I had a six hour transit in Changi airport on my return and no access to the lounges. The trip had gone well only in respect of the work, but that was the most important part after all. I was returning with three new orders, none of them custom, and having sorted out the customer's problems. But the trip was too long.
I had work to do on the day I was leaving so I slept badly as my brain went through all the possible scenarios. For the fourth day on the trot I had less than five hours sleep. It was 4.a.m., I felt like death warmed up and despite buckets of coffee sleep walked my way through the work. Rarely have I been less prepared for a trip. I was to fly out of Suwarnabhumi airport at 6.30p.m. having arrived early at the airport as the weather was bad and I didn't want Ploy to have to drive home in the evening rush hour and in the dark. I thought I would have a late lunch at the sandwich bar there but found it closed for refurbishments.
I walked the length of the terminal building before deciding on a Thai restaurant I forget the name of where I had that Thai staple, fish and chips. By the time the plane took off I had already been awake for 14 hours. The flight to Singapore is just two hours and the transit there was just two hours before the overnight flight to Frankfurt. I had managed to get one of the few window seats left on the A380 and I was suitably armed with a mild sedative pill and my i-Pod and noise reducing headphones.
But for some reason I had forgotten the A380 seating. Yes I had a window but there was big gap between my seat and the plane wall, too great to bridge with blankets/pillows or any other stuffing material to hand. Despite the sleep assistance it meant by the time we arrived in Frankfurt, twelve hours later, I had slept little more than three hours. The transit in Frankfurt was just two hours and was taken up by having to pass through security again (something only required on the inbound flight to the US, and the only leg of the flight that gives you silly plastic knives). However now it was daytime and the passengers were all wide awake and chatty. I tried to sleep during the 8 hour flight and may have done so for thirty minutes or so but other than that spent my time in a slightly trance like state as the mild sedative tried its best.
By the time we arrived in New York, at 11.a.m. I think I had slept a fitful 4 hours maximum in the last forty hours. Negotiating immigration was the usual nightmare although it did mean I didn't have to wait for my bags and so I changed some Thai baht and enquired as to where the Philadelphia busses were to be boarded. There are none she said, you have to go into New York. I had already read my options on the Internet but my chosen form of transit was already denied to me. So I enquired of the only bus kiosk I could find how to get to Penn train station and was told they go there directly for just $16 which they reluctantly, after forceful insistence on my part, accepted cash for. I caught the bus and we started the kamikaze trip into New York. The driver seemed to use the accelerator and brake as switches rather than a linear control but it did at least keep me awake. And then we stopped. The passengers looked around at each other. Some got off the bus. I and others tried to get the attention of the driver who was standing on the pavement outside. Failing in this, I went outside and asked if this was Penn station, even though I could see it was not. No, change bus, he replied curtly. To which bus, I politely asked. Stand here, it'll be along soon, he drawled. And so I stood. I enquired of the next thirty busses that arrived but none went my way. Until a man in a luminous green tunic beckoned what by now was some twelve lonely travelers to follow him. He showed us to a van, capable of seating eight at a push and with the luggage space for a solitary Louis Vuitton vanity bag. We shoe-horned our way into the bus and the driver noted, in turn, all our destinations. I was pleased to see he seemed to know of Penn station and after three stops announced we had arrived. I got out the bus, collected my bag and looked around a train station free street. Penn station? Over there, he gestured. That is Madison Square Gardens I noted. It's by the side of that, just a block away, a block I had assumed he might have used his bus to transit. But I travel fairly light and found the station underneath Madison Gardens and booked my ticket for the princely sum of $135 one way.
But the train left on time and the one hour journey was uneventful although busy and included one woman trying to hold a conference call with her company via her laptop. What could be so urgent that all your customers details are shouted into the carriage of the Amtrak Express for all to hear. A short taxi ride to the hotel and I had arrived. My booking was on the system although they seemed to think I had already paid but well past caring threw my bags on the sofa and collapsed on the bed. It was 5.30p.m. I had a quick bite in the restaurant which had a rather limited menu that seemed to target the obese and went straight to bed. I woke at midnight but thankfully fell asleep again, waking again at 6.a.m and feeling like death warmed up.
I won't bore you with the work except to say that taxi drivers in Philadelphia have no knowledge whatsoever of their city, including finding my customer's premises even though they had been there for over 100 years and employed over 800 people on that site alone. And on that subject, whilst waiting to be escorted into the secure site, I noticed some red label records of Caruso. My customer had bought RCA in the dim distant past, the first company to record Caruso and Tettrazini and here, amongst photos and models of the space station and space shuttle were records of Caruso and Elvis and Perry Como. I was on the site where Caruso made his first recordings. By the time my customer met me he probably didn't understand the excited questions I was asking. Yes this was the site but the original buildings were knocked down years ago. Yes, we have an archive room somewhere but he wasn't sure where. And no, I could be paid in records.
But after much apprehension the work went well and they were very complimentary of my knowledge, asking me to stay to meet the NASA engineers which I managed to get out of as it meant another 5 days stay. But they placed more orders (or asked for quotations so they could order more), were generous in my expenses claims, insisting I also claim for my time whilst travelling and letting me leave early so I had my Saturday free.
Friday night I slept until midnight, missing dinner completely, but then only slept fitfully again until 5.a.m. when I gave up trying and watched TV for a while, had two baths because my skin was getting itchy because of the extreme dryness of the air and also, probably, the complete lack of proper sleep. At 10a.m. I checked out and wandered around the city as my flight was not until 8p.m. I didn't find anything of note, not a single bookshop or music shop, and grabbed a coffee in Starbucks just to get out of the cold. It was near freezing and warming up slowly despite the bright sunshine.
I had also been keeping my eye open for a place to have a nice lunch. Enquiries of taxi drivers whilst they attempted to find my customer or my hotel had so far yielded two cheese steak 'restaurants' and the Hard Rock cafe. I was beginning to sympathise with their choice but then happened upon a little French bistro which - was closed. But whilst I teased myself reading the menu a man came and unlocked the door. Are you open for lunch, I enquired. No, he replied, but we have another sister restaurant that is. And so I found myself at the Caribou restaurant where I had a lovely lunch of goats cheese, fig and beetroot salad to start, followed by a peppered tuna steak with pureed potato and cabbage and bacon and a nice creme brulee to finish. All washed down with a lovely selection of wines by the glass.
Feeling distinctly pepped up by the lunch I caught the train back to New York without incident. Not wanting to endure the bus again and not knowing where it picked up anyway I waited 45 minutes for a taxi. JFK terminal four please, I instructed and sat back in the seat glad to feel like I was really on my way home now. After about 100m the taxi pulled over. Do you know how to get there, the driver asked. I should have got out there and then but I had three hours to my flight, it was now 5p.m. on a Saturday in New York and I had lost my place in the taxi queue. JFK, I shouted, the airport, how can you not know where the airport is. It is just my third day, he retorted expecting some sympathy. But he had GPS and we were soon on our way except he didn't seem to know how to set the meter. Don't bother, I said as we nearly drove into the car in front. Just give me a price. But he called his headquarters and we spent the rest of journey clipping curbs and nearly clipping cars as he held the phone in one hand, tried to drive with the other all whilst fiddling with the GPS. But we did get there, albeit with my heart distinctly racing more through the total frustration of it all than the near death experience.
I checked in, carried my own bags to the baggage check-in, negotiated immigration which was now a girl sat on a stool, they don't care who leaves the US, and found a seat at a bar to have a glass of wine whilst waiting for my flight.
Again, by the time the flight took off I had been awake for many hours but still I couldn't sleep properly. I had now managed to catch up with my wish list of films, including Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (slightly annoying beginning - the Kiera Knightley character - but I really enjoyed the middle onwards), The Artist (absolutely stunning film), The Avengers (too much crash bang wallop) and Dark Shadows (quite enjoyable but could have been so much more). I watched a very funny spoof on the London Olympics organising committee and the Big Bang Theory Twice. And my i-Pod stopped working. Completely kaput with a corrupt display.
And so I arrived in Singapore. I was so tired my legs ached. The skin itched. I had a headache and heartburn, probably from too much wine on the flight. And no access to the lounges. I had some breakfast thinking it might give me an energy boost. Which it did, for about 34 milliseconds. Still five hours to go I actually thought of going to town to find a nice breakfast somewhere but decided against it. I found the transit hotel and enquired of a room thinking a nap would at least stop my legs from aching so much but none were available until 10a.m. If I sat everything just hurt. So I wandered from one end of Terminal E to the other end of Terminal F. And back again. And back again. I spent thirty minutes in the foot massager, the pain of which took my mind off my legs. I had a Guinness and watched some football. I walked from one end of Terminal E to the far end of Terminal F and back again. And finally my flight left, I passed through Thai immigration without problem, picked up my bags and was met by Ploy.
The journey home took a little longer because of thunderstorms but by the time I was home and I had calmed down an over-excited Pinky (it is lovely being met by her after being away, she gets so excited she doesn't know what to do with herself), we popped around the corner for some dinner - I didn't really want anything but found myself enjoying some nice soup - Ploy poured me a glass of wine on our return home and we chatted for thirty minutes or so before going to bed. And I slept, and slept, waking once but sleepwalking to the toilet and immediately falling asleep again, and only waking because of someone calling for Ploy outside. I had slept thirteen hours solid and although feeling a a little dreamy and other worldly my skin had stopped itching and my legs didn't ache any more.
I switched on my computer, made a coffee and sat down with Ploy to plan our day. But returning to my computer I was met with a corrupt screen, similar to my i-Pod in fact. I switched off and on again but this time nothing. Not even the boot screen. No sound from the disk, no light on the CD drive. Dead. As a Dodo.
I had mentioned before that after this trip, if all went well, it would be a sort of watershed. We were expecting payment for some decent size orders, and all past work was finished. Done and dusted. Now we move on. But not without a computer we don't. Yes we have a backup but we had just thrown our other computer out in expectation of buying a new one. And just to build another computer would take days, if not weeks to do in its entirety. Luckily I was still too tired and spent to react. OK, I said, let's go into town and see if we have been paid yet. We did and we had so we drew out enough money to buy another computer. Maybe by the end of today I could at least have my e-mail running again. If I could remember the passwords for the accounts which I doubted I could.
We dropped the now defunct computer at a computer repair shop but I didn't hold out much hope. Actually the story is quite long and I could see his bewilderment. Yes it is a laptop but I only use it with the docking station. He had never seen a docking station before. If you use it standalone the on/off switch is broken and the display doesn't work. But I use a big monitor anyway so I have never bothered to get it fixed. And if I travel I have web access to my e-mail, (except I had changed the password some months ago and had forgotten to update the web access passwords so I could only access two accounts). Finally I persuaded him to switch it on with the docking station and would you know it, it switched on. Perfectly, although the boot up was very slow. But there was everything, all my programs, all my files.
I took it home straight away and ran various checks but no problems were found. But this morning it didn't switch on again until a fifth attempt when again everything is OK. I have done another complete backup and can only guess at the problem but at least the hard disk seems OK. I am very fond of the computer, it has been with me everywhere and is switched on more than it is switched off. It is more than 8 years old and has probably blue screened less than five times in its life. Before the display issue it went everywhere with me. But it is probably time for a graceful retirement and time to purchase at least one other as a clone for this one.
It has been an eventful few days. But I think we have turned a corner and even through the slight fog that persists (I woke at 2a.m. today) I do feel more optimistic than I have done in a long time. Especially as I have no more travel in the foreseeable future.
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