We arrive at the airport.

“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.

16 Comments

  1. If the car rental “person” is intellectually challenged, you may be able to get away with a few things. I found this to be the case in England: http://wp.me/ppqxP-2V

    The Unexpected Traveller

  2. How bizarre. This was a draft post, but seems to have got published when I upgraded WordPress today. So everyone with a feed reader has an unfinished version.

    If you have a feed reader and are wondering what the blazes I was on about then do read the rest (above).

  3. Flying is so much better in theory than in practice. Although maybe I just don’t have enough practice.

  4. I once flew trans-atlantic sat next to a mentally retarded person with an alcohol problem. The carer, conveniantly couldnt even get a seat at the same end of the plane. I know she (carer) had a much better flight than I.

  5. Don’t get me wrong, this is a very promising beginning to what I’m sure will be an epic journey worthy of Lewis and Clark or Hope and Crosby, but how do I tell what the draft/feed version is?

    It’s just that I don’t want to miss anything, and the second paragraph starts with “I once who had a friend who was upgraded…”

  6. I hate flying. Give me a train anyday. I once had a man sitting next to me(he looked very pale and nervous) jump up and try to open the door shouting, “I need to get off, I need to get off!” as the plane was heading down the runway. He turned out to be headed for a medical discharge (mental) from the army by himself. We sat on the runway for an hour waiting for authorites to come pick him up. Ah, the joys of flying.

  7. I don’t think you should introduce the Toddler to words like airplane, when there is a proper English aeroplane to teach her how to spell. Although Ninky-Nonk is perfectly acceptable as an alternative, of course.

  8. There is no glamour only degradation in Atlantic travel however I do have a few tips.
    Take only hand luggage; you can get a decent size trolley dolly suitcase on and a laptop case style bag. The Toddler gets the same allowance (if you bought her a seat) so you can waltz through to customs at the other end and not miss your connection or have your bags lost.
    You then have to buy your toiletries either when you are through security (mini ones so you can pretend you’re a giant) or in the USA at one of the numerous drug stores or, better still, if staying in a hotel, all free from reception!
    The Toddler should get you on the aircraft early with the posh folk that allows you to stuff both said cases overhead.
    When the Toddler is older or if you are travelling alone, wander over when they announce they are boarding passengers who need more time. They never question me although some people say I look a bit ‘special’.
    I always book the most basic car, they never have them in the USA so you get fairly decent one anyway.
    Holiday Autos are very good and allow you to select the ‘Max’, which means you don’t need to buy anything from the rental agents at the other end.
    The standard of cars they use has dropped dramatically in the last 5 years. Convertibles used to mean Mustangs/Sebrings and a SUV would mean a Chevy the size of your cottage whereas now it’s more a case of bye American.
    As for American Airport Security, we brits can be proud of the fact that we produced the incompetent shoe bomber that means that everyone travelling by air has to remove his or her footwear and shuffle through the beepy arch.
    Sorry, went on a bit of a rant there, I’m going back to read the chilli tasting one again to cheer myself up.

  9. Christ alive, Z – I have been in the US too long. My spelling and grammar has been completely going to pot lately anyway. Thank you.

    Hullo Michael DoaSMM and welcome!!!

    It is great travelling with a Toddler. They just wave you through everything and let you get on first. I suspect the terrorists will catch on soon, but we can enjoy it while it lasts.

  10. They gave you a Kia? Hah! They got your measure, right enough. Check all those documents again, and you’ll find the notation “GLF” somewhere in red pen. Stands for “Goddam’ Limey Faggot”.

    Still, you can count yourself lucky that the good folks of North Carolina are more accepting of alternative lifestyles than in the recent past. I remember when they would’ve rammed a Kia on sight. When I first arrived, safety lay in driving a Chevy and threatening to shoot people in the face at regular intervals. Nowadays you can get away with a Honda, tho’ the face-shooting is still pretty much de rigeur

  11. Not in North Carolina surely Ivan! Isn’t North Carolina one of the states considered to be in the civilized column? Certainly it isn’t one of the four states that keep the place I live from showing up dead last in all the stats they release like ‘quality of life’ ‘education’ and the like. [note: we are however consistently near the top for other important things such as ‘teen pregnancy’ ‘school drop out rate’ and ‘mouth breathers.’ It’s good to be good sometimes.

  12. I thought the Ninky-Nonk was Kia not Boeing

  13. Can you not rent a toddler if it makes travel that much easier.
    Or if not a ‘small person’ who could dress/look the part.

  14. I always use “Holiday Toddlers” – very reasonable rates and no hidden extras.

  15. As it happens, Megan, I still consider ramming a Kia to be the height of sophistication. But maybe that’s just me.

    ‘teen pregnancy’ ’school drop out rate’ and ‘mouth breathers’ tho’ – really? I’m guessing Illinois…

  16. When I get rich, I’ll travel by yatch.

    [There won’t be any pirates then].

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