Day One: Newark to London

by Jeff Kay

We had an 8 PM flight out of Newark, and my wife Toney thought we should leave our house at one in the afternoon. It seemed excessively early to me, since it's less than two hours to the airport, but I wasn't going to be held responsible if something went wrong and we missed our flight. Know what I mean?

Turns out nothing went wrong, and it wasn't too early. By the time we drove, stopped at a McDonald's in New Jersey (where I ordered a sweet tea, and the girl looked at me like I was speaking the Xhosa click language), parked, rode a shuttle to the terminal, checked our bags, went through security, and all the other crapola necessary, we didn't have an abundance of time to spare.

The British Airways check-in area is in a basement, and feels like an afterthought. It looks like they just wedged it in there, because there were no better options. It's also dry and dusty, and far too warm. While we waited (and waited some more), Toney had some kind of scary coughing fit, and I was afraid we were on the verge of an "incident."

But she got some water, removed herself from that dusty tomb for a while, and everything eventually calmed down.

While my wife was off convulsing somewhere, an old lady wearing a photographer’s vest, with dozens of loops for film canisters, started talking to me. She said we were in the wrong line, and added she's "almost never wrong."

She convinced me, and the boys and I moved with her to another queue. Turns out she was right (yet again), but when it was her time to check in, there was a problem with one of her bags. And I went grrrr…

The woman had a gargantuan suitcase, wrapped in plastic. And what's the deal with that? You see it quite often at airports: people pulling luggage that's been bound maniacally in layers and layers of Saran Wrap.

Turns out she had some sort of chemical in there, possibly to be used in the development of photographs (although the oldest Secret said he heard the word "bleach" spoken), and the airline said they wouldn't allow it on the plane.

An argument ensued, and I couldn't believe I was trapped behind this crazy woman dressed all in loops, and pulling a shrinkwrapped Clorox trolley. I should've just stayed in the first line, and let the chips fall where they may.

Eventually the task was completed, and we made our way to security. There we encountered a gang of confused travelers, and a smaller group of exasperated workers insulting everyone, and offering nothing but criticism. They wanted everything done in a very specific way, but didn't feel the need to let us in on their expectations. But boy, we certainly heard about it when we did something wrong…

I thought fists were about to start flying.

Finally, we were through all the checkpoints, and I realized I needed to pee like Man O' War. And as soon as I took care of that problem, I was starving. For some reason my brain could only handle a single discomfort at a time, and when one was removed another was revealed.

We still had about 45 minutes before boarding (leaving the house only seven hours early was cutting it close), and we decided to grab some sandwiches and beers at a Samuel Adams Brewhouse. The kids had chicken fingers (or somesuch), Toney and I each had a burger and two pints, and the bill was -- $78.00! I nearly dropped a rectal plate.

Seated near us was a group of drunken and rowdy Brits, knocking back lagers (at $8.29 each) and kicking up one hell of a ruckus. I watched them warily in my peripheral vision, convinced their "fun" was about to start spilling outside their immediate area. But they maintained; apparently they were skilled professionals.

Here’s a shot of the pros at work.

As we were making our way to our airplane seats, we heard raised voices. It sounded like an altercation of some sort, and I ratcheted my neck in an unnatural position to see what I could see. And before I could zero in on the action, my oldest son whispered, “Dad, look who it is!”

It was our old friend Bleach. She was arguing with a man and his wife, and the guy was clearly pissed. We heard him say, “This is going to be a long flight lady, and you’d better watch what you say about my kids!” And Bleach answered, “No, you’d better
control your kids!!”

A few more words were exchanged, and all parties took their seats, a-fuming. And as far as I could tell, the guy’s kids weren’t causing any problems whatsoever. Apparently Bleach was taking preliminary action?

Then I saw this guy walk past. I have no idea what his story was, he seemed to be traveling with a man sporting an antique shawl and eye makeup, and both continued on into the rear of the plane. What a grand gang of douches…

I settled (wedged my heft) into a seat, and learned I’d be traveling across the ocean with a husband and wife, both with almost incomprehensible Scottish accents. They turned out to be very nice, but I could only understand a few words here and there. And by the looks on their faces, they were having the same trouble with me.

And now that I think about, I have no idea if they were nice or not…

After I extended my seatbelt all the way out to the raised lip on the end, I saw two British Airways employees apparently escorting the sexually ambiguous Railsplitter from the airplane. They were being very forceful with him, and telling him to keep moving.

A few minutes later, one of the Lincoln
escorters stopped and talked to the folks who’d argued with Bleach. He crouched in the aisle beside me, and I could hear every word. After he was satisfied with the family’s account of what happened, the airline dude said, “Well, I just had that other silly fellow removed. I’ll have her off as well.”

He went over and asked Bleach to follow him, and we never saw her again. I don’t know if he tossed her and her ridiculous shrinkwrapped handcart to the curb, of if he simply moved her to another section of the plane.

But the shit was all highly entertaining.

I turned my screen to the “maps” channel while we flew, and intended to get some sleep. We were planning to hit the ground running when we arrived in London
, so I’d need to get a little shut-eye. There’s a four-hour time difference (until England’s daylight savings time kicks in, when it will return to the normal five hours), so we left at 8 PM our time, and would arrive seven hours later at 7 AM. Freaky, man.

To my surprise we started flying northward, pointed almost straight at the north pole. What the?! We finally turned to the east, and when that happened there was significant turbulence. And I’m not a fan. The airplane was shuddering and shaking, and would occasionally free-fall and cause my stomach to suck up against my spine.

God, please don’t let me die in Canada

As all this crashing and banging continued, I could tell the father, who’d argued with Bleach, was now in a state of distress. He kept unbuckling his seatbelt, standing up, and immediately sitting back down. He had a terrified look on his face, and I was afraid he might freak out, full-on.

Finally he sprang from his chair, and took off down the aisle. Two or three flight attendants (also strapped in), began howling in protest, but the man ignored them and careened into the bathroom. And then we all heard the unmistakable sounds of violent regurgitation.  

Good times.

Everything eventually calmed down, and after we were served beverages (I had a Carlsberg, which was kinda skunky), then dinner, folks began settling in for sleep.

The guy sitting in front of the vomiter put on a face mask(!), stuffed both his ears with great wads of cotton, and snuggled ‘neath a blanket. I wanted to get a picture, but couldn’t reach my camera. The dude was triggering double-takes, left and right.

I doubt I slept more than an hour, total. It was really hot (which seemed kinda odd), and asses kept bouncing off my shoulder as people worked their way to the pissatorium. Man, the next day would be a challenge… But we’d just have to make the best of it; no whining allowed. And God knows I'm not spending my first day in England
napping like a baby (or my brother-in-law).

Within an impossibly short amount of time, the sun was coming up again. We were over Ireland
, and everyone was oohing and aahing about how pretty it was. And I was one of the head oohers (although I refuse to aah, on principle).

When the pilot announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to London
,” I realized I had goosebumps – like at the beginning of Fair Warning, when you hear David Lee Roth say, “Alright you sinners, swing!" You know, something along those lines.

I’ll continue this epic tale next time.

Have a great day, my friends. And goodnight Bleach, wherever you are...

Read about Day Two




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