Saturday, 28 April 2007

Letter from America #1

I arrived at Heathrow 8.30am and decided that the best way to combat an eight hour flight was to quickly down three pints of Stella and hope to sleep as much as possible. I was drunk by 9.45. Having had no breakfast probably contributed to this. I was also in a terrific mood. I think it had just occured to me how lucky I am. Just to to cross the Atlantic so easily is a marvellous thing to be able to do but I have the added good fortune of being able to do this whenever I choose to. I have no-one dependent on me and am able to fly thousands of miles when I please. I'm a lucky man.

So, even though I'm about to embark on one of the unfriendliest journeys in the world I'm in a fine mood. I don't think I'm exaggerating about the nature of air travel to the states. There is no joking to be done. Everything is very serious. Check-in involves having to answer questions about whether I'm carrying any explosive devices. I have to remove my shoes and belt on two separate occasions. I have to inform the authorities of my whereabouts whilst in the US. The visa waiver form asks me whether I was involved in the persecution of Jews in central Europe between the years 1933 and 1945. At US border control I encounter a man who is in greater need of colonic irrigation than anyone else I've ever met. He looks like he's forgotten how to laugh and I pity him. There are probably fewer smiles on my journey than there are between North and South Koreans across their DMZ. I tell all this to my friend when I arrive and he says "You think that's bad? You're a white man coming from a friendly country..." I dread to think how it would be if my surname was Hussain.

All this might make it seem as if I had a crap journey but that would be untrue. I enjoyed the inflight entertainment (Casino Royale, MP3 player, beer and some light sleep) and didn't even mind the four hour stopover at Dulles airport. It gave me a chance to sit down and do some writing. As I wrote I became very aware that I was the only person using a pen and paper among a bunch of people with laptops. I felt like a relic. But I bet I was the only one doing something fun and not, for example, drafting a business proposal or using an expensive piece of hardware to play games where, traditionally, a pack of playing cards would suffice. Yeah.

The weather in DC had a distinctly English flavour - it was grey. That actually does a disservice to the lovely weather we've had lately. But however nice it's been it can never compare to Myrtle Beach weather. When I arrived the sun had just gone down. The air was balmy and there was the slightest of breezes to take the edge off of any discomfort that the humidity might cause. The weather in Myrtle Beach in late April is perfect.

Here is what I've done so far: Had a bbq on the day I arrived. Walked Ivor the dog on the beach the next morning. Had a meal at a Japanese restaurant called Miyabi's that actually had nothing Japanese about it apart from the name and decor. Driven an automatic transmission car for the first time on the right hand side of the road, also for the first time. And I've drunk lots of beer. As I type I'm feeling really tired. Everything aches. I should be at a bbq with Becky but I've blown it out as I don't think I'd be very sociable, especially among a bunch of Americans I've not met before. I feel really rude. Americans are lovely people. In my experience they're always interested in what you have to say and that is what I'd struggle to deal with right now in my weakened state. I just want to sleep.

1 comment:

Katie said...

Welcome to the US! Sounds like you had a standard flying experience while crossing borders. I remember when I went to Ireland I felt so violated by the amount of chaos that goes on to make sure you aren't a terrorist. It's so strange! But I supposed that is the world we live in these days, sad to say the least.

I've only been to Myrtle Beach once but had a lovely time there and cherished all the sun. It's a good thing you are there when it's not spring break for college can get a bit rowdy in those areas during those weeks.

Enjoy your vacation, I look forward to reading more!