pockets hold everything including the kitchen sink. Tissues ? In a pocket. Candies ? In a pocket. Cucumber and lentil sandwiches ? In a pocket.
But get her at the end of a line where she's asked to show her boarding card or passport and she has to rummage around them all and takes 25 minutes to find them.
HAVE THEM OUT AND READY, YOU STUPID PERSON !!!!!
Then there are the skinny model types who just KNOW all male heads (and other bits) will be following them around the departure lounge. Their heads are so up in the air that they don't need a plane. They have a cell phone glued to their ears giving the impression that they are chatting to other important and presumably good looking friends and they talk so loud that they don't really need the phone. The fact that they've never learned how to turn it on and are holding it upside down doesn't seem to bother them.
They constantly walk past the same spot just in case someone new has sat down and hasn't seen them. They can't sit down as their skimpy tight shorts would disappear right up into a black hole (oh come ON people, it's an astronomical expression !!) and so, once onboard the plane, they have to lie across all 5 middle seats for the entire trip. I think that's the reason.
Obese people in wheelchairs up next. You never know if you need to extend them some sympathy as they might be disabled people who are obese or....well just fat people who can't walk. I wish it was ok to ask them.
"Excuse me, I was just wondering, are you disabled ?"
"No I'm not in the slightest. Why do you ask ?"
"No reason, you fat bastard"
Not very PC is it ? Of course, being British, if you suspect at all that they're 'just' obese and may be trying to get a head start down the gangway to the plane, you are definitely allowed to give them a very disapproving 'tut' as they do so. Maybe even a "tut tut" if you feel really strongly about it.
And what is it with the flight crew these days ? Their black uniforms always look so shabby and dull and if the braid on their sleeves ever looked golden and clean, those days are long gone. I don't want someone driving me at 37,000 ft wearing a shabby jacket !! Maybe that's why they take them off once they get settled and drive along in their crispy white shirts. Now that's a pilot !
And are ALL male flight attendants gay ? Not that I'm a homophobe or anything but I'm just asking the question. The cabin crew on my flight were gathered around waiting to board the plane which was being cleaned after the previous passengers had, to use the announcers own words, trashed it. The males were talking to each other and showing off watches and jewelry that they'd picked up cheap in Tokyo. One of these watches looked like a 2 inch square plasma tv screen which could probably pick up tv direct from the Nagoya Tower in Kyoto. He was showing it to everyone and of course was wearing a short sleeved shirt so the watch couldn't be missed.
Kids ! Loads of kids. This flight was leaving Miami remember and you only get more kids in Orlando airport. Their over indulgent parents are nowhere to be seen so little Chuck or Astrid are free to run around the departure lounge shouting and screaming like a flight attendant who has just had his watch nicked. You just want to stick out your leg as they run past and send them flying into the lap of 'not really disabled' obese man so he gets wheeled away as a potential paedophile. The family has to go as witnesses of course so it's a win-win situation and everyone claps appreciatively.
I'm tired. I'm old. I'm stressed out. I just don't like kids at airports. Shouldn't be allowed to fly ! Bah humbug.
Finally I caught sight of guitar man. I say man but he was barely that. He was sitting across and slightly behind me so I'd not spotted him before. His guitar was part of his carry on luggage I assume but surely that didn't give him the right to play it in the departure area. He was busking for goodness sake and that's not on ! I mean if I want to hear some barely shaving punk kid plucking guitar strings and calling it music, I'll get my folding chair out and sit near any tunnel in any subway system in the world.
As it happens, he must've had a mute button on his guitar as although his fingers were moving the strings, I couldn't hear a thing. Brilliant. He was singing too but again I never heard a note.
Double brilliant. Of course I could be going deaf. Not so brilliant.
And so we boarded the plane. 1st and business class passengers first. Families with small children. Disabled and/or obese people in wheelchairs. Wow watch those chairs move !
Then the rest of the cattle get allowed on. They call us by seat rows but no one takes a blind bit of notice and so you end up squeezing down the narrow plane passageways having to wait while everyone in front of you tries to push their entire house contents up into the overhead compartments. Why can't we all just be allocated large numbered cards to go over our heads with our seat numbers on them and then we could board in order from the rear of the plane and avoid all this hassle ? Rocket science.
So I settled down for my 9 hour flight in my cramped seat (NOT the one I'd carefully picked out and had allocated to me 6 months ago when I booked) that was so far back I was up against the tail gunner. My companion next to me was a basketball player sized, non English speaking Johnny Foreigner who only 'spoke' to me once and that was when he wanted me to move so he could go to the toilet. He must've been holding it in since Guadalajara as he was in there for 25 minutes. At one point images of "Con Air" came to me and I was as relieved as he obviously was when he just came back and sat quietly in his seat.
The flight was long and time dragged. Yes there were personal video screens and about 20 movies or more to watch but AA have a stupid system where all the movies are running continuously so you have to jump in to get one and just hope you get it at the start. You can't pause it so when they come round with food (ha !) or drinks or just to shatter your elbow with the duty free trolley, you miss chunks of the movie. And your elbow.
At Heathrow I was overjoyed to know that I'd not be reunited with my cases and that they were going on to Leeds without me even seeing them. Of course this joy was tempered by the worry that I'd not be reunited with them in Leeds either !
The flight to Leeds was hardly worthy of the name as we were probably airborne for all of 25 minutes but after 9 hours from Miami, I wasn't complaining. There were only about 20 people on board and so we basically all had a row each.
While standing at the luggage carousel in Leeds airport, I sort of recognised the guy standing next to me. We made eye contact and he smiled at me but it was obvious he didn't recognise me either. It's me you fool ! The blog guy.
I knew he was a cricketer but just couldn't remember his name. Looking at his wife didn't help as I'd never met the woman. The bags started coming around on the carousel and his main one was easy to spot - a huge red and white sports bag with England Cricket Team plastered down one side. Should've been his name. That might've helped a bit.
Anyway we hugged, promised to keep in touch and went our separate ways. I've just googled his description (Yorkshire and England blonde haired batsman who hugged me at LBA) and it threw up the name of Matthew Hoggard, for that is who he was. And still might be.
I can just imagine him in t'locker room at 'eadingley at the start of the season when players are all exchanging stories.........
"I met blog man. Can you believe it. I really met him. He was right next to me at Leeds airport and I just couldn't remember his name. We hugged and everything but the bastard still hasn't written"
Ahhhhh such bright little moments can brighten an otherwise dreary journey.
I know it's one he'll never forget.