"Honey! I'm home!"
TIPS FOR THE INTERNATIONAL TRAVELLER:
AVOID STRESS AND REDUCE THE EFFECTS OF JET-LAG ON OVERNIGHT
FLIGHTS, TO OR FROM, THE CONTINENT
Wesley Snipes in "Waiting to Exhale"
1. GET A GOOD SLEEP, THE NIGHT BEFORE DEPARTURE
"Janwhatimedoyouthinkitisenyhou?" Lillian asks over the din.
"Wha? I can't hear you," I shout. "Let's move outside!"
On the street, outside The Market Bar (www.themarketbar.co.uk),
in downtown Nottingham, things are nearly as loud and raucous
as inside the club where they are hosting "Jazzy Beats Funked
Up Grooves & Soulful Treats", featuring selected bottles or shots
for a quid, and music by Simon the Vinyl Junkie & Friends. We've
been in the club for about an hour, trying to soak up as much
Friday night-life as we can before we have to drive down to
Heathrow airport in London, tomorrow. So far, we've been to
"MediaFriday" at The Elite Building which had Trevor Nelson with
DJs Hanif + DJ Diggz; the Academy, featuring "MOTION", a night of
funky progressive house; LizardLounge, in the Lace Market district,
where we found Jelly shots and Flavoured vodkas, one pound each, along
with "soul-laden, floor filling jazzy breaks; "Bubblelove" (bubblelove.net)
or (medianottingham.com) hosted by Judge Jules of Radio 1, London,
featuring the "Silicon Free Erotic Dance Company" and "the infamous
Bubblelove Show", which definitely lived up to its name. We started
the night, hours ago, at Fletchergate, a blues club that had
Guy Davis, playing "real music in a digital world". If we can hold
we plan to catch Orphy Robinson's Code 5, featuring Jean Toussaint,
at The Bomb (www.thebomb.twelveten.com) before calling it a night.
"Jan, what time IS it?" Lillian asks again.
"Uh, let me check my watch. Do you want Albany, Paris or London time?"
I'm looking at the dial of the Swatch that Ned gave me last year for
my birthday. It's a great watch, but it has no numbers, only a clear
plastic backing that lets you look at the inner workings.
"London, idiot," she says.
The watch is still on Albany time, so I have to perform some quick
calculations. Albany plus Paris equals seven hours later, Paris
minus London equals one hour earlier. At the moment the watch seems
to be saying 9:30.
"Uh, I think it's 2:30 in the morning," I tell her.
"O.K., let's leave this place and go hear the jazz, before we have
to go home," she says. "But first, let's have another Jelly shot."
2. PACK CAREFULLY THE NIGHT BEFORE DEPARTURE
"Where's my suitcase!?" Lydia screams.
"How would I know," I mumble. "Look under the bed, or under that
mound of clothes and shoes over there. Has anyone seen my suit
jacket? I know I put it down here somewhere a few minutes ago?
Hurry up, we've got to be on the road in 20 minutes, if we
plan to stay on schedule. Our plane leaves Heathrow for Newark
at 5:30, London time. We've got 120 miles to drive down from
Nottingham, that takes two hours. We should be at the
airport two hours ahead of time, plus another 30 minutes for
dropping off the rental car."
I look at my Swatch and see that it's 6:30 in the morning in
Albany, which means it's almost 11:30 here and that doesn't
leave us much time to get out the door and on the road.
"Has anyone seen my glasses! I can't see without them, you know."
"Here they are," says Lillian, "under my stockings. Oh, my head!"
"I know what you're saying," I reply, a little hoarsely.
3. ARRIVE AT AIRPORT AT LEAST 2.5 HOURS
BEFORE DEPARTURE TIME
120 miles of English National Highway filled with long sections
of road repairs (one-lane traffic), double and triple length
semi-trailers, Jaguars and BMWs cutting in and out of traffic,
rain storms ranging from drizzles to downpours every 15 miles,
and fruitless attempts to find petrol stations at various
cutoffs along the way, finds us pulling into the AVIS terminal
at Heathrow around 10:55am, Albany time.
"Lillian, get the air tickets and the itinerary that the travel
agent made up for us. We need to figure out what terminal
Virgin Atlantic flies from."
"I thought you had that stuff!" she tells me.
"Hmmmm..." I reply.
"I've got the tickets," says Lydia, "I've been using them as
bookmarks for my English homework."
"What about the itinerary?" I ask.
"I don't know anything about that," she says.
On the courtesy bus that AVIS provides, we ask the driver which
terminal is used by Virgin.
"Terminal Three," he tells us, "I'll have you there in 15 minutes."
"That should still give us plenty of time...?" I think.
4. KEEP TICKETS, PASSPORTS, TRAVEL INFORMATION AND EMERGENCY
PHONE NUMBERS TOGETHER, IN A SAFE, READILY ACCESSABLE PLACE
"May I see your tickets and passports please?" says the agent
for Virgin Atlantic Airways, Ltd. (www.virgin.com)
"Sure, I've got them right here. Lydia, give me the tickets
"Sir, do you realize that this flight to Newark has already left
"Whaaaaaaa...?!" we all say in unison.
"Flight 4401 to Newark, NJ, USA, departs at 16:00 hours, and it
is now 16:10:45. You've missed your flight, sir."
"Uh, what do we do now?" I ask him.
"Well, I think we can get you on standby for our next New York
flight, at 18:40 hours. I see here that the plane is overbooked,
and I do have a few people ahead of you on standby. However, as
you can see, people often fail to show for these overseas flights.
I suggest that you come back to this window at 17:45 and we'll see
what we can do for you. Meanwhile why don't you go have a cup of
coffee and try to relax."
"Uh, thanks," I tell him.
"Let's go have a drink," says Lillian.
At 17:43 we return to the check-in window to find 40 people
on a que, waiting to talk to the agent. Lillian gets in line.
I bite my nails. Ten minutes later, the agent calls out "Galligan?
"Here!" we shout simultaneously.
"Sir, you're in luck," say the agent, "I can get you on this flight
I have two seats together and one single seat. The pair of
seats are First Class Priority. The single is in economy."
"I'm going First Class!" shouts Lydia.
"Your flight leaves in 15 minutes, from Gate 29. Enjoy your
travel," he says.
"Where's Gate 29?" I ask him.
"On the other end of the airport. You can get there in 10 minutes,"
Dragging our bags, 8 minutes later, we come to the Security Zone,
where we need to show our passports and get x-rayed. About 90 people
are in a que ahead of us. An announcement comes over the loudspeaker:
"Virgin Atlantic Flight 1550 to New York City is now boarding at
Gate 29. All passengers should be in the gate at this time."
"Excuse me," Lillian says to the people ahead of us, "are you on
"No," they say.
"Well, we are." says Lillian, "Do you mind if we move ahead?"
We do, and she repeats the question, until we are at the head of the
line. I notice a few raised eyebrows, but no one has said a thing
A few minutes of fumbling through our pockets, dropped bags,
exchanging passports with each other, picking up tickets, pens,
hairbrushes, newspapers, magazines and candy bars from the floor,
and we are past security and one our way to Gate 29, but not before
they carefully search through Lydia's handbag.
"I wonder what they expected to find...?" I think.
5. ON THE PLANE, DO STRETCHING AND ISOMETRIC EXCERCISES
EVERY HOUR TO KEEP LIMBER AND PROMOTE GOOD CIRCULATION
Lydia has promised to come to the back of the plane to check on
me, every so often, but so far, it's me and my personal LCD video
screen in seat 49E, economy class. The screen is attached to the
back of the seat in front of me, which has been pushed to the
extreme recline position by the passenger in front of me. This
puts the video screen about 4 inches from my face. On the screen
a svelt young fashionista sits on the forward deck of a 40 foot
sailboat, anchored just off the shore of a deserted caribbean island.
She is showing us how to do isometric exercises with our hands and
and how to stretch our arms straight up overhead. "Do this once every
hour," she coos.
6. EAT WELL, PARTICULARLY FRUITS AND VEGETABLES, DURING
YOUR FLIGHT AND DRINK PLENTY OF LIQUIDS
"Ladies and gentlemen, in preparation for our landing at JFK airport
in New York, and your entry into the United States, I must remind
you that U.S. Customs' policy prohibits the importation of fruits,
vegetables and other perishables into the country. If you are carrying
any of these things on your person, I would recommend that you pass
them on to the cabin crew now. Otherwise you could face fines or
other stiff penalties when you pass through Customs."
I look down at the plastic bag next to my feet, filled with apples,
pears, and bananas, which Jose Antonio had given us for our drive
to Heathrow. My head was ringing so badly and I was paying such
close attention to the traffic, I had no time for, or interest in,
during our drive. Now, the prospect of turning over all this good
fruit to Virgin Atlantic to throw away seems wrong, so I set out to
eat as much of it as possible, before landing. Two apples, a pear
and three bananas later, Lydia comes to see me.
"Hi dad, how's it going?"
She looks relaxed and happy.
"How's your mother doing?" I ask her.
"Oh, great," she replies. "She drinking champagne and eating caviar
right now. Want to see our food menu?" she asks. "We can have what
ever we want, whenever we want it," she continues.
I pick up the menu. It's five pages long, printed on heavy glossy stock.
The cover says: FREEDOM. The resturant in the sky what gives you the
choice of eating WHAT YOU WANT, WHEN YOU WANT. My skimpy menu is in
the seat pocket in front of me, next to the cellophane from the cheese
ravioli and salmon that I'd eaten for dinner. Her menu has the following
among it's choices:
Roast vegetable and game terrine, with cranberry and onion
Smoked salmon, tiger prawn mousse, watercress, lemon dressing
Savoy cabbage potato leek soup
Steamed salmon fillet, lemon and dill mash, prawn and
pesto butter jus
Thai green chicken and prawn curry. Pak choi, chili and spring
Oven baked filet steak, stuffed with sweet red onion, confit
potato, red wine shallot jus (cooked medium rare)
Scottish smoked salmon on brown bread with caramelized onion
Prawn sandwiches with sea salt, cream cheese, cucumber and watercress
Cheeses: Buxton blue, Durrus farmhouse, Wedmore or Scottish Dunlop
Champagne, Chablis, Pouilly Fume, Prelude Chardonnay, Haut Medoc,
Grande Resereve Syrah, Tinto Reserva, Martini, Campari, Kir,
Cognac VSOP, Single malt, small batch bourbon, Virgin vodka,
Cointreau, Drambuie, Vintage port
NOTE: Our crew will prepare your food to order, so it will
take a little time.
Note: my food took a little time, as well, but that was just the time
it took for them to pull it out of the food bins and drag it down the
aisle to my seat. I did have a mini-bottle of dry sherry from Jerez
to start and Stella Artois beer with my ravioli.
"Here," says Lydia, "I snuck you a few of the mini-sandwiches and a
bowl of the Kalamata olives marinated in garlic and chili. Enjoy!"
7. USE EYEMASK, BLANKET AND EARPLUGS TO PROMOTE
SLEEPING ON THE PLANE
I've got my eyemask on and the blanket tucked around my legs, but
my knees are pressed into the videoscreen and I can't figure out
how to turn the screen or the sound in my headphones off. I've got
the headphones on to drown out the sound of my seatmates who are
sniggering and chortling over some English sitcom. Our videoscreens
do give us over twenty choices of tv, movies or documentary features.
Everytime I almost fall asleep, my neighbor shakes in her chair and
Lydia shakes my arm. "Hey dad!" she says, "want to play videogames?
My portable DVD player lets me play about a dozen different games.
"Mortal Kombat" and "Doom", like the guys were always playing at
that internet cafe in Paris, plus a really groovey 3-D pinball game."
"No sweetie, that's O.K. I'm just trying to get some sleep. What's
your mother doing?"
"Oh, she's been asleep for a few hours now. Our seats stretch out
into little beds, you know. I put my pillow on her head to cover
up the snoring sounds. Our eye masks are cool. They're leather,
with a soft velvet lining. I tried the earplugs. They're made of
some kind of soft rubber, but when you've got them in, you hear
a soft swooshing noise, like the waves in Vieques."
"Maybe that's where the vixen on the sailboat is doing her isometrics...?"
I think to myself, and then I try to visualize her stretching backwards,
face lifted to the sun.
8. WHEN DISEMBARKING, HAVE PASSPORTS, BAGGAGE CHECKS,
CUSTOM FORMS AND OTHER OFFICIAL PAPERWORK READY
By the time I reach the front of the airplane, I'm nearly the last
person to leave, Lydia and Lillian are nowhere in sight. As I near
the arrival desk for Virgin Atlantic, I see them being led away by
a guy who looks like the maitre de at a fancy midtown resturant.
"Hey! Where are you guys going?" I call out.
Lillian looks over her shoulder and gives me a little wave. I
get on line behind about 100 people waiting to pass through
customs, only to realize that Lillian has my passport and customs
form. Minutes later, she waves to me from a customs agent's window.
I wave back. She motions me to join her. I excuse myself to the
people in front of me.
"Hey asshole! Where do you think you're going?" says a chorus of
disgruntled guys ahead of me. I shrug my shoulders and push forward.
The customs agent asks me if I enjoyed my trip and places a stamp
on the ENTRY portion of my passport. I tell him that I'm glad he
stamped me in, as I've been disappointed while travelling to find that
it's rare to get anything more than a cursory wave of the hand from
foreign customs agents.
"Maybe they think they're too good for that sort of thing over there?"
says the agent. "Welcome to John F. Kennedy airport."
"Kennedy...!!???" we say in unison.
9. BE PREPARED FOR THE UNEXPECTED
Lillian hands me a card that she'd gotten when she initially boarded
our flight. It says: Virgin Atlantic Airways, Ltd.; Virgin Clubhouse;
Virgin Touch; Priority 2C. "This might be useful...?" I think.
"Yes, sir! What can we do for you sir?" says the attendent at the
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse.
"Well, we're here at JFK, but our car is at Newark airport, in
the long-term parking lot. Do you have any idea how we can get from
here to there?"
"No problem sir!" says the attendent. "Just let me make a quick
phone call for you."
He whips out his flip phone and makes the arrangements.
"A car will be here in a few minutes to take you to Newark," he says.
We are escorted to a private waiting area on the periphery of the
arrivals area of JFK, and by the time we get there, a car waiting
for us. A Lincoln towncar, black, stretch limo style.
Our bags, which have been delivered by the escort, are loaded into
the trunk area of the limo and we are ushered into our seats.
"Enjoy your ride!" says our escort.
"Uh, thanks," I reply.
"Would you like a drink?" asks our driver, over the intercom.
"Do you have any videogames?" asks Lydia.
"Doom or Mortal Kombat?" asks the driver.
"3-D pinball?" asks Lydia.
"No problem," says the driver, "It's loading up now. Pick up your
handset controller," he says.
"Barmy," says Lydia.
"I'll have a Jelly shot," says Lillian.
"They're in the refrigerator, in front of you," says the driver.
"Got any London Pride?" I ask him.
"Of course!" he says, "Now sit back, and enjoy the ride. By the way,
where are you parked at Newark?" he asks.
"Long-term parking," I tell him.
"Which lot?" he asks.
"Uh, Lillian, do you remember?" I ask her.
"What?" she says.
"Where did we park," I reply. "It's been almost a month. I can't
remember where we left the car."
"I've got it dad," says Lydia. "I wrote it down in my science notebook,
just before we caught the courtesy bus from the parking lot to the
departure terminal. Remember?"
"You did?!" I say.
"Yep. Lot G. Section 9. Bus Stop 11. I've got it right here."
"Stellar," I tell her.
"You have the ticket, of course," I ask Lillian.
"What?" she replies.
"The ticket for the parking lot. To get our car out. Remember?"
"No, I don't," she says.
I fumble through my wallet, my backpack, my address book, the novel
I've been reading, the inside pocket of my suit jacket, my shoes,
my pants pocket. It's no where to be found. "This is interesting...?"
I think. "I wonder how they figure out the charges when you don't have
your ticket. Maybe they have a minimum amount they charge you. Or maybe
they look at your air tickets (we do still have them, right?) and
figure out how many days you've been gone. For us, it's a bunch anyhow.
We've been away almost a month. And even at the low budget rate of
per day, it's not going to be cheap, though it is cheaper than the
of all three of us flying from Albany, and we'd still have to leave
car in the $7 per day lot at the Albany airport.
"Dad, here's the ticket," says Lydia, "I've been using it for a bookmark
in my mathmatics book. Don't you remember, you gave it to me for safe
keeping the day we parked the car."
"Oh, right," I think.
"Thanks, Lydia!" I say.
Lillian's working on her third Jelly shot, and Lydia's fallen asleep.
I decide to see if I can get a conversation going with the driver,
a young, handsome, dapper, well-groomed, patent-leather shoe wearing,
african-american guy. He's been all eyes-on-the-road-business-as-
usual, since we started our trip.
"You ever see the film 'Demolition Man'?" I ask him. I'm thinking that
he looks a lot like Wesley Snipes, the star of the movie, along with
"Oh, yeah, that's one of my favorite films," he says. "That film has
a message that most people don't get, as far as I can tell," he says.
"How so?" I ask him.
"Well, you know the basic story, right? Two guys, one a cop, the other
a criminal have an encounter in the late 90's. Then they both get frozen
away, only to be thawed out in 2032. But, they find out that the future
is nothing like the past. The powers-that-be have managed to come close
to finalizing their plans for society and have exerted total control
over the populace. Everyone has a scanner code and a microchip implant
that gives the overlords total control and information on the whereabouts
of everyone. Smoking and meat are outlawed. Sex is outlawed. Political
correctness is enforced to the max. The only diviation is among the
underground, those few people who have managed to avoid the scanner
code and chip implant.
Now, when I first saw that film, I thought it was really a lot of
bullshit, but then I got to talking with my cousin. He did a stretch
at an upstate prison. You live upstate, right? While he was there,
he says, they did a bunch of experiments on him, one of which was to
implant him with a microchip, just under the skin, on his neck, which
allows them to have complete information on his whereabouts, and to
monitor all of his conversations as well. They can hear everything
he says, or is said to him, if the person is nearby. If he's on the
phone, they can only hear his side of the conversation, but of course
at the prison they've got the phone lines hooked up to computer
monitors anyhow, so they know both sides of all conversations.
At first I thought my cousin was crazy, but then, I remembered
the film, and reconsidered what my cousin was told me, and suddenly
it all made sense. No question, microchips are getting tinier and
more powerful everyday. I mean, now they've got chips about the size
of a freckle that are as powerful as the desktop computers people were
using five years ago. Those desktops could do a lot in their day, so
imagine how much these tiny microchips can do. Plus, they're taking
away our money and with it, our individuality. Pretty soon, we'll all
be under continuous surveillance and all of our activities, spending,
coming and going will be monitored. What they intend to do with all
of that information about us, I don't exactly know. But, I do know
this is spelled out in great detail, very clearly in the
Bible. It's in Revelations. All of it. And "Demolition Man"
has it all carefully worked into the story. It's all there, if you're
aware enough to know what to look for. The chips, the monitoring, the
control, the loss of personal privacy and individuality, the complete
control of the populace by a seemingly uninterested but frightenly
malevolent small group of fascistic rulers whose real interest is in
the absolute continuation of their position of power and control."
"Well, here we are, Lot G, Section 9 of the Newark airport long
term parking. Where's your car?"
"Uh, that's it, over there by the fence," I tell him. "You can stop
"Very good, sir," he says.
"Please, call me Jan," I tell him.
"O.K. Jan, where do you want me to put the bags?"
"Right there, by the back of the car will be fine," I tell him.
"Lillian, Lydia! Wake up! We're here, at the car."
"Huh?" they say, simultaneously.
"Lillian, do you have the car keys?" I ask her.
"No, I thought you did." she says.
10. WHEN YOU GET HOME, BE SURE TO GET A GOOD
I check my Swatch. It seems to be saying 5:55am. It must be
right. I can see that the sun is just beginning to peek out
behind the building across the street from our house, as I
drive up. Lillian and Lydia have been home for about five hours
by now. The Virgin Atlantic Airways, Ltd. driver, on instructions
from the home office, has driven them home, while I stayed at
Newark to wait for the locksmith which AAA had called for me.
(10B. CARRY YOUR AAA CLUB CARD WITH YOU AT ALL TIMES). $75.00
charge to my VISA card for AAA and another $150.00 charge for
the roadside service call by the locksmith, got me out of the
Newark long-term parking lot, after I paid the $144.00 parking
fee. I did learn that if I hadn't found the ticket, the cost
would have been double. They look at your airline ticket and
calculate the cost and then multiply by two for a penalty.
Meanwhile, I wonder what would have happended if I had asked
the driver if he knew the other Wesley Snipes movie I've seen
lately, "White Men Can't Jump". You know the one with Woody
Harrelson as Snipes' prison sidekick, who on a dare, takes up
basketball and proves to be good at it, and beats Snipes. My
favorite part of the film is the surreal "Jeapordy" game and
the Rosie Perez character. But then, I've always been a
pushover for gutsy, smart-talking Puertorican women.