It's 4.33am in Philadelphia's historical district and I am wide awake. Jet leg doesn't normally bother me much but it has hung over me on this trip like an umbrella over the President when there is the chance of rain. It started on Thursday. The previous day I'd taken a train down to Manchester to have a relaxing night before an early flight to Philadelphia. I'd got to the airport for 8am on one of those horrible mornings, when it's dark and cold and you'd rather stay in bed with Lorraine Kelly, but got checked in with minimum fuss which security then made up for by demanding I recreate The Full Monty before passing through. Manchester Airport Terminal 3 was being upgraded (to be fair, it needed it) so there was limited options to do anything other than sit in the terminal and hope that WiFi is part of that upgrade, preferably in the next five minutes. It was then it started to snow, the sort of snow that bothers even an Ice Road Trucker and it was clear this was going to be a problem. My flight was due to leave at 10.45am, the airport closed at 10.30am. As people clambered for information, flights all over the place started to be cancelled and I feared the worst. All the negative thoughts ran through my mind but the main one was what the fuck was I going to do if this plane wasn't getting off the ground today? I asked a Peter Kay lookalike/soundalike for an update and whilst he was genial enough, he clearly didn't have a clue what was happening. The Gods and the sun then shone on us and the snow ploughs were out clearing the runways, the main obstacle to us taking off and we were told we would be leaving at 1pm. I contacted Yahmpy, picking me up, putting me up and putting up with me for the next few days, he was cool about it(he's cool about most things) and I looked forward to getting on board, getting a film on and getting one of those meals that consist of mainly rice and tough meat.
I should have known.
The captain announced we would be leaving after the plane was de-iced and that it would take 20 minutes. Two films later and we were still sitting on the runway. It was now 4.30pm and frustrations were running high. People knew there was limited scope for us to now go on this flight, staff time and all that, and the worry was that we would be back off soon and back in deepest, darkest Manchester. This was commented on by a particularly cheery American guy who remarked breezily "Hey, do any of you guys think we will get off the ground?" Oh yes pal, there's a huge chance you will.
At 4.45pm we started to moving. The feeling was like when you think the guy has just told folk the bar has closed and then your mate says "Don't worry, we are getting a lock in" and we were off. I don't normally sleep on planes but I even I succumbed thanks to this increasingly long day and Liam Neeson walking through the tombstones being about as entertaining as a night in with toothache.
The flight was non-eventful and I was boosted by the announcement that agents would be on the other side to help people re-book connections. This would give me a good run at bypassing most of the plane and getting to immigration first. For some people, this is a breeze, passport, fingerprints, photo, stamp, have a nice day but when you have a past as chequered as a flag at Formula One then you're always that wee bit keener to get it over with. I always scan for the person who looks the most affable and was mid this when I was called over by a guy who looked like he chewed wasps in his spare time. He gave me the third degree for what seemed like an eternity as he had an issue with the last time I was in America, New York in October, in that he refused to believe I was only there for a weekend. Like anyone in a uniform, it's pointless arguing with them, so I waited it out until he asked me what my job was and seemed happy about that (I actually said "Student" and I could tell he was thinking "Ah, I was right, he is an asshole") and the library like stamp was on the passport at last, he would lend America to me for the next three months should I need it that long.
Then came the wait at the baggage carousel, boredom alleviated when a sniffer dog took particular interest in a Keith Richards lookalike who remarked "Oh he probably smells my dog off me", Yeah ok, now touch your toes.
Finally out, I caught sight of Yahmpy who had the look of a guy who had a longer day than me. Understandable. He had taken the day off to pick me up at the airport at 1.45pm and the time now was a post-dinner chocolate mint. It had been our intention to go to The Plough and Stars to test the film but that intention was supposed to include things like daylight and slightly less exhausted bodies so we skipped home instead to South Jersey. I say skipped, Yahmpy drove and I sat in the comfiest seat I'd been in all day. President Obama was in town, umbrella and all, so Philly was on lockdown and I was glad to be in the warm confines of Yahmpy's new home and a wonderfully hospitable welcome from his wife Christine. I've been in situations in the past where I have been made to feel unwelcome in someone's home and it's a horrible feeling. Similarly, since a lot of bad shit has happened to me in the last 18 months, I make it a rule to never stay with strangers and with Yahmpy being pretty far from that and Christine putting me at ease immediately, I was delighted to be with them.
Yahmpy's fridge had a selection of beers to suit a beer experimentalist but that's not me so it wasn't long before I was in a cosy guest room for the six hours sleep I'd get before the inevitable jet lag kicked in. Jet lag has a weird way of making you feel totally fresh after a sleep, it's just that it's about five hours before everyone else wakes up.
So Friday was a long God damn day made better by visits to the Phily diner and of course, the Plough and Stars for the Feile.
But that's for another day.