We were ready to leave New York. Two and bit weeks of walking hours and hours a day; the noise; the dirt and grime; all helped us to know we were ready. The noise was a surprise. It’s an extraordinarily noisy place with the sirens and subways and elevated railways and the constant car horns. These drivers hit the horn for any reason – they may see someone half a mile up the road who looks like they might be heading toward the curb to cross – honk!!!! The driver ahead may be waiting for some folks to cross the road – beeeeeep! The car ahead may have hesitated a nano-second before moving on the green – beep beep beep!!! I’m merging – BEEEP!!! It explains why New Yorkers talk loud.
We had our bags packed and the apartment clean early and decided to walk up Broadway towards Bedford one last time for coffee and a bite to eat. First open place we came to was Marlow and Sons, the place we went to dinner at the other night, so this time, in the harsh light of day, we took it as a breakfast option. I believe we made an excellent choice. We sat inside – too cold outside – and ordered coffees. I chose scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese and bacon on a toasted biscuit (biscuit being a scone as we were well aware by now) and Pip the poached eggs served on shell beans with yoghurt, toast and other way yummy stuff. It was a very successful breakfast and we decided, largely because we couldn’t think of anything else to do in the short period of time available and also because we were tired, to grab our luggage, grab a cab and head to JFK, which we did.
This possibly rash decision left us with about 3 hours in the gate lounge before our flight to LA. We snoozed. We iPhoned. We fiddled and got coffees and snacks. We watched planes and passengers come and go. I bought some new noise cancelling headphones, then we boarded and headed off to the west coast to meet our ‘red eye’ to Brisbane.
Our ‘red eye’ to Brisbane turned out to be delayed 17 hours, which meant we needed to queue for 3 hours, with all the other passengers, to be checked in and directed to various hotels around LA (well, actually around the airport at El Segundo). The fact that we were delayed due to technical problems does not concern us – shit happens (or heppens if your from NZ) – We’d rather sleep in a hotel than fly in a broken plane for 14 hours over water. The way Virgin Australia (a Delta Codeshare) handled the issue was where our issues arose. They chose a version of Tony Abbott’s silent treatment – no news is good news and they combined that approach by ignoring the couple of hundred people with luggage in the queue in front of them. More than once people asked them if they could take families with small children out of the queue – blank stares. They left the queue to make up it’s own Chinese whispers – don’t know how many versions of what was happening we overhead as we snaked through terminal and after 3 hours queuing (after a five hour flight from New York), we were greeted at the counter with a smiling, “Hi, thanks for waiting. How can I help you?”. The staff, who had been appearing and disappearing into a back room where the mother-of-all-queues could see them laughing and snacking, then told us how tired she was… we all three of us gave her our best blank stares, perhaps with slight tinge of “shut up and get on with it”.
Being an experienced customer service professional, I can offer a few options VA might employ when next the technical fairies bless an aircraft full of travellers with an unexpected transit surprise. Don’t let the passengers find out for themselves about the delay – we were “business as usualled” through two terminals before someone mentioned there may have been an issue. If you have a queue of biblical proportions, work it. Go up and down explaining the situation and the delay. Get the families with small children out – no one minds – it’s mid-freakin’-night. Don’t let your staff take breaks in a room in full sight of the queue while you leave a counter with six stations staffed by two. Offer those queuing some water, or a mintie – make them your friend, ’cause it only takes one to go bad… When there is a dick at the counter who is taking an inordinate amount of time and demanding all manner of stupid, take him away to a manager’s office (or take him out – either will work for me). Virgin’s supposed to be different, but let me tell you, Richard, it ain’t.
We were summarily dispatched by shuttle to El Segundo’s 674 room, salsa-dancing mecca, The Hacienda on Sepulveda. Here we were issued food vouchers for a scrumptious 1am meal of chicken over rice, or rigatoni bolognese – both matured in chaffing dishes for a good few hours – and a bread roll.
We used our breakfast vouchers to consume more matured tidbits from the salsa dancing mecca’s chaffing dishes …and here we sit waiting to shuttle back to the airport in a couple of hours to continue our journey home. I did go out to the 7-11 across the road, so I guess I can say I’ve been to LA now.