Monday 18 December 2017

Nightwatch: Holiday nightmares

Ailbhe Malone

By the time this column is in print, I will be in Chicago. Not forevs, just for a holiday. Holidays = amazing. Preparing for holidays = less amazing.

Don't worry, this isn't going to be a 'hilarious' piece on online check-in and travel-sized shampoo. Rather, this is a cautionary tale, to check details once, twice, and then once again...

It is our final day in New York. We pack up our room and unload down into the reception to check out. "Eh, excuse me," says the receptionist. "You still have one night left in the hotel." We are indignant. He has scammed us! He has taken money from our credit card without our consent! We are leaving today, does he not know this? He claims that he can't do anything about it -- it is in the system, and it is not within his remit to give out refunds. In a mega-huff, we demand the contact details of his boss, promising that we will Follow This Up.

Using our final $5 to buy a slice of pizza, each for the journey back to JFK, we spent the entire trip to the airport discussing the hotel fiasco. Scamming us! Stealing our money! Land of the Free, my bottom!

We arrive at the airport check-in with time to spare. Confidently, we head up to the desk. "Hello! One flight back to London, please! Here's my passport," I open. The woman behind the desk eyes my passport, and then the computer screen. This goes on for a while. My fears begin to get to me. What happened on that lost Thursday in Williamsburg? Am I inadvertently smuggling knives? Eventually, her eyes rise to meet mine. "Honey," she says, "you're a bit early."

"Yes, of course we're early, we are punctual young things," I counter.

"No, you're a day early," she helpfully explains.

Oh fudge. Fudging fudge. We have no money. We have literally no money. We have a bag of American sweets that we've brought back for friends and family, and a bottle of gin. "Well then," my pal decides. "We'll spend the night in the airport."

"No we can't," I reply. "We can't spend 36 hours in the airport, and then fly home. We'll kill each other." We have to make a decision. We decide to ring our respective parents. Except nobody is home.

My friend sits down to have a little cry. I join in with the little cry. Once the crying is done, I order her to make a fortress out of our luggage, and stride off to see if my credit card can provide shelter for the night. I return, joyful. "Hallelujah!" I gleefully exclaim. "I have found lodging, and there is a free shuttle bus from the airport!"

And so it is that we end up in a Holiday Inn in Queens, sharing a double bed, watching films and eating a dinner consisting entirely of chocolate and gin. To be honest, if we weren't so poor and tired, this would be kind of great.

That is, until the room next door start to have a party. Who on EARTH has a party at 2am at an airport hotel? More importantly, who are these harridans who feel the need to have that party soundtracked solely by Beyoncé's Single Ladies? After half an hour, I grow fed up and ring reception. Speaking in my best grown-up voice, I complain heartily. Security come and confiscate next door's speakers. Amazing.

The next morning we're booted out of our room at 9am. We don't need to be (back) at the airport until 3pm. What to do? Buoyed up by a good night's sleep, we decide to explore the neighbourhood. We learn very quickly that our neighbourhood is perhaps best left unexplored. A rogue $5 has turned up in my coat pocket though, and we buy some lunch from a corner shop. Well 'lunch'. $5 isn't going to get anyone very far, aside from a large bag of crisps and a can of Coke.

Sated by Coke and crisps, we wearily bord the airport shuttle. As we sit and moan in the back seat, a fellow traveller turns and speaks to us. "New York -- best city in the world. Am I right, or what?" I shoot him a look that would kill, if it weren't so bleary. "Mister," I respond, "you have no idea."

Irish Independent

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