And here’s how the England trip went:
On Friday, my wonderful parents picked me up from work and drove me to Dulles Airport, where I breezed through security and spent two hours lounging at the gate, watching Zeta Gundam on my laptop. I boarded my Virgin Atlantic flight and took a seat next to an older gentleman who was returning to Pakistan following a lecture here in the States. Quite a trip for him.
We had a minor incident on the plane: I woke up at one point and noticed the air crew
We landed at about 7:00 a.m. Saturday morning, so I grabbed a bus to my hotel and checked in at 8:00. I entered my room, attempted to switch on the lights in the bathroom to take a shower, and…nothing. None of the light switches worked. I tried the lamps in the main room; nothing. I figured I must be missing something obvious, so I worked up some courage and called the front desk. I explained to the nice woman that none of the lights came on, and she replied that I could get a
So I took a shower and, at 9:00, went down to the bar where we agreed to meet. After writing up a little sign that read “Syllable” and typing on my laptop for a few minutes, someone came up and asked if I was Brent Newhall. It was one of the Syllable guys.
We chatted very amiably for the next hour or so as others arrived. We maxed out at seven people, which I consider a rousing success for a
I want to make this point because I consciously avoided organizing this convention. I wanted to see if the community could
By 5:00 I could barely keep my eyes open, so I excused myself, returned to my hotel room, and fell into bed. I slept for a solid seven hours, waking up around midnight to doze and watch TV. Actually, BBC2 uses this time to air educational programming, so I was able to catch some fascinating programs about homeopathic medicine and good study habits.
My flight left at 11:00 a.m., so I set my alarm for 7:00 a.m., figuring that I probably wouldn’t even go to sleep again. But I did, and when my alarm woke me up at 7:00 I was quite groggy, so I set the alarm forward by half an hour and went back to sleep.
The alarm didn’t go off again.
So I woke up and blearily looked at the clock. 10:03. ACK! I threw everything together, grabbed a bus, and raced to the Virgin Atlantic counter, where a helpful Virgin employee came over and asked me which flight I was on. “11:00 to Washington,” I said. Her face fell and she replied, “That flight’s closed. Come on over here.” She sent me to the front of a line, where they verified that they’d just closed the door of my airplane. The only other flight to the U.S. was to JFK Airport in New York.
So, being Virgin Atlantic, they brightly and sympathetically gave me a ticket for that flight. No charge.
So I grabbed a meal and sat in the cafeteria for about an hour, absorbing this turn of events and letting my stomach and mind settle. Then I was pretty much okay; I went to the huge departure lounge, browsed the Virgin Megastore (where I could have bought some Angelic Layer) and watched some of the extremely disturbing children’s programming on the TVs set up around the lounge (this is worse than the Teletubbies. Imagine that for a moment).
(Okay, if your brain hasn’t exploded: Imagine five people dressed in big fuzzy neon outfits that make them look rotund. These outfits end in turtlenecks, and they look like babies, but the turtlenecks obscure everything except their big eyes and bald heads. In a flashy CGI sequence, they awake out of
I then got on the flight to JFK, which was on a 747 and much nicer than the plane on which I flew to Heathrow. The 747 had Virgin’s newest entertainment system, with 51 movies alone (among them Ghost in the Shell 2, actually). So I alternated between random TV programming, their
I arrived at JFK and decided I’d try to catch a train down to D.C. Everyone was thoroughly unhelpful, and I got confused and got on a bus to the Port Authority instead of Grand Central Station. I got back to JFK two and a half hours later. The bus did go through Times Square, though, so that was fun.
Times Square is interesting. It’s definitely a lot cleaner than it used to be; it’s bright and fun now. But the strip clubs are still only two blocks away. It’s an odd juxtaposition; bright neon advertisements for Samsung and Coke on one side, and “LIVE ADULT SHOWS” on the other.
Also, New York is not a particularly pretty city. There’s art everywhere, but the place feels grimy and worn, like a factory during the industrial revolution.
So as I journeyed through the city—and endured a
I returned to JFK and managed to find the Independence Air desk, where the ticket lady was nice enough to sell me a ticket right there. It was for a flight that wouldn’t leave for a couple of hours, but I was thankful just for that. I called my parents with the final details and sank into a seat at the gate.
Yesterday, I wrote that I’d planned to write about the difference in hospitality between the British and New Yorkers. Every customer service rep in England—and I had to deal with about ten, by my count—was unfailingly polite and genuinely paid attention to my requests (even the confused Holiday Inn receptionist). Every customer rep in New York was sullen and seemed to take personal offense at my requests (except the woman at the Independence Air ticket desk). The difference was shocking.
We had to walk out onto the tarmac and up the stairs into the plane. Not a
It started to snow as we boarded, and we sat anxiously in the plane as we waited to be cleared for
And that was my England trip.