LA Story 01 – Monday 26 March – Right Back Where We Started From

Note: This is an earlier post, repeated here as part of a series appearing over the next few days, describing the life-changing events that took place in Los Angeles, March 2007

I’ve often thought they should make the tedious process of checking in for a flight more interesting by having entertainment laid on, especially if you are checking in at 7am, as I was. After being picked up by the car at 5.30am, and after a fun scoot through Hammersmith and out through Chiswick to the lovely Heathrow, with dawn just thinking about beginning to rise, I could have done with some fun.

One idea I had while standing around in this fluorescent low-ceilinged hellhole was Charlie The Check-In Chicken. This would be a full grown man, whose job it would be to dress in a full rooster costume, but not a very good one. Slightly tatty, with a face-revealing grille in the neck where you can see his underpaid face. He would say things like, “Hello everyone! I’m Charlie the Check-In Chicken! Please keep this area clear of trolleys, you f**kin’ clods!” or, “Hi Ladies and Gentlemen! I’m Charlie the Check-In Chicken! Did you pack this bag yourself, or did some Yardie give it to you?”.

Shuggie was confused about why I was up at 5am, as was I. He thought it was breakfast and let-out-to-wee time. Sorry mate. I was sorry to say goodbye to his cute face in the dawn half-light. I’m missing him now.

It was a pretty uneventful flight from Heathrow to San Francisco. It was my first time in a 747-400. It was like a reverse TARDIS – these things look big on the outside, but economy class tends to remove any sense of space or indeed legroom. I could have bought 5 extra inches of legroom from Charlie the Check-In Chicken, but it didn’t seem worth it, 60GBP for some comfort for 10 hours.

My traveling companions were a Berkeley chemist called Miller, who spent the flight doing quantum algebra (I saw the word quantum, and it looked like algebra). On the other side of me was a young lady of unknown profession called Miller, who had been to London for grad school, but was heading home after a visit. She slept and did the crossword. I read Stephen Fry’s ‘The Stars’ Tennis Balls’, which is very good, a real page turner, with a great Count of Monte Cristo theme, interesting characters, deserved revenges, but a weak ending, I thought. You know he’ll get revenge, and he does, the end. Much like Iain Banks’ ‘Whit’ in that respect. The in-flight movies were a top-notch selection, being ‘Night At The Museum’, and a Bruckheimer thriller with Den-ZELL Washington, both of which suffered from the sound cutting out for a second every 30 seconds. Hence I slept for quite a while, with my mask on.

The notes I’m writing this from were written in the departure lounge at SF airport, waiting for my connection to LAX. An example of the raw notes:

“I ate on the plane, so I didn’t really feel hungry. Maybe I’ll pop off and grab a bite just to kill time. Or perhaps not! as we board in 30 minutes. Laterz”

Move over Paul Theroux. Next up, arrival and transfer to accommodation, featuring hugs.