… familiar. This probably sounds a bit odd given that I’ve only just returned from my first ever visit there, but it’s true. As you walk down the avenues, stroll through the park and turn each corner, you’re presented with yet another iconic image or landmark, that is New York.
I’d visited America once before (back in 2007) and I’ll be honest and say I was just a little overwhelmed by everything. That was for a quick trip to Grand Rapids [business] and then onto Chicago [pleasure]. I knew nothing about either location and really didn’t know what to expect. I was also travelling with five colleagues from work and so on most days, our itinerary was already planned for us.
My recent trip to New York was completely different; in fact, the only similarities with my previous trip to America were that I was travelling with a colleague [and friend] from work, Hazel and that our early departure time meant leaving for the airport at an ungodly hour in the morning! Of course one key advantage of an early flight and the minus 5hrs time difference between the UK and USA was that we’d arrive at JFK at around 1:30pm and in theory, that meant we should be at our chosen hotel by mid-afternoon.
Now I say “in theory” because as always, getting through passport control / immigration at any airport is always a bit of a pain but at JFK it was utterly torturous. We were shuffled through to a dark, dingy, very dated looking room that could also be described as a cellar / basement, where we joined a snaking queue of bodies, waiting to be “processed”. The ceiling seemed to be only about 8ft above floor level, the walls were dark and grubby, with only the occasional stark warning sign to break the monotony, and the temperature was so bloody hot!!! Seriously, how nobody fainted whilst we queued, I’ll never know.
Once through passport control, Hazel and I then had to figure out where to pick-up our pre-arranged shuttle bus transfer to the hotel. Yet another queue and yet another unbearably hot waiting area.
Now please don’t get me wrong, I’m British and queuing is considered a national past-time over here, but queuing in America is nowhere near as civilised as queuing in Britain. For a start, what’s the fascination with being asked to “line up against the wall”? Every queue we joined, we were always asked to wait against the wall. Why?
We waited for nearly an hour before our minibus finally arrived and our driver was such a charming chap, NOT! He was so rude and grumpy. Honestly. If you work within the service industry (like I do) then smiling at your customers and being polite should be a given. Arggghhh. Manners cost nothing and yet are priceless!
Anyhoo, before this starts to sound like a bashing session, let me just say that all the irritation for the delays and lack of service immediately evaporated as soon as Hazel and I saw the Manhattan skyline for the first time. It’s breathtaking. It’s exactly as you see it in the movies. It’s iconic; that’s a word you’ll read a lot during my next couple of blog posts. New York is … iconic.