Since arriving in the USA, it was pretty clear what the final post was going to be.
It would see me sitting on a plane over the Pacific Ocean, with a tea glass of 1910 beside me, musing over all that happened to us over three fantastic weeks. Lady D and I would be reminiscing about the highs and lows, although there were far more of the former, and this would be a blog post charged with great memories.
But life happens.
Our journey home started in Philadelphia with an early morning taxi ride, and a train to New York’s Penn Station. We spent a few hours at the 9/11 memorial, of which more might be said later.
A little last minute shopping for gift and souvenirs – as if our cases weren’t bulging, and a short taxi ride to JFK.
Make that a long taxi ride.
Make that a long hot taxi ride.
Make that a long hot taxi ride with no air-conditioning.
The nightmarish rigmarole at JFK – the check-in person said quite loudly to her colleagues that she was scared of a group of people who had just entered the airport, and I assure you that is not what you want to hear at a check-in counter.
We walked all the way to the last gate in the entire terminal, only to find our plane had been switched back to the first one.
And then a horrible cramped flight to LAX.
I know that’s a bit of a whinge, but the point is, we were tired, and not in our right minds. Which may excuse what was to happen.
We arrived at gate 56. We checked the board and our plane was to depart gate 57. That’s next to each other. A three-hour layover, and we had to cover ten yards.
Wow! A stroke of luck. As long as we didn’t leave that part of the terminal, then no more security, no more being frisked for explosives, no more questions about suspicious-looking teas.
So, time for a drink and snack.
And we’d drunk a fair bit of tea on the plane, and would no doubt again, so maybe a cold drink. In this part of the airport, only three choices.
Skewers? It’s full.
Lemonade Cafe? It’s full and a bit odd.
That leaves… McDonalds.
McDonalds? But why?
They had a few empty seats, it was only moderately filthy and the line was only ten minutes long. What can I say?
And to give them credit, they are globally consistent. The same incomprehensible mumbling pimpled teenagers at the counter, the same appalling taste.
A guy sitting next to us heard the accents and assumed we were Sydney-bound. We chatted to him, figuring he was fellow Dr Who fan based on his “Dr Who meets Star Wars” T-shirt, and figuring he was a software developer, based on his “Dr Who meets Star Wars” T-Shirt and beard.
He left us, this erstwhile Time Lord and a few minutes later, we went to move on ourselves.
And saw the bag.
Under the table was a duffle bag. Our beardy friend must have left it.
Instantly, our training took over. Every time you visit an airport they drum into you what to do. ALERT SECURITY!
But first, I’ll look outside to see if I can see him. I couldn’t, but coming into McDonalds was a TSA officer. Transportation Security Administration? That’s ALL the right words!
I quickly bought him up to speed. He was impressed by our diligence. To save trouble and time etc., I volunteered to see if I could track this Time Lord down.
After all, I knew where he was from, where he was going and what he looked like.
Feeling newly energised by my new role as a sworn armed deputy of the TSA*, I went off to track down this renegade.
I returned to where Lady Devotea was with our bags.
I couldn’t see the dynamic wall of muscle that was the TSA agent. The mysterious bag was still in-situ. I conferred with Lady Devotea as to the whereabouts of my new colleague.
“He’s- err – in the McDonalds line”, she informed me.
It must be some sort of undercover surveillance tactic, I reasoned.
Lady D swung into action then, and headed off to find the rogue bag-leaving software developer from Ohio: bravely and resolutely, I must say.
I kept watch.
A few minutes later a guy from the head of the line came by with his drink, collected the bag, popped it on another table, and went to collect his meal. Turns out he didn’t want to lug it so he’d shoved it under the nearest table. This is a guy who doesn’t listen to the recorded message every 9.4 seconds.
With Lady D absent and our four bags in my care, I really could not do anything but wait for either Lady D or the TSA agent to head back to our table – the control centre of the operation – for a conference.
The TSA agent turned from the head of the queue. As a brilliant bit of cover: he was carrying an ice-cream.
And I don’t know why McDonalds feel they have to suck up the TSA, but it was like the torch the statue of Liberty holds in shape and size. Perhaps it’s symbolic.
I waved to him, but he pretended not to see me. He squirted some sort of caramel sauce on the ice cream, then sat down at the far side of the McDonalds with another TSA agent.
Lady D returned to say she’d cornered the fugitive, and he swore it wasn’t his. We decided to accept this version of events.
Another victory for justice and security!
We’re proud to have helped keep America safe.*With limited time and as the agent had no spare forearm or badge, this only happened in spirit