Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Coins, Candy and Calls - my first visit to the US (part 1)

It started with getting a bus from my home town of Luton to Heathrow Airport. That was tiring enough, but follow that with a 7 hour flight, plus the time it took to get through passport control and pick up my luggage, and by the time I got to the lobby of Newark Airport, I was tired and crabby. Not to mention anxious, seeing as I was to meet up for the first time with a woman who I had previously only communicated with via the Internet or phone.

It should have been so simple. I just needed to find a payphone, call the aforementioned woman, who would then come out and pick me up from the Airport. One problem: I didn't have any US Change - only bills (or notes, as we like to call them in England). It shouldn't be too much of a problem - right?

So I started by finding an information desk and asked if they could break a bill for me. No, they weren't allowed to do that. OK, still no problem, I'd go to one of the stores and buy something, getting some change in the process. I worked out how much I'd need, then found some kind of confectionery that would result in me getting enough change. The storekeepers had been so kind as to put a price label on everything - how helpful! What they don't tell you is that sales tax isn't included in that price! So the change I'd carefully calculated was less than I needed! I tried the same procedure again, and found I still didn't have enough. In fact, by the time I had enough money for the phone, I also had pockets that were positively bulging with tooth-rotting candy!

But I had enough money for the phone. That was the main thing. I found the piece of paper with my friend's number on it and dialed. But here's the thing - when an American tells you their phone number, they say "My number is 123-456-7890." They forget to tell you that you have to dial a "1" in front of all numbers. I kept dialing the number I had, wondering briefly whether I was the victim of an expensive variation of the old "call me, here's a fake number" ruse, then thinking that perhaps I'd just copied the number incorrectly. Either way, I'd somehow managed to lose some of my change in the process, so it was back to the store to buy more candy.

I went back to the information desk to see if they had a directory. They did, and so I was able to look up the number. Of course, it was the number that I already had written down. So I went back to try again, with the same result. Eventually, and I can't recall where I found the small but all-important snippet of information about adding a "1" (after all, it was eleven or twelve years ago), I finally managed to get through and let my friend know I'd arrived...oh...over an hour previously.

(To be continued)


La Belle Femme said...

This is really good, Graham. I wish you'd written more so I could see where the story goes! Can't wait to read more. :)

Graham said...

Watch this space! :)

Alison said...

No one would give you change unless you bought something? You were certainly in New York City. I look forward to reading the rest.

Lexie said...

I think that many people are looking forward to find out what happened next, not only me! :D

I really liked what I read Graham :)

Mouse said...

Looking forward to the next bit Graham :)

x Mouse

Graham said...

Thanks for all the lovely comments! There's more on its way!

Anonymous said...

For my part I was at work waiting for a phone call from a guy I had met on the internet. Remember this was in the mid-nineties when we were warned that all men on the internet were strange guys misrepresenting themselves and there were no on-line dating services. My friends thought I was nuts meeting him much less picking him up and bringing him to my house!
Also I hadn't seen a picture of him, just this description: "A short Brit with glasses and a huge rucksack". He's lucky I didn't drive right by him. So am I!