It should’ve been plane and simple…

A few months ago my wife and I flew to the Spanish island of Majorca [or ‘Mallorca’] to attend my brother’s wedding. Well, it was also because we felt we had too much money in our bank account and a few grand just needed to go.

Majorca was such a close destination when I lived in the UK, and would entail a 3 hour flight and about 150 quid1 per person. From Las Vegas it was a 26 hour relay race of flights and fuckwits that cost around 2000 bucks2 per person.

Not the same.

Not even close.

Anyway, we couldn’t NOT go, so off we went. However, it wasn’t a journey we are ever likely to forget because so much went wrong.

(Whispers) SO much!

So come with me as I walk you through the levels of hell that Dante forgot about, and see just how undivine this comedy was.

Before I continue, I feel the need to introduce you to the concept of the ‘airport zombie’. These infuriating creatures are not dissimilar to the train zombies I used to write about so much, except these ones are dumber, slower and are found exclusively at airports.

Obviously.

These are people who choose to suddenly stop dead in their tracks so you have to do a weird little dance to avoid walking straight into the back of them. They turn in random directions without warning, shuffle around at the speed of stop, and generally show no sense of urgency as they meander about with their gaping faceholes open, sucking up all the oxygen and joy in the world.

So, back to our comedy.

It all started with our flight from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. This flight was very important because we would only have about 90 minutes at Los Angeles airport to connect with the crucial long haul international flight to Madrid.

So, naturally, it was delayed.

By 50 fucking minutes.

Oh, wait, no it was 30 minutes.

Wait, wait, my mistake…..45 minutes.

Nope, 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Hang on, hang on…..50 minutes.

Sigh, I love airports.

This wasn’t a stressful start to the trip at all. In addition, there was NOWHERE airside at Las Vegas airport to change our currency from Dollars to Euros in the 50/30/45/80/50 minutes we suddenly had available to us. I mean, why would there be? After all, who needs to change currencies at an airport, of all places?

I later discovered there is a teeny tiny Bureau De Change by the arrivals gate…..landside! So you can change money when you fly into Las Vegas, but not when you fly out.

Regardless, once we arrived in Los Angeles we had to get to Tom Bradley International Terminal. The problem was, Tom Brady International Terminal was a clear 30 minutes away, and we had 20 minutes before our connecting flight departed.

Needless to say, we had to run.

Actually, it was more like a slalom because of all the fucking airport zombies.

I think my wife decapitated one of them with her handbag [purse]. She denies it to this day, but I know what I saw.

So proud of her.

So much blood.

Anyway, we finally made it – panting and sweating – to Ted Bundy International Terminal and joined the queue of shuffling airport zombies boarding the flight; we’d made it!

Still nowhere to change our money though. Just thought i’d mention that.

It was at this point that a couple with two young children had a ‘moment’ where one of their little darlings fell off her pushchair [stroller], hit her head on the floor, and then decided to scream blue bloody murder until the paramedics arrived on bicycles, halting the boarding of our flight.

I’m still not sure why boarding was stopped. They weren’t even in the queue for our flight!

Anyway, after putting an ice pack on the little cherub’s head and calming down her parents (who were being SO dramatic and somehow blaming everything BUT their child to the point where you’d have thought she had been shot3), we were allowed to continue boarding our flight.

Despite the failed acrobatics of the pint-sized twat of a banshee, our flight departed on time and I settled into my seat to read Ernest Cline’s bestseller, ‘Ready Player One’. I was excited because I LOVE the movie and was looking forward to finding out how much it differed from the book.

(Side note: It was a LOT different to the movie but I love them both for different reasons. Anyway, this isn’t a book review site, so I shall continue…)

No sooner had I opened the book, than the guy in front of me put his seat right back and put an end to it. Thankfully it was an 11 hour flight and our seats didn’t recline because we were in the last row at the back of the plane section.

We arrived in Madrid almost an hour late and we had about 30 minutes to reach our connecting flight. The word ‘run’ became very commonplace with my wife and I by the end of this journey.

So did did the words ‘Get out of the way’, and ‘Fuck’.

We managed to FINALLY get off the plane after about 6 hours of waiting for more zombies to s-l-o-w-l-y pull their bags out of the overhead bins, and began the next leg of our run along the skybridge to the terminal. This was accompanied by shouts of ‘EXCUSE ME!’ and ‘SORRY, COMING THROUGH!’ from my wife and I, which parted most passengers, er, I mean zombies, like the red sea as we bolted along the narrow, enclosed walkway like a pair of deranged Moseses (Mosi?).

(shrugs)

Anyway, halfway along the skybridge we encountered two guys who were shuffling along at the speed of backwards, side by side and reluctant to move out of our way.

We KNOW they knew we were approaching because there was NO way they couldn’t hear us running up behind them, Moses-ing our way through the other considerate passengers who appreciated the stress and urgency of having to make a connecting flight.

My wife was able to get around them but, being a bigger guy, I lightly brushed one of these bell ends’ arm as I slipped past.

I didn’t think anything of it and continued running, until I heard one of them mutter something behind me.

Now, regular readers of my blog will know that I tend to internalise rage and frustration and then vent it all on here, instead of unleashing a verbal tirade at the person in the moment…but not this time; not after the flight we’d just had with 11 hours of non-reclining seats, no legroom and the inability to read my book.

I stopped in my tracks, whipped around and shouted “Well fucking MOVE then!” to the twat who was pointing to his arm and saying something in Spanish. I had literally brushed his arm with the lightest of lightest touches.

Being English, I would’ve normally apologised, but this time I wish i’d ripped his arm off so I had something to beat him with.

He tried to argue back, but a) I was bigger than him, and b)…..actually, a) was enough.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter. He’s a poo head. Let’s move on.

Passport control at Madrid was a joke, with no discernible queues [lines] and no decent signage. Thankfully we weren’t all sweaty, irritable and hot. I asked one of the employees (I use the term VERY loosely) if she could get us to the front because we now had 20 minutes to catch our flight, and there were around 150 people in front of us.

She looked at me with her dead eyes and uttered the one word that soon became synonymous with Spain; “No”.

I pleaded with her, but she just looked at me deadpan and repeated that word again and again. Annoyingly, while we were ‘talking’, two guys pushed past us, ducked under the multitude of ropes holding back the zombies and went straight to the front and through passport control.

I pointed at the guys who had the sense to ask forgiveness than permission and said, “Hey, look! They just did it!”, but this prize winning jobsworth just looked at them, then back at me, shrugged, and said….

Well, you know what she said.

So we waited….and we waited….and finally made it through passport control.

This was followed by more running.

So much running.

We had about 8 minutes left.

We made it to the domestic departure terminal and…..no screens. We couldn’t find anything displaying flights, times, gates or anything. Plenty of stores and zombies, but no screens. With no airport staff available to shrug and tell us ‘No’, we asked the closest store clerk where the departure information was, and she pointed to the ceiling, showing a huge 50ft wide screen with flight information.

OK, so this isn’t the EXACT one, but it gives you an idea of how it looked…

‘What a great idea!’ I thought, until I realised that they were only using 30% of the screen, and they had important, time sensitive flight information displayed on a slow….rotating….basis….

Screen 1 of 5…..
Screen 2 of 5…..
Screen 3 of 5…..

OH COME ON!!!!!

Screen 4 of 5….

Yes, that’s our informa…

Screen 5 of 5…..

Wait, what? The screen info was on there for literally 3 seconds!

This was so frustrating because the remaining 70% of screen real estate was taken up with stupid animations of paper aeroplanes and fish in a pond. It was the biggest waste of space I’ve ever seen. Up until then, the record had been held by that prick on the skybridge.

After the departure information had scrolled through another 10 screens, we were able to glimpse our flight and gate number and continue our run.

There was STILL nowhere to change our currency by the way.

We finally made it onto our final flight, coughing and wheezing like a fat guy in a gym, and arrived in Majorca a couple of hours later.

But the adventure didn’t end there. Oh, no it didn’t….

While we waited for our baggage, I decided to try and find somewhere to change up our money because, weirdly, Spain doesn’t tend to accept US Dollars.

I found a currency exchange booth and, luckily, there was no-one in it. It looked open for business, but the person was either out to lunch, on a break or maybe they had gone home? Who knows?

After 10 minutes of over-the-top neck craning and other movements that suggested I was keen to change money, a young woman appeared with a coffee in her hand and a uniform that matched the booth. Awesome.

She looked over at me standing there and shot me a knowing wink as she slowly moseyed over to the booth and entering through the unlocked door. I should’ve done that myself.

She put down her coffee, calmly sat herself down behind the desk, and then smiled and asked if she could help me.

No apology, you’ll notice.

I wanted to sarcastically ask her for a Big Mac, fries and a large drink…but I didn’t want to risk pissing off the ONE and ONLY currency exchange employee I’d seen in the last 5800 miles.

As we were staying with family, we only took $700 with us, so I handed it over and she told me that all she could do was give me a 500 Euro note (as that was “all they had”) and some loose change; she didn’t have anything smaller, apparently.

What if I’d wanted to change a smaller amount of money?

Anyway, being fatigued and not wanting to argue, I agreed and went back to my wife who was waiting for our luggage.

But she wasn’t there…..because neither was our luggage. It was lost.

Great.

She’d been told to check a different baggage carousel, but guess what? Yep, it wasn’t there either.

Perfect.

I went over to the Iberia airline desk and told them the exciting news. They didn’t appear to be surprised at all as they handed me a form to fill out. They told me that IF it turns up, they will deliver it the next day.

We’ll see.

Thankfully that suitcase didn’t have all of our clothing (including wedding attire), toiletries, swimwear, and gifts for our nieces because that would’ve been disastrous.

However, at this point we had been travelling for almost 24 hours, so I just wanted to pick up our car hire and get through the one hour drive to the villa where our family was waiting for us.

So we took the vague instructions given to us by the car hire company and went looking for them. They were going to be at a small desk at the entrance to the car park [parking lot] on the 4th floor. Easy.

It took us about 30 minutes to find the area, and when we did…there was no sign of them or their small desk.

Now what?

Then I had a thought, ‘My family who had come from the UK had used the same car hire company, so why not use the airport wifi to call them and see if they can give us better directions?’

Genius.

No signal in the car park, naturally.

So, it was a 10 minute walk back to the airport to get a signal.

As soon as we had the vaguest of signals, we called our family and they gave us completely different directions. We followed those and another 10 minutes later we were at a completely different place with no car hire company representative, or desk, or anything.

We went BACK to the airport to try and call them again, but the wifi was so ropey that it was virtually impossible to talk to them.

Bear in mind, it was about the temperature of the sun with over 300% humidity and we had been awake for almost 24hrs, so we were feeling pretty good about all this.

Finally we asked an airport trolley attendant and he pointed us in the right direction…which was the same fucking place we went to in the first place; the 4th floor of the parking lot. However, this time we had the added bonus of being told to “look for a blue shirt”.

We saw the representative in a blue shirt – who had been waiting for us the whole time – and made a bee line for their desk. Well, actually, it was more of a shelf than a desk. I can’t fathom how we missed it before! Maybe their fucking instructions should fucking include to ‘look for a blue {fucking) shirt’?

Or, maybe assume the couple standing there, looking around like idiots, are your customers and maybe ask if they’re picking up a car?

No?

Common sense not on the agenda?

Maybe it was the lack of suitcase that confused them.

Anyway, by this time we’d been running around for an hour and exhaustion was slowly starting to seep in, so we filled in the paperwork, were handed the keys to the car, and given the parking ticket to exit the airport.

Yes, we were responsible for paying the parking charges.

Sigh, fine. Can we just go?

So we went down the escalators to the 3rd floor where the car was located, and found the car park ticket machine. I put the ticket in the slot followed by my credit card.

The machine didn’t accept my credit card.

I tried it again. Same result.

I tried a different credit card. Same result.

So we went back up the escalators to the 4th floor, and back to the car hire desk, er, I mean shelf.

We were told to use a different machine on another floor which took change. Thankfully we had a little bit of change because I suspected the machine wouldn’t take a 500 Euro note.

We paid the ticket fee and took the escalators back to the 3rd floor to locate our car. Luckily the row numbers were painted in a very light, translucent yellow paint on the white walls of the car park, so it was really challenging to find our car. What fun!

But, after about 15 minutes, we found it.

So far it had been an hour and a half since we exited the airport.

We loaded up the car with, oh, wait…that’s right, no luggage.

We got in the car, I inserted the key in the ignition and turned it.

Nothing happened.

The car wouldn’t start.

I tried again…..nothing.

So, with rage in my heart, I left my wife in the car and headed back to the 3rd floor shelf. Apparently you need to hold the clutch down WHILE you turn the key. This is a new thing for cars in Europe and maybe, just maybe it would’ve been nice to TELL US THIS….along with ‘look for a blue shirt’.

So I headed back to the car, started it and drove to the villa…26 hours after checking in at Las Vegas airport. Ironically, the part of the journey I thought would be a challenge, wasn’t.

The next morning, as you can imagine, we had to buy some temporary clothes while we waited for our luggage to arrive, so we headed into the tourist area of town to find something cheap and cheerful. But guess what? Yes, that’s right, nowhere would accept a 500 Euro note, so it turned out we had too much money to shop there.

Not to worry, a local bank will change our money.

Nope. They wouldn’t change our money either as it was 11:38am when we got to the bank and they only perform banking transactions between 8am and 11am. At least, I think that’s what the woman in the bank was tersely barking at me in Spanish.

Then why…..THE FUCK…..were they still open? We would’ve offered to go back the next day, but it was the weekend and they would be closed.

Woo hoo!

So we had to borrow money from family, who had less money on them than we did! Worryingly, we couldn’t even put fuel in the car!

We did eventually get the money changed at a local hotel the next day, and I shed a small tear.

But there is a silver lining to this tale (well, more of a brown one); our suitcase finally arrived….the day after the wedding.

So that was nice.

1 – Slang for Pounds, like ‘Bucks’
2 – Slang for Dollars, like ‘Quid’
3 – It can be arranged

Thoughts from a non GQ reader

I once flicked through an abandoned copy of GQ magazine in an airport lounge.  Have you ever seen one of these behemoths?

I was bored and it was just there on the table I was sitting at, so obviously I was going to leaf through its pages.

At first I wondered why anyone would buy a brand new magazine and then leave it in the departure lounge.

Then I picked it up.  This was a heavy magazine!  Maybe the owner was worried it might prevent their flight from leaving the ground and left it behind.

I turned over the cover and was greeted with an advert.  Fair enough, plenty of magazines start with an advert.  This was followed by an advert, then another advert before moving on to numerous pages of adverts and adverts.  By ‘numerous’ I mean 22.

That’s right; the ‘Contents’ page was on page 23.

By this time I had this overwhelming urge to grow back some stubble, head back to duty free and buy a suit/watch/aftershave whilst pouting and looking intensely into the distance.  Maybe THAT’S where the owner of the magazine went?

I kept turning pages and eventually I found an article, on page 37.

This was ridiculous.  I was being bombarded with more images of men in various states of undress than I’d like.  I have a limit.  That limit is roughly 0.

I decided to test a theory.  I closed the magazine and then let it open at any random page.

Advert.

I tried again.

Another advert.

I flicked the magazine like a flipbook and stopped it randomly.

It was an article about a man who, whilst walking through the autumn leaves in his coat had decided to….oh no, wait, it was another advert.

What a infuriating, pointless and really, really, ridiculously good looking waste of my time.

zoolander-poses

A funny thing happened on the way to the airport…

Sat in the cab on the way to the airport, we stopped off at a cash machine to draw out some money to actually pay the driver.

I collected my funds, got back in the taxi and opened my wallet to put the notes in.

“Ha”, I said to my American wife as I wedged the English tenners next to the US Dollars already in there, “this money is like us”.

In a strange, romantic way it made me think of us, together in this wallet we call life.

She peered at the notes and said “What, pale?”

It’s true, we really need this holiday.

Buddha, broken legs and bell-ends

There are some mornings, like yesterday’s, that really highlight all the things I love* about sharing my train journey with people.**

It started with the loud group of lads who boarded the train at Gatwick Airport; five young, loud examples of British testosterone…in shorts.

Fortunately I’d chosen not to sleep on the train that morning, apparently. It seemed I was only closing my eyes for effect; of which it had none.

As much as I’m not a fan of loud people on the train having loud conversations with each other, I was willing to forgive them as it was clear they were at the end of their time together and were still buzzing.

We’ve all done it.

We’ve all been there.

What I was not willing to forgive was three of them sat at one table (randomly leaving a blank fourth seat) with their suitcases piled high like a massive game of duty-free Jenga, one sat across the aisle from them at the other table next to a man reading his book (with two remaining empty seats) and the last one sat three rows back behind my wife and I.

Where’s the sense and logic in that?

The train was practically empty, so why didn’t they just sit together?

Maybe a couple of them wanted to sleep?

Maybe they’d fallen out and argued on their holiday resulting in that awkward silence the rest of us were so desperately hoping for.

Nope.

They just continued to have their loud conversation across the entire carriage about ‘Natalie’ and ‘Gabriela’ and ‘Sam’, and who had added who on Facebook.

It’s OK guys, feel free to be as loud as fuck because I’m clearly not sleeping and that bloke at the table you’ve sat next to is clearly not reading his book. I think he’s more than happy to just sit there and admire the pretty words.

As expected, their conversation was the usual inane recounting about specific events of their holiday, whilst being extremely vague.

“What about that bloke at that place with the thing who seemed to be in every bar; the one that thought he was black but wasn’t!?”

“Oh yeah!” (said the other four, in unison)

Yeah? What about him?

Nothing. That’s what…nothing.

Soon enough the train started to get busier and the seats and aisles started filling with other commuters also discovering they didn’t wanting to sleep or read either, especially those who had chosen to sit in the empty seats confusingly left vacant by these flip-flop’d fools.

And speaking of vacant; these socially challenged pretty boys*** continued to buck the rules of public transport etiquette by communicating at top volume until their poorly chosen seating arrangements finally got the better of them and they (for want of a better phrase) shut the fuck up.

Ah, bliss.

This meant I could sleep.

But wait, no it didn’t.

You see, the woman in the seat in front of me had this weird habit of banging her head on the headrest of her seat as she spoke to her colleague. It was like she’d rest her head after every sentence, thus continuously bumping the seat.

I’d never seen someone with the utter inability to keep her head still while she talked.

It wasn’t a weird tick or anything, as I would never mock the disabled, but she just gestured a lot and then kept bumping her head against the headrest at the end of every sentence.

“That’s a really good point”
*bump*
“But maybe we should evaluate the business model further?”
*bonk*
“I feel we should raise the matter in the meeting this afternoon”
*donk*
“Don’t you?”
*thud*

It was non stop.

So why was this an issue for me? Well, being 6ft tall my knees were pressed up against the back of her seat, so every 2 or 3 seconds I would get a wake up nudge from this bobble headed bint.

I thought about breaking off my legs and beating her to death with them…

*thwack!*

…but instead I somehow managed to fold my legs under me like a contorted Buddhist and closed my eyes again.

As I placed my head back onto my own headrest I felt a weird, bumpy texture.  My brain registered that it was actually the back of someone’s hand. The man stood in the aisle next to me had strangely placed his hand on my seat’s headrest, right behind my head.

Of course, with a whole network of handrails and handles to hold onto, it makes sense to steady your balance on someone’s seat; right behind their head!

Anyway, I jerked forward (as anyone would), turned to look up at him and, being very British, apologised.

In fact, we both did.

His was sincere.

just shut up

* loathe

** idiots

*** the sort of guys with a more comprehensive beauty regime than most women.  I swear one of them had shaved arms.

 

Killing him softly….

My dodgy stomach has been no fun on this trip. When I finally made it through all the security checks at Orlando International airport, I made a dash to the mens room for the inevitable.

Having negotiated all the same wet toilet seat issues from my blog on the 11th of December, I sat down to my Jamaican attraction; Dung River Falls.

I flushed, stood up, wiped my brow, caught my breath and my balance, unlocked the stall with the massive gaps (11th Dec blog) and opened the door.

Oh no.

Oh no, oh no, oh no.

There was a guy waiting for an empty stall, and I’d just vacated one.

I looked at him with a sense of sadness and guilt. I wanted to hug him and, whilst holding back tears, wish him good luck.

His family are going to miss him.

Cuba stard! Pt. 3

This is a follow on from the last two entries.

It just gets better and better.

We land in Nassau 25 minutes late and taxi to the gate. So far so good(ish); I can probably still make my flight.

Then, stop.

There’s an issue with getting the walkway up to the plane door, so we stand there and we wait for another 15 minutes. I’m getting worried now; my connecting flight leaves in 45 minutes!

We finally get off the plane and I power walk towards the baggage claim area like a man possessed, through the newly built wing of the airport.

Then, stop.

The security doors are locked and neither of the security staff can open them with their electronic flashy beepy key card passes. Shit! We stand there for another 10 minutes while someone goes and gets what’s called a ‘key’, and hey presto, the door opens! Magical!

With only 35 minutes until my flight, I hit a full sprint…which is great considering we were at the furthest gate from ANYWHERE!

The good news is that my bag is already there waiting for me at baggage claim, with an “oh there you are!” look on its face. Hooray! I grab it and run, with my case hopping from left wheel to right wheel in a manner threatening to capsize at any moment!

Then, stop.

A queue for customs. I bite the bullet and, whilst panting heavily and sweating like a whore in church, I ask the line of people if I can jump in front of them as I have a flight in 10 minutes. The woman at the front made it clear she was not happy by looking me up and down and scowling, but the customs lady heard me and beckoned me to go next. Ha! In your face scowling woman! The customs lady asked if I had any alcohol or cigarettes and then sent me on my way. I picked up the sprint where I left off and bolted through arrivals and out into the Bahamian air.

Whew! That is HOT!

No time to stop and catch some rays; I run into departures and straight up to the BahamasAir check-in desk, panting and wheezing like a priest on a whore.

Then, stop.

The flight is now closed.

Aaaaaaarrrrrgh!!!!!!

I pull out the big guns; giving the ultimate puppydog eyes, pleading and (which is what I think swung it for me), pointing out that it was THEIR flight that caused me to be late.

It worked and I got my boarding pass! She smiled and said, “now go to gate C51” like they do in the movies when they say “now go get her and tell her you love her!”. I ran my fastest run, knowing my beloved was waiting with wings open wide.

Interestingly, US customs and immigration was a breeze….and unexpected as I thought I would get it at the other end, not in Nassau. Oh well, less hassle in Florida I guess.

I then continued to run; my lungs bursting with the fast pumping of oxygen passing through them.

I can see the Departures board. It’s just up ahead! I’m nearly there! It’s gonna happen! This journey from Satan is almost at an end!

Flight delayed for 45 minutes.

I stood there, looking up at the screen, dripping with sweat, panting so hard that nearby kids were passing out from oxygen deficiency, and I could only do one thing.

I laughed.

I mean I really laughed out loud.

The family next to me were shielding their children from the strange laughing man, but I didn’t care. I just stood there and let out a big hearty laugh.

Brilliant. I couldn’t have ended this story any better. Irony had handed me the perfect conclusion to this episode of my journey.

Looking around me I suddenly realised I was technically in the States; there was a Wendy’s, a Quiznos, a Dunkin’ Donuts and more. But best of all, I was just happy that everything was clean, shiny and air-conditioned. I ventured into the toilet and there weren’t shit spattered bowls, piss covered floors and water-free taps.

Heaven.

I can wait 45 minutes. After all, I’ve got to get my breath back.