Thursday, 28 April 2011

New York.....a brief encounter.

My crazy but enthusiastic friend wanted to see New York. She, travelling from the UK and I, from Canada. Amazingly we managed to book flights to arrive at the same airport at approximately the same time 6 weeks before the event. I say amazingly because she a) never does anything in advance, b) is generally internet inept and c) rarely stops talking for long enough to squeeze in sensible conversation.


So - we arrive. Needless to say we haven't arranged a meeting point in JFK airport but, under her advisement, would 'sort something out when we get there'. Amazingly, and after only walking four or five miles I find her. My first thought was delight - I had missed her. This was quickly followed by 'what the hell is that?' She had a suitcase from the 1980's. I'm sure it was de rigueur then and probably one of the first suitcases with wheels but now it simply looked....well.....awkward. It was big and green and had a handle on one corner with which you dragged it along. Escalators were not going to be an option.


We managed to find our way to the shuttle train. She wanted to take a bus. She didn't know which one but said we 'should be able to find out'. I insisted on the shuttle train and then the subway - I had done my research and it looked straightforward. I hadn't taken into account, of course, the 'person on the lines' who kept us bottled up in the train for 40 minutes. Nor did I pre-plan for the suitcase. Eventually we get to the subway near the hotel and step off the train. We look around for a lift but can't see one. I ask at a kiosk. His look of bewilderment then pity are answer enough. 
'We have to take the escalator.'
'Chuffin' Hell.'
We toddle off (well I toddle with my weekend bag and she shuffles with her third limb) towards the escalator. It wasn't working. Oh shit. We look at each other and laugh - a little high pitched in her case - before taking a deep breath and start to climb. I did offer to carry her bag but, thankfully, she declined. The only positive thing I can say about the next 15 minutes is that the staircase was interrupted every 10-15 steps by a 'landing' where we cursed, caught our breath, accepted commiserations from people going down, then picked up our bags and set off again.  Sweaty, tired and in need of a drink we arrived at the top. I had to use my considerable persuasion powers to make her then walk to the hotel. For some reason she was sure that a block was a mile long - the hotel was 3 blocks away. 
'A block isn't a mile'
'It is'
'Just trust me, it's not far.'
For someone who had just had her stuck on a train and lug her big green case up 6 flights of stairs I was pushing things a little. But we started walking. Five minutes later we were there; two sweaty women staggering towards a fabulous 5th Avenue hotel where porters rushed to take our bags. I resisted saying 'keep hers' only because the concierge was fawning over me so much I became a little self conscious. Did he think I was famous? He surely didn't think my mate was famous with a suitcase like that.


It soon became apparent that my mate's good mate who 'did something' at the hotel was, in fact, the Director of Marketing - i.e. he was responsible for bringing in and managing all revenue to the hotel which, it seemed, made him pretty important there. He had already got us an incredible deal but as we went to the reception desk we were told that we had been upgraded to an executive suite. Woohoo!! 
Then followed champagne and chocolate cake waiting in the room, my mate's obviously important mate there to greet us then transport us to the rooftop bar to have cocktails and nibbles amongst the financially blessed.  He pointed out Trump Tower, Central Park, the Chrysler Building....I took a photo of them both. This was going to be the BEST trip ever.


That night we ticked off one of her things to do in New York by going to an Irish Pub up the street from the hotel. At about 10.30 pm she turned off; her eyes glazed over, she started looking for trouble to get into....time to take her back. I steered her quickly past the guy on reception before she could get into what would be a long and ridiculous conversation which would end in her inviting him up to our room to listen to his troubles and raid the mini bar. After further bemoaning that there wasn't a kettle in the room (she'd brought her own teabags) we got off to bed. She woke me at one point to ask me if she had been snoring but other than that we slept well.


The next morning we planned our route...breakfast as soon as we came across somewhere nice and head towards Grand Central Station and the Chrysler building. We set off and almost immediately stumbled across the Rockefeller Centre. Photo opportunity. I had just taken my second photo of the trip, my mate next to the Rockefeller sign when my phone rang. It turned out to be my last photo in New York. It was my daughter saying 'don't worry but.....'. My husband had been taken into hospital.


I spent the next 3 hours trying to book a flight back and the following 3 getting home and to the hospital just as my husband was being discharged. He's fine. And he was a nicer sight to see than any in New York.


I did see Rod Stewart in the hotel foyer but spoil sport wouldn't let me explain to him that I was called Maggie May.