Getting there is half the hassle
This is the first of what may be a big or a small number of travelogues relating to our trip to Hong Kong, New York, Orlando, Boston, Cuba and back to Hong Kong again to get rid of the last of our money if we haven’t done so previously.
For me, the big drawcard will be visiting New York. I’m actually going there under a court order, as you’ll read in the story below; apologies if you’ve seen it already.
And for those new to my travelogues, I must warn you that I am duty-bound to report regularly on hotel toasters, not only a subject dear to my heart but destined to become part of a bestselling book on the subject in the future. Moreover, I have a personal friendship with Derek Breadchamber, hotel toaster critic for the New York Times. He often quotes me in his lectures.
This morning we set out for a 10.05 am departure from Sydney via Cathay. The flight arrived late owing to a loose rear lefthand sprocket and didn’t depart until 11.20. However, this delay gave me a great opportunity to spend time in the Qantas business class lounge where I observed that the ‘free’ wi-fi didn’t work, the toaster was inoperative owing to scheduled maintenance, (de-crumbing, WD40 on bearings, checking belt speed) and the coffee machine was making self-determined cups of frothy white tasteless liquid because it had a full tank of spent coffee grounds and was registering a protest.
Eventually we boarded, not an A380 or a Dreamliner or nostalgic old Jumbo, but an Airbus A330, a small-medium machine designed to pack’em in. There is no first class on this aircraft. Business is the best they’ve got, earning the designation of Fisness Class. Across the cabin, there is one seat, an isle, two seats, an isle and one seat. In order to turn the solo seats into beds, they are angled at 45 degrees to the fuselarge, which gives the curious sensation of flying around an endless curve. Although I didn’t try to convert the seat into a bed for the Hong Kong leg, I suspect it would be suited to people with slender triangular bodies, or pehaps those with one leg – when I looked into the diminishing little cave at the far end. I hope we get something better for Hong Kong to New York.
Now to the story…
I was at my tennis club a few weeks ago, having a late afternoon drink with other exhausted players when the subject of travel came up. I have observed that when you clearly have one foot in the grave you are expected to tourist-travel until you run out of money, or are unable to walk, or can’t escape from the nursing home.
Our after-game discussions solve the problems of the world every week. The tennis club members could run the country if only the country would let them. And so into this boisterous, good natured and noisy conversation I quietly announced that we were planning to travel. Ah, I had introduced a favourite subject. The volume of the babble rose. They all wanted to tell travellers’ tales. Through the uproar somebody asked me where we intended to go.
“New York,” I replied above the din. That spawned nods of approval. “You see, I’ve never been to New York,” I added quietly.
The clubhouse immediately fell silent. Everybody was staring at me. The president, who was sitting at the next table, stood up.
“What did you say?” he snarled, ashen faced.
“I said, I’ve never been to New York.”
“Lying bastard!” somebody called from the bar. “Do you expect us to believe that you’ve never been to New York?”
“It’s true,” I said, “but I had a stopover in Los Angeles once. And I’ve been to Melbourne several times.”
“That’s not New York!” the nimble footed captain of the club yelled, and ran outside to shout at the players still on the courts, “Fraser McEwing has never been to New York!”
The president, still standing, picked up a racket and pointed it at me. “Pack your bag and get out of here right now,” he warned through gritted teeth, “before I beat you to death.”
After the tennis club episode, I decided to have a quiet Saturday night at home. I was in my tartan flannelette pyjamas fixing myself a stiff Southern Comfort when powerful blows shook the front door. I opened it to find four policemen on my porch, two with pistols drawn.
“Are you Fraser McEwing?” the front one with the headlight eyes asked.
“I am,” I said.
“Good, then I am arresting you.”
“I am surprised you don’t know, sir. You are being charged with never having been to New York.”
“Are you taking me away with you?”
“Yes sir, to a cell, immediately. Hold out your hands so I can cuff you.”
“But I’m in my pyjamas.”
“You should have thought of that before.”
I could feel my wife behind me. “What’s going on?” she cried.
“I’m being arrested.”
“I can see that, but what for?”
“For admitting I’ve never been to New York.”
She stepped back, her hand to her mouth. “You idiot,” she hissed between her fingers, “you never tell anybody that. It’s a very serious offence.”
The hearing was over pretty quickly. I refused Her Majesty’s offer of a barrister and threw myself on the mercy of the court. I thought about pretending that I had once been to New York but I didn’t have a passport stamp, or traveller’s cheque butts or a Big Apple tee shirt as proof. I would have had perjury added to my crime, so I decided to shut up and take my punishment.
The judge gave me five years, commuted to six months community service in a travel agency on the proviso that I visited New York within one year and one day of the sentence.
We’ve booked for next April.