Well, my flight from the nest lasted approximately two weeks, whereupon the builders moved in to replace our bathroom, and I moved back in with my mother for the second time in my adult life.
Mercifully (for all parties) this latest visit also only lasted two weeks, whereupon I returned to a flat with a shiny new bathroom. Two weeks later, I packed my bags and caught a flight to Nashville. For two weeks.
Sunday was travel day, and my travelling companion was my friend Heather. A more amenable, lower-maintenance traveling companion you are unlikely to meet. Heather didn’t mind which seat she sat in, which meant she got the centre seat, with me in the window seat.
In the air, en route to New York in an old American Airlines aircraft with TV screens down the middle, just out of sight of anyone in a window seat, we were informed of the new automated passport control system in place at JFK. Heather expressed some concern about this, and the prospect of immediate deportation on the pressing of one wrong button.
As for me – I was no more nervous than I usually am on approach to the USA, having had dramatically varying experiences at US Customs in the past. Maybe a fraction more nervous than usual, given the perception I have that Mr Trump is not all that fond of non-Americans.
Ironically, Heather aces the automated system, whereas I fail to get past the first hurdle – getting it to read my passport. The machine metaphorically rolled its eyes, and displayed a message instructing me to go find a human being. Which I did, but it seems system failures of this kind are rare, because said human being wasn’t equipped with the requisite paper customs form.
Fortunately there was a semi-completed form – in Spanish – lying discarded on the counter (fate of the Spanish-speaking semi-completer unknown), and by ticking some boxes beside sentences I didn’t understand, and signing it, I had completed the paperwork required to enter the US. That, or I had signed a confession to some unknown crime. But what’s life without a little excitement?
In an oddly-quiet JFK, I noticed that the post-Trump America has sunk to new lows, selling white cheddar popcorn in a Union Jack-emblazoned packet. White cheddar popcorn is an abomination. Never have I come across such foul-tasting popcorn in the UK. Ascribing such a vile combination of foodstuffs to the UK is slander of Special-Relationship-threatening proportions.
Speaking of cheese… while waiting in the lounge for the Nashville flight, I went to the restroom to swap my shoes and socks for flip flops. I was on holiday after all, and about to hit a Tennessee basking in 30C sunshine.
I returned to my seat in the lounge, and gradually became aware of a gently insistent stench. I initially convinced myself that it wasn’t anything to do with my newly-liberated feet, but it was a hard sell. I moved on to trying to convince myself that it wasn’t that bad.
We boarded the flight to Nashville, narrowly avoiding getting on the Montreal flight instead. The aircraft on the Nashville leg was a tiddler, as always, with just two seats per row on one side of the cabin, and only one on the other. Heather didn’t mind which seat she sat in, so she got the window this time.
The single seat across the aisle, empty when we boarded, was soon filled by a girl clutching a large pizza box. The box was clearly occupied, judging by the sweet meaty fragrance emanating from it. Still, this wasn’t enough to mask the aroma from my feet.
I enquired of Heather. “Can’t smell anything,” she said. Like I say, a great travelling companion.
I glanced left towards Pizza Girl. She was wearing an actual face mask, such as those seen on cyclists in smog-ridden cities. A mild over-reaction, I felt.
I retrieved my emergency pair of socks from my hand luggage and put them on, trying to do my bit for the environment, and concerned for the welfare of my fellow passengers.
Some time later I glanced left again. Pizza Girl had bolstered her defences by putting a white cloth over her head.
As the plane began its descent, a nervous glance revealed that she had the face mask and the white sheet on, and was slumped forwards over her tray table. Somewhat miffed, as I thought the sock approach was working quite well, I decided that she was making something of a meal of it all.
With a sniff and a mental toss of my head, I threw some Drew Holcomb on the iPod, as the Cumberland River and the Batman Building hove into view through the starboard window.
On disembarking the plane, Heather kept a respectful non-associative distance from me as we waited for the checked hand luggage to be delivered to the air bridge. Not because of the smell, but since the unplanned wardrobe change during the flight, I was now breaking new fashion ground by wearing socks and flip-flops.
Meanwhile Pizza Girl stood a good few metres even further away, presumably because of in-flight wounding and an unwillingness to forgive and move on.
Four days on, things are going well. I have a temporary SIM card for the two weeks I’m here, to allow easy communication with my American friends. This is working well, however it appears that the previous owner of my American number had signed up for parenting advice via daily text messages. So I now know that it’s good to let one’s child serve themselves, and it’s ok if they spill a little.
In a week’s time, armed with 11 days of text-borne advice, I expect to be a bona fide expert on parenting, and will be ready to share my expertise with any of my parent-friends.