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“Yes, yes, yes….” I was agitated now “besides the suite upgrade, executive lounge access, a free drink, or several, at the bar, free breakfast, top notch champagne (free) in the room, a car park view, fluffy towels, a Corby Trouser Press, early check in, reading lights, complimentary smoking jacket, Goblin Teasmade, 24 hour on call butler, king size bed, desk with leather chair, and a shower rather than a bath, what are the two most important requirements?”.
“errr……errr…..” Griselda spluttered.
I needed a different approach, “well let’s look at it from the other side what don’t I like?”
That did not work either as Griselda listed everything she had previously listed but in the negative.
“A fridge, and at least one power point on the left-hand side of the bed.” I exclaimed. How on earth had she found me a room with neither? It was, admittedly, near to the end of summer in Northern Illinois but it was still warm and a fridge is essential to keep the milk, and Coates Navy Strength Gin chilled.
I was close to the end of my three-month sojourn to Mexico and the USA, or so I thought.......
“What do you mean I can’t get back to the US without another side trip to Mexico for 14 days?” I was scheduled to spend three weeks in Blighty and then head back to the Colonies. I had been looking forward to three weeks in civilisation at the East Anglian pile.
“The US government has not relaxed restrictions on those that have spent some time, in the last fourteen days, in the UK, and for that matter countries in the Schengen Area.” Griselda unhelpfully pointed out.
“So what does that mean for me, what are my options?” I was already resigned for the worst – an extension of my stay in the USA.
“I can cancel and rebook your return US to UK flights for December/January.”
To be fair I could almost live with this, despite one or two states reintroducing face masks for indoors there were little to no restrictions on travel internally and my devoted fan base would be keen to see more of me.
“You will have to go to Mexico for a couple of days to reset your ESTA.” Griselda stated quietly.
“What on earth is an ESTA?” was all I could manage but the bigger issue was the need to go to Mexico again, even if it was for a “couple of days”. It transpires that an ESTA is a VISA that allows one to spend 90 days in the USA and I needed to leave and re-enter the USA if I was to stay longer. This would never have happened in Mr Nixon’s day. (My favourite US President by far.)
Now I am an easy going sort of chap, mmmm let me put that another way, I am not remotely easy going and the prospect of heading to Mexico, even if it was only for two day and at the airport Hilton, did not fill me with joy. I wondered if anyone else in the world had suffered at the hands of Covid-19 as much as I had. The champagne in my fridge less room was practically tepid for heaven’s sake.
Things were grim and after a consultation with Griselda I was able to get the valves working on the in-room cinema thingy and settled back to a documentary about a popular music group. I’m not one for modern new-fangled music but I could see the attraction of this Liverpudlian four-piece ensemble. I even found my toes tapping along to some of the tunes, and particularly enjoyed the archive footage from the Ed Sullivan Show. (Makes me wonder why they were never on Parkinson.) Apparently, these chaps were quite popular in the 1960’s – who knew? I do wonder if they produced any records, if they did I might fire up the gramophone when I get home….assuming I ever get home.
So here I am, stuck in Illinois, at a hotel with a 1970's decor and where I have to wear a mask, facing a long holiday weekend. To be fair at least the US still celebrates the Battle of Crecy, we seem to have forgotten it back in Blighty. At the very least there should be a public holiday as there is in the US. I suppose at least I could look forward to Poitiers, Agincourt and Trafalgar days in the coming months, such a pity I am not able to reach Quebec to celebrate.
Thanksgiving – what’s that all about. I mean who knew that Thanksgiving was a public holiday in the colonies? Obviously Griselda did and arranged for me to spend most of it flying about on something called a Tier Points run…..but before we go into that I needed to know more about this holiday.
Apparently it goes all the way back to the Boston Taliban. Yes, those pesky Pilgrim Fathers who, via a circuitous route, found their way to the new world in order to practice the sort of religious freedom the current Taliban would be proud of. This was something denied to them in blighty. (Quite why persecuting those that did not follow their doctrine was denied to them I will never understand.) I’d like to think my ancestors were a little more forward thinking and more focused on shooting the local wildlife, when not hanging the local peasants for stealing sheep and bread.
So what is happening in the world of Tony Hancock I hear you screaming at your television devices. Griselda informed me that I was running out of upgrade vouchers with BA and I would need to earn some quickly if I was to continue flying First Class without paying great chunks of my less than hard earned pension.
It all seemed a bit much though. Who on earth wants to be on a flight at 6:00AM? Well, that is where I found myself this morning. Cincinnati to Dallas as a starter, with Dallas to Phoenix on a fancy Boeing Aeroplane with proper seats as a main and Phoenix to Salt Lake City for dessert.
When Griselda warned me that I had 45 mins to change aeroplanes in Dallas I did not really pay attention. That 45 minutes was whittled down to 35 mins for some sort of weather related reason and it was at 8 AM I found myself stumbling, somewhat bewildered, from flight number 887, at Terminal C at Dallas airport. The Steward on the flight had mumbled something about gate D27 for my next flight but I had no idea what he was talking about, so I just ordered another early morning pick me up. (Given it is almost impossible to get a decent Dry Martini on a flight these days I settle for a rather spicy Bloody Mary.)
Fortunately, and no thanks to Griselda, a rather charming lady was waiting for me as I disembarked. She had one of those little TV’s in her hand with my name on it. “Welcome Mr Hancock” she cooed, “I am here to take you to your next flight”. She was in possession of one of those 6 seater electric carts and invited me to take a seat whilst being quite firm with others who were unlikely to make their connection. “This is a private cart” she stated emphatically.
What larks we had as we weaved our way through the unwashed masses, she had a little hand bell but her assertive yelling was considerably more effective. I lost count of the number of times she denied other passengers the opportunity to board our buggy. It was all rather lovely and capped off by whisking me to the front of the boarding queue. My jaunt lasted less than 12 minutes and I ensconced myself in seat 1A – I had not even broken sweat.
This was all new to me, I was used to a relatively substandard business class experience on domestic flights in the USA, but found myself in a suite, albeit a rather cramped one. I could, however, adjust the seat to be entirely flat, and unlike the Qantas ones my feet were not cramped.
Upon arrival at Phoenix another lovely American Airlines Concierge Key Team Member greeted me at the gate with a Thanksgiving gift. (I haven’t opened it and it will serve as Griselda’s Xmas gift…assuming it is some sort of chocolate.) Now this was much better…although I did wonder if the Concierge Key Team were struggling to find American Airlines’ elite fliers on thanksgiving. I was living the DYKWIA dream.
After a couple bottles of sparkling wine, although the rather attractive stewardess called it champagne, I had an hour’s sleep before arrival into Salt Lake City. I awoke as some rather aggressive looking mountains were getting a little too close for comfort, fortunately they gave way to a very large lake that looked a little salty. I do wonder if there is a connection to the city’s name.
I have since discovered that American sparkling wine may be called Champagne and this is all down to the USA not ratifying The Treaty of Versailles – all rather odd.
Tomorrow Griselda has me heading to Los Angeles and then on to Charlotte, wherever that is.
“H – A – N – C – O – C – K” I heard myself repeat for the second time to the lady behind the Perspex screen. It was not going well I was having to fend for myself, Griselda was not quite on strike but was refusing to work between the hours of midnight and five A.M. I was attempting to change my flight to an earlier time in the hope I could get to my hotel at Charlotte airport at an acceptable hour and maximise my $12 food and beverage credit.
The previous day American Airlines team could not do enough for me, today I was persona non grata. I expected it at Salt Lake City, everything is Delta there, there is not even a Centurion lounge and getting to the aeroplane required a 30 minute route march and a bus journey, but I expected better at Los Angeles. I wondered whether there was an opportunity for a driver service to the aeroplane, given it was miles away.
Salt Lake City...which I am led to believe is built near a lake.....that is salty.
I am sorry Mr Hancock but there will be a charge to move to an earlier flight the lady sheepishly informed me. I made it quite clear I was not prepared to pay. A fool and his money are soon parted rang out in my ears.
The view from the Admirals club at LAX T5...shortly before my flight was delayed and moved to T4.
Now there are thing I like and things I don’t like about the Admirals Club, I say this because the Flagship Lounge at Los Angeles is still closed. First up I think it is rather good that the local American Airlines Executive Platinum’s are kept at bay…unless they have an international connection. How much better the Qantas lounges would be if the Qantas Platinum’s, with their thongs and singlets, were excluded. The downside, or course, is that people can pay to gain entry so the nouveau riche holding glasses by the bowl are prevalent. (Good lord why on earth can they not work out what the stem is for?)
The view from the Admirals Club at LAX T4 shortly before the final gate change.
Predictably my flight to Charlotte was delayed and Griselda will be writing a stiffly worded letter as a result. Boarding was a shambles, although to be fair Los Angeles Airport is somewhat of a shambles in general. American Airlines typically get priority boarding right but when the opening call is for groups 1-4 one knows a disaster is about to unfold. Sure enough a free for all enveloped the gate and I found myself fighting back the hordes to get to the front of the queue.
I am still coming to terms with the notion of a fully flat bed on a 2 hour flight from Dallas to Phoenix when a near 5 hour flight from Los Angeles to Charlotte only merited a small aeroplane that had me exposed to the sort of passenger that brings fast food on board. Surprisingly a meal was served, if one can call it that. It consisted of a tiny salad and a roll “filled” with processed turkey.”
By the time I reached The Hilton at Charlotte airport the bar had closed. (I hate losing my food and beverage credit.) the rooms were not unpleasant, my suite had two very large televisions, had they not been so big I would have popped one into my carry on.
Charlotte at night...I didn't actually see anything in daylight, from the Airport Hilton.
After a traumatic day I drifted into sleep after consuming another chapter in that excellent book – A Thousand Years of Annoying The French – by Stephen Clarke.
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