Monday, 5 August 2013

The Chicago Diaries - Day 1

Flying is the best way to travel. I went through 6 time zones and spent 9 hours in the air, and have landed in the United States of America, a land where everyone has the Stars and Stripes outside their house in case confused foreigners forget exactly where they are. I've been warmly welcomed by Mary's parents and her pets (most of her pets, one took a single look at me and shot off as if it had been scalded). I was also warmly welcomed by the immigration agent, the waiter at dinner last night, and the cashier in the ridiculously oversized supermarket that Mary calls a "grocery store". A grocery store in the UK is a place you can walk around in twenty minutes.

But from the beginning. I arrived in excellent time, because my good father was kind enough to drive me to the airport, and sat and read for a couple of hours. I also saw this fantastic vehicle,
but unfortunately my flight was not in the TARDIS. I was actually on an enormous plane, a double-decker, and I managed to blag myself an aisle seat. As soon as I boarded, I set my watch to Chicago time - I'd read that living the "target" schedule would ease jetlag, but realised with sinking horror that this meant it was only 5am in Chicago and I wouldn't be able to eat for another three hours!

Longest three hours of my life. But the food came, and it was excellent. +British Airways is consistently the best airline, and this time was no disappointment. The food was great and the in-flight entertainment was varied and excellent. I saw the new Danny Boyle film Trance, which was absolutely weird from beginning to end, and G.I. Joe: Retaliation, which was dumb and explodey and dragged like a mobster with his kneecaps shot out. Not recommended.

So I arrived in Boston, and was faced with the full force of the American propaganda machine. Stars and Stripes everywhere, on every surface that could support a bit of cloth, and video screens that reminded us poor immigrants how amazing life in the US of A could be. In addition, they used American actors to portray people of all nationalities in a helpful video about what to do when going through customs. You have to declare everything you're leaving here, and also let them take all of your fingerprints and a photograph.

I managed to break the fingerprint machine the first time round. For me, this merely provides evidence that I am, in fact, a sleeper agent and have had my fingerprints removed. My theory was unfortunately proved wrong when the machine at the next window worked perfectly well.

I recuperated my luggage and re-checked it for my next flight, then bought a coffee with dollars. Very weird, and I now have three shiny quarters. I am not sure what to do with them. Vague childhood memories tell me I should buy gumballs. Naturally it's all stamped with the words "In god we trust" which makes me itch, but when in Rome don't point out the crazy Romans.

It was then just a short hop to Chicago, where I got body checked by my girlfriend Mary. The baggage took forever to come, and then finally we went back to hers. She has a gorgeous house (see below)

and gave me the full tour, basement included. Finally, her parents took us out to T.G.I Fridays, where we had the most gloriously stereotypically upbeat and cheerful waiter in the history of creation. Being, as I am, from Europe, I was a little suspicious of his attitude to begin with, but it turns out he really is that cheerful.

O brave new world, that has such people in't!