California Diary | Escape from LAX
(from my holiday journal)
In the taxi to the airport. Terry is clutching a tube of toothpaste wrapped in clingfilm, which he’s been carrying since we left the house. He couldn’t put it in his suitcase because he’d dropped the case at my parents’ place last night; he tried to put it in mine, but I refused, citing my strict “double-bagging” of all liquids policy.
Mum has just reminded us all of that one time terrorists crashed a car into Glasgow airport. I’d forgotten about that one: thanks, mum: I’d hate to have gotten onto the plane without the full list of terrorist attack on aircraft in my mind!
Immediately alert a member of staff to the presence of an unattended bag in the checkout line. It turns out to belong to the man standing directly in front of it: whoops! Still, you can’t be too careful, can you?
Unsure of the whereabouts of the toothpaste tube. Terry is wearing the GoPro strapped to his chest, though: feels a bit like being on an episode of the Kardashians, only without all the plastic surgery.
On plane for first flight, to Heathrow: feeling suspiciously calm – even forgot to deploy Pinkie during takeoff, which is very unlike me. Terry keeps joking that he put Valium in the coffee he brought me when we got up at 4am this morning. DID HE? Also: where is the toothpaste tube? And wait… where is my wedding band and engagement ring? Oh yeah: on my desk at home, where I left them. Hands feel weirdly naked without them. Think there’s a Tiffany & Co. at Heathrow, though? Hmmm.
On flight to LA:
There was a Tiffany & Co at Heathrow, but we didn’t have time to go in. Also Terry gave me what could only be described as a “withering look” when I even suggested it, so there’s that. Looks like I’ll just have to get used to being ring-less for this trip. Plane is one of those double-decker ones, which freaked me out, but it actually took off really smoothly: am managing to stay super-calm- -go, me!
2 hours into flight: just realised I’m wearing my sweater back-to-front, and have been for 5 hours now. Oops.
When we got on board, mum presented Terry and I with adult colouring books and sarcastically told us to have fun. (Note: this is an in-joke between my mum and us which would take too long to explain, but suffice to say that she wasn’t actually treating us like kids!) The joke was on her, though, because we actually DID have fun, and colouring redheaded ladies with green dresses was a pretty good distraction technique!
Ten and a half hours later, LAX Immigration Hall:
Landed! Pretty good flight, except for the 15 minutes of turbulence, during which I became convinced I was going to throw up: had the paper bag out and everything – GOD. Think we’ve been in immigration line for longer than we were actually on the flight, though: they now have these weird self-service immigration booths which take your fingerprints and mugshot (they took the mugshot away from me before leaving: probably so they can laugh at it in private), and then let you answer all of the security questions via touchscreen.
Thought this was quite a good idea (Immigration for introverts!) until it turned out that after going through the self-service checkouts, you then have to go into another line and do the whole thing AGAIN, but with a human this time. Then another line for customs. Then another line for – I have no idea what the fourth line was for, actually – I’d given up on life by that point, and had just accepted we would never leave LAX.
On the plus side, this has given me a great idea for my first novel: Escape from LAX will tell the harrowing tale of a group of hapless and exhausted travelers who must find their way out of LAX, circling endlessly from automated immigration booth to unfriendly customs officer, and back again, occasionally being accosted by someone screaming, “NO CELLPHONE USE IN THIS AREA!”, even although they weren’t actually using their cellphones at the time. Will they EVER escape LAX? You’ll have to buy the book to find out…
(While I was making a note of this awesome idea above, a member of immigration staff approached me. “Is that a good review you’re writing for us?” he joked. “Well,” I said, “I was a fresh-faced teenager when I landed, and now look at me – what do YOU think?” In my own head, obviously. I don’t know much, but I DO know you never use sarcasm with an immigration officer, so I just smiled widely and said, “Of course! God bless America! Sir!” They let me into the country, so it’s all good…)
Anyway, we finally made it out of LAX (dammit, just spoiled the end of my book: another great idea bites the dust!), got the car and hit the road. Our holiday begins! Still don’t know what happened to that toothpaste tube, though…