So my final day had arrived. Very little of it would be spent on American soil, and even less in New York. I was flying out of Newark airport and while that is considered one of New York’s three airports, it’s actually in New Jersey, a totally different state. Just like flying out, it was another early start, about 4.30am again. Although I set two alarms on my mobile phone, I actually didn’t need either of them and woke in good time to be able to turn the alarms off, and without waking so early that I should have slept any longer. I’ve no idea if anyone else does it. It may be that everyone does and no-one has told me this, but I find it very useful. I’ve even managed to catch late night sporting events by waking up in time for them to start.
There wasn’t much to do in terms of packing. I’d done that the day before, though I’d had to do some rearranging so that the new suitcase for all the stuff I’d bought didn’t too overly full. Packed away the last few bits and pieces that I had to and headed to the subway station. It was a fairly cold morning, but nothing unbearable and the subway was always going to be relatively warm. That it is open 24 hours a day means that it is a bit of a home to the homeless at night, especially in the winter. They don’t cause a hassle. They just sit or lay on the benches and go to sleep. There’s no campaign to chuck them onto the streets where they would freeze to death. Some sleep on benches that are right next to the help desks that are staffed the majority of the day, and are normally still staffed when the homeless settle down for the night.
I didn’t see above ground again until I arrived at the AirTrain connection. To my surprise, when stepping out of the train onto the platform, there was about half an inch of snow, with more falling. It was time to regret my luck for the first time. Don’t get me wrong, this was nothing to do with snow at the airport and the possible consequences of that. I genuinely didn’t care about that at all. What I was regretting was that the snow had come a day too late for me. The photos of Central Park covered in snow would have rounded off the trip quite nicely in relation to the photos I’d been taking. Still, can’t have everything, and I’m sure there would be another opportunity.
Airports in the early morning are normally quite boring affairs, and Newark is no different in that respect. Before security and check-in there’s a few shops and cafes. Afterwards, well that’s a different story entirely! When dropping off my bags at the check-in one of the assistants was providing passengers with information for after they had checked in. One of the comments being that there was ‘dining opportunities once through security’. Well it wasn’t a lie. However a lot would depend on what you classed as a dining opportunity. If you can count what would be considered a newsagents (selling the usual chocolates and sweets), and what appeared to be a portable table and cold stand offering sandwiches, bagels and chilled fruit selections, then yes there were dining opportunities. I won’t moan about the shops after security being shut, it was, after all early in the morning. Sorry, that’s a typo there. That should read shop. All there was, apart from the ‘newsagent’ and the ‘sandwich bar’ was a duty free shop, and not a large one from the looks of it either (baring Tardis like capability). Given that Newark is an international airport there is a distinct lack of facilities. Even Luton and Stanstead have far more to offer once through security. So I sat, created the bagel with cream cheese that I’d bought (yes, had to buy and apply the cream cheese myself), and watched the snow continue to fall. Gradually the Empire State Building, clearly visible at first disappeared through the murk, and then the rest of the Manhattan skyline. Eventually even the turnpike to the airport had vanished in the grey.
I did wonder if the snow would create problems. I was needed at work on the Monday morning and not being there wouldn’t be appreciated. Boarding started more or less on time, so everything seemed to be fine. Planes were being towed out to the runway, but it was nothing major. Everyone’s on board in good time and we’re even congratulated by the captain for managing to get to the airport and onto the plane despite the weather. However that was as far as we were going to go for a while. The plane needed de-icing. Now part of me had this image of someone out there scraping the windows of the cockpit down with a credit card. Sadly out of my window a credit card never came into view. I assume they had all been used up on the sales a few days earlier. However they did have what was, in effect, a massive spay can of de-icer. It actually didn’t take long to spray the plane down. Unfortunately they had missed a bit, and by the time this was noticed by the ground crew, it was on another plane, so we had to wait a bit longer. Eventually the spray can on wheels came back and got the job complete. Another quick check and it was all systems go, ninety minutes late. It didn’t matter too much. The winds up at altitude were such that we caught up an hours worth of flight (about 6 hours rather than 7) while in the air.
Landing at Gatwick a little late was ok. Given how rocky the flight had been, fast tail winds come with a cost, we were down safely in one piece and happy to be on terra firma. Sadly delays were going to be a bit of a theme for the day. Already we’d been delayed taking off. Now we’d have trouble getting to the stand. There was a plane in the way. It should have left, but they had a problem. They had a passenger who was a fool. Well, they should have had a passenger who was a fool. The problem was the fool wasn’t on board. You can probably see why I think they were a fool. Eventually the plane left without them and after half an hour on the tarmac, we got our stand. Everyone on the plane was just relieved that this other person didn’t have any hold luggage to take off. If we’d passed him in the terminal complaining about the plan leaving I suspect he might not have survived the verbal mauling from my fellow passengers.
Home was calling me and I was eager to be heading that way, but fate decided to deal me one more blow in the form of another delay. The conveyor belt in baggage reclaim broke. I could see the luggage on the ramp; I just couldn’t get to it. Thankfully this was the shortest of the day’s delays. Soon I was reunited with all my luggage. Customs was a little bit of a worry given how the day had been going, but they didn’t seem to care how large the suitcases from the US were, the place was more or less deserted. Maybe they realised what we’d been through and were taking pity on us.
An hour later I was home and clearing out the junk mail from the doorstep. Sad to be back in many respects, but knowing that there was far more I could do back in New York and that I would in all likelihood be heading back there at some point in the future.