“There is an aeroplane!!!” I tell the Toddler.
I am one of those people who are still enamoured by the idea of transatlantic air travel being glamorous. I like Britain, and I like the United States, and I like going on holiday, and I like the fact that you can do so quickly and with people bringing you drinks. I also don’t fly very often, so airports are still a bit of a novelty; and people are very rarely polite to me, especially women, so I like air stewardesses.
I once who had a friend who was upgraded to first class on the way to America, and basically they were all over him as soon as he got on the plane, and the seat converted to a proper bed, and there was free everything that you could possibly wish for even before taking off, and just as he was thinking ‘things don’t really get much better than this,’ Debbie Harry turned up and parked herself in the seat next to his. This is sort of how I imagine flying to be, although I am more into the romance of early commercial flying, with seaplanes and cocktails and perhaps Hercule Poirot turning up in the next aisle on his way to solve a mystery, although I would not turn my nose up at Debbie Harry at a push, even if she was not solving mysteries but just sitting there looking like Debbie Harry and humming some songs to herself (except ‘The Tide is High’). The golden age of aviation made a big impression on me.
We are shown to a Boeing Ninky-Nonk.
“There is a bit of a problem,” admits the driver, as we turn back towards the airport after sitting on the taxiway for an hour. “I’d just like the technicians to have a look at this light that’s come on.”
We wait for some further time, whilst the technicians poke around trying to get the light to go out. Meanwhile, my knees are jammed up against the seat in front, and a fat man beside me keeps jostling for the armrest.
The 143-hour flight to Charlotte goes by in a flash.
I am sure that there has been someone, somewhere, at some point in time, who has signed car rental documents and yet not driven away feeling that somehow and in some manner they have been ever so slightly ripped off. On the face of it, it is very simple. You want to borrow a car for x amount of days, and you agree to bring it back and try not to crash it. At which point they produce loads of extra documents and waivers and disclaimers and legal things, and you are too weak to argue as you are tired from your flight and have lots of bags and a disruptive toddler, and even when you have signed everything and read it twice you still have no idea whether you will be ruined should you accidently run over somebody or leave the petrol gauge a grillionth of a millimetre off the ‘full’ mark.
It was like that again this time. I will not name the rental company concerned, as they are all the same. But it always hurts.
Even so, I am in a fantastic mood as I sign off the final ream. I have requested a proper S.U.V. (nb this is an American term) – a stately, rugged, high and manly ride to befit the fortnight ahead. A deep, rumbly, lots-of-cylinders-in-a-V engine, bags-in-the-back essence of Americana.
I can see the logo from some distance away as the assistant manoeuvres the vehicle slowly up to the pick-up point.
There is no sinking feeling, no dismay. Just a tidal wave of resignation that this is my life, and it is always going to be like this.
The stage is set, the curtain rises. It is time for one of the great road trips of our time.
Across Tennessee. By Kia.