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Day 7 – “I think I left it in the ladies’ toilet”

21st May 2003 • Dave

We woke on Wednesday morning feeling thoroughly dejected with ourselves; OK, we’d wasted not a second of what had been a belting trip, but the granddaddy of all good things was about to come to an end. We took things at a leisurely pace, a final breakfast in Lindy’s filling the time before checkout. We then threw our bags in with the friendly left-luggage service. Although we were supposed to have obtained some forms from the reception desk for the use of this service, our English politeness must have paid off, as the guy in charge just said “Ah, leave them with me” and in doing so saved us sixteen dollars. This done, I found myself inexorably pulled back towards the DVD shop opposite Macy’s for another splurge, and then to the Internet café to alleviate my IM addiction. As the machines were not equipped with access software Dave had little to do while I pottered around my contact list, so I kept it short and within minutes we were on our way back up towards Times Square. The weather had turned humid and rainy that morning for the first time in the trip, and the added room required by umbrellas had turned busy crowds into melees filled with eye-gouging prongs. Navigating ten blocks was a stressful and lengthy chore, and we were thoroughly irritated and dampened by the time we once again visited Virgin Megastore. After lunch at Pizza Hut we realised time had once again got the better of us: we had under an hour to get back to the hotel, which would have been plenty but for the maniac crowds and umbrella ninjas. Taking a route which kept us off main thoroughfares, we were back inside our hotel lobby with at least thirty minutes to spare, and before recovering our bags Dave once again answered the call of nature. As we grabbed our suitcases, Dave suddenly patted his pockets, turned to me and said in a panicked voice “Rob, I think I’ve lost my passport”.

As the man Williams is not (usually) given to practical jokes or panic I knew we had a serious problem. If the passport had been left in the pizzeria or worse, dropped in Times Square, we had around twenty minutes to get up there, find it, and get back to catch our connecting bus. Considering a taxi round-trip with limited remaining funds, Dave suddenly said he thought it might possibly have been left in the toilets. It was at this stage it transpired the concierge had been unable to unlock the gents’ toilet, and had instead allowed Dave in to use the ladies. This meant we had to run up to the toilets, mindful that a trip to Times Square might still have been necessary, and demand to be let in to the ladies toilets on some laughable pretence of a passport being in there. Luck was on our side however, and some fellow Britishers nearby had heard our plight. A Yorkshire lass, equipped with a room key which would open the door, ran up to the toilet with me and, thankfully, there was the buff envelope containing all Dave’s travel documentation. Disaster had been averted, and Dave was happy enough to be assaulted by another female, spontaneously hugged by the Yorkshire lass’s mother.

The crisis averted, all that remained was to wait for our connecting bus, which arrived on time at a quarter past three. We climbed aboard, only to pile out a short while later at Grand Central Station, and we then waited for the bus which would take us to the airport. This showed up in good time and we climbed aboard to settle down for the hour-long trip. Yet more earthy characters were aboard with us, a loud lady behind Dave and I proclaiming recent terror alerts to be “just an excuse to bomb Syria”. Once we set off, we anticipated a ride lasting maybe an hour, but in the event we did not make it to JFK until half past six in the evening. We later learned a severe chemical spill had engulfed the city in traffic chaos, and we were lucky to have made it to the airport when we did. We checked in at a fair old pace and then headed for the security gate. The security at JFK is unimaginably tight, as you might expect, but the scrutiny we received was over the top. Laptop out of bag, coats off, belts off, shoes off, skin off. It took a good ten minutes to make it through the magnetometer, not helped by Dave’s irrational but now perfectly understandable refusal to let go of his buff envelope.

After we reassembled ourselves and our luggage, Dave took the opportunity to mangle his own card in the duty free, purchasing perfume for his sister and cigarettes for himself, and resisting the impulse to buy any 1.75 litre bottles of Bushmills or Maker’s Mark. We queued and boarded the plane, waving goodbye to the city for the final time, but agreeing that nothing short of Dave actually losing his passport completely could have spoiled the trip. The flight was as expected, dragging, and not helped by the passenger in front of me who insisted on reclining his seat all the way back, to the point where it was inches from my nose. Even if I reclined my own seat, it left me virtually no room to eat, and I had to ask several times before I ended up with enough room. Conspicuous by its absence too was the ‘multimedia’ entertainment system we’d enjoyed on our way across. The films on offer started and finished at static times, and the one genuinely redeeming feature was the presence of bona fide games from the Super Nintendo library. The Legend of Zelda at 38,000 feet is an experience to treasure. On touchdown we were once again picked up by the finest human being alive and shuttled away from Heathrow, stopping only to demolish a full English breakfast as our first meal back on English soil. The first visit for Dave and second visit for myself to the greatest city on the planet was well and truly over, done and dusted, finished, completed, but it had been everything we’d expected and more. Instead of trying to reproduce that first awed trip we’d just hit the city with everything we had, and we’d given a very respectable account of ourselves. I can’t help but wonder what the trip will be like when I return in another seven years’ time, although I have a feeling it will be sooner.

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