When we last left our intrepid training camp explorer, he’d left the Bills facility on Sunday afternoon and was heading to Rochester Airport (upstate New York, not the one near Comet in The Garden of England) to make the 45-minute hop to JFK at 6pm to race across the terminal to get an 8pm flight back to London to arrive early on Monday morning. Easy, right? Wrong…
Oh, this can’t be good. [Ping] Phone notification from TripCase – your flight details have changed. Uh-oh, they’d better not change too much, I’ve not got long between flights. 20 minutes later… [ping]… OK, this is looking bad.
In these situations, you see people fall into two camps. One group is the complainers – usually American (no offence), of which members make it their aim to transfer their anger and frustration at the poor unfortunate who happens to be manning the gate desk, hundreds of miles from the plane that’s failed to take off because of that nasty old lightning.
The other stall – it may be a British thing – politely takes their punishment and resignedly gets put on whichever flight they can be put on, not particularly caring that it’s Air Goat to Antwerp, followed by Shitpiece Airways back to Stansted (+ three days). I imagine these’ll be the same people curled up and weeping in a corner when the apocalypse comes. And come it will, you mark my words.
“I can get you on a flight to Detroit tomorrow at 12noon and then from Detroit to Heathrow,” says Mr Delta (probably not his real name) at 6pm Sunday.
“But that won’t get me back to London until Tuesday,” says me (real name).
[Keyboard tapping noises, concerned faces] “I can get you on standby for a flight to JFK tomorrow at 5am – I’d stay here rather than leaving the airport, Security gets really busy in the morning, which is why I think you’ve got a good chance of getting on the 5am flight. Then you’ll get the 8am flight to Heathrow, getting you in at 7pm.”
I sit, staring at my Air Goat ticket. OK, it’s now 6pm, that’s 11 hours to kill. [Googles driving directions from Rochester to JFK] Orrrrrr, I could hire a car and drive to JFK in six hours and be ready for that 8am flight. Standby or lengthy drive. Chance it or do the equivalent of a drive to Cornwall in an evening. Remain where you are or do a similar drive to the one you did last year on the West Coast from LA to San Francisco. You remember, the one where you woke up at the wheel several times and had to stop every 20 minutes for two hours before stopping at a rest stop and having a nap, all the while fearing for your life.
Fuck you, Air Goat! I’m going to drive this motherlover.
The familiar face at the National counter looks confused.
“Yes, I need a car that I can drop off at JFK please.” Politeness costs nothing.
“Flight cancelled huh? The smallest thing I have left is a truck, but I can let you have it for the price of a compact.”
Keys in hand, I’m greeted by the sight of the beast that is the Dodge Ram, a monstrous five-seat pick-up truck for the UK uninitiated. Wide roads, I think, I’ll be fine. Resisting the urge to toss my luggage into the truckbed, I load up. Then comes a swift look around to check no-one’s watching in case climbing up into the driver’s seat like Jimmy Krankie getting on a chair goes badly.
Upon my throne, I survey the digital radio, try to fathom where the gearstick’s gone, hook up the phone charger and wedge the iPhone 6 Plus – remind me again why I got the big one – into the dashboard so I can see it. Crank up Googlemaps, pop SiriusXM NFL Radio on and away we go. Verrrrrrry, verrrrrrrry slowly and carefully, this thing is FUCKING HUGE!
Having safely exited the car lot, I hit the open road. And lovely it is too. Cows, fields (meadows rather than WC) and some incredible place names – hi, I’m Irondequoit Killawog. I went through Brighton, Manchester, past Waterloo, across the lake from Liverpool and past Moscow – where do they come up with these crazy names?
I listened to the excellent Gil Brandt and Alex Marvez on SiriusXM, I found some more K-Ci and JoJo and an awesome funk station. I watched the sunset. I panicked a bit. I stopped for a snooze two or three times at rest stops. I ate some nuts. NB: The last sentence is in no way related to the sentence prior to it.
The roads were wide, even with the jumbulo wheelbase the Ram was packing. Wide that is until I hit Upper Manhattan and The Bronx at around 1am. Right about then I was craving the Fiesta I’d dropped off hours earlier.
Still, I made it to JFK intact and with a second wind generated by the achievement of not dying on the road.
I made my way into the terminal to find the Virgin desk deserted but the Delta (they’re partners, you know) desk abuzz with five members of staff. I explain the situation to the first, second and third people who attempt to help me. They fail. Finally, the woman who was on my side of the desk, clearly waiting for the others to knock off at 2.30am (15 minutes away), grabs the initiative and my ticket.
Several calls later, the Rochester to JFK leg of my itinerary is wiped from the system so as not to confuse it and I just need to check in with Virgin when they open at 4am for my 8am flight home. So far, so smooth.
Except Virgin opens at 5am. And the system is far from unconfused. Virgin employee 1 looks befuddled. Virgin employee 2 talks gibberish to me – I kindly point out that he’s come back to the wrong desk and that he was dealing with the two lads to my right. Virgin employee 3 can’t work out what to do with my bit of paper and now I’m on my way to Virgin employee 4 out of the check-in area. This. Cannot. Be. Good.
“You’re not booked on this flight.”
“Delta haven’t booked you on this flight. I’ve got you on a Rochester to Detroit and Detroit to Heathrow flight. You’re in the wrong airport.”
“No. I’ve driven for six hours through the night to the RIGHT airport. Can you just book me on to this flight please?”
“It’s overbooked, I’m trying to get people off it. So even if Delta could correct it, they won’t be able to get you on this one anyway. Even First Class is full.”