After wrangling an interview for my US visa in April I've finally done my first rostered New York flight! This has been one lengthy process - from convincing the visa organiser in the office that I needed the visa and New York NEEDED ME, to the 3 hour process of the "interview" (jumping through US "security" hoops for a 1 minute interivew at the end), to collecting my freshly stamped passport to waiting. And waiting. And waiting for a flight!!
Once we have the shiny new visa in our passport, we have to wait 3 months before we're placed on the Master Crew List, some document most likely hidden in the depths of a computer somewhere in the Pentagon, telling the US Department of Homeland Security which crew are allowed to fly into the States. Because having an official visa stuck in my passport isn't telling enough. After tiring of the wait after two months I called the office and was told I was on the list! At two months instead of three!
I'd been bidding for flights since I got that visa, hoping that maybe I could fool the system and they'd give me one. No such luck. Finally, while stalking the roster system day by day before rosters were officially released I discovered I'd been rostered for a New York!
Barely able to contain my excitement, I started planning things to do. Keeping in mind I've been there three times before on holidays and this work trip would only give me ONE DAY in my favourite city in the world, I had some precision planning to do!
My first trip this month was a Brisbane, and I was delighted to be home for Mum's roast pork on Father's Day. Five days off followed that trip and then it was time to get ready for NY! It was an early morning take-off, at about 2am, so I set my alarm for 10pm. I purposely stayed up late the night before so I could kind of get my sleeping patterns on track, so I was pretty tired when I went to bed at 6pm. When the alarm went off I was quite groggy and hit snooze. My bus was scheduled to pick me up at 11.15pm, and this snoozing went on until 10.30. I just couldn't figure out why the alarm was going off at night and why it wouldn't stop. All of a sudden, I bolted upright, grabbed the clock and realised it was going off because I was supposed to be going to NEW YORK!!!
Lucky I'd ironed and packed before I went to bed, so I just had to rush around and have a shower, tame my hair and plaster on some semblance of a face. All good to go, I grabbed a container of the chicken and corn soup I'd made a few days earlier and I was off to catch the bus. I arrived at briefing, checked in my bag, got briefing over with and then it was off to the aircraft. From the minute I stepped on board I felt a little sick. Just nauseous and yucky. Once we'd taken off I started to feel worse. Guzzling water seemed like a good idea to calm my stomach, which I thought was playing up because I hadn't eaten any dinner before the flight. Within half an hour of take-off I was in the toilet, puking my guts up. Then I repeated my efforts about half an hour later.
Let me tell you, the intimate experience of having my face almost IN the toilet bowl is something I'll never forget and I'd like to say right now that I NEVER want to hear another passenger complain about how dirty they are. Believe me, I know! Unless you've had the same displeasure, I don't want to hear it! I didn't want to get too close to it, but didn't want to be too far away in case I made more of a mess and had to clean it up.
I was sent on the first break to sleep it off and after a solid few hours of rest I felt much better. The rest of the flight was quite busy, with all eight of our passengers eating one after the other and not really giving us a moment of peace. We finally landed, had our fingerprints taken and retinas scanned, micro-chips implanted in our necks and made our way to the hotel in Brooklyn. I'd had conflicting advice from the crew who'd done the trip before - some said "don't sleep, go straight out and then you'll sleep really well tonight". Others said "have a nap when you get in, otherwise you'll hit a wall and be stuffed before you get back". I took advice number one, showered and went straight out before my body could convince me otherwise. It was a lovely morning so I decided to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan, something I'd meant to do each time I'd previously been there but just didn't seem to get around to doing.
There was so much hustle and bustle on the bridge I couldn't believe it! Tourists galore, bike riders, families on outings and even a fashion shoot! There, on a Monday morning was a model dressed in a hideous Jackie-O style jacket, toting a massive bag and pouting and posing her heart out. Not one to rubberneck, I bypassed the growing crowd and soon found myself near City Hall. It was a short train ride and a rather long and confusing walk to the first stop on my list: Bed Bath & Beyond. I was in search of a super cool shower curtain I should have bought last year but didn't think I really NEEDED. I've been thinking about it ever since, so I decided Monday was as good a time as any to buy it. Never mind that it might not be in stock anymore, I had to have that opaque curtain with sparkly confetti-style circles embedded in it. Trust me, my description doesn't do it justice. I wasn't to find that curtain, because the store didn't exist! I diligently copied the address down from the website and must have looked like one confused kid when I got to the corner of East 4th and 1st Avenue. All I could see were apartment blocks, a delusional drunk and a corner store. The store attendant gave me rather shady directions to the nearest store, which I promply discarded and set off for the next stop on my list: Dumpling Man.
Dumpling Man is a cute little shop in the East Village that we discovered on holidays last year. One of Ash's friends gave us the hot tip, so we set of in search of dumpling greatness. We munched on them in a failed attempt to calm my nerves before getting inked at a tattoo shop two doors down. Little old Chinese ladies make the dumplings on the other side of the counter while you watch and you can have them steamed or seared. Searing is just crunchy-good! You can even buy them to take home to cook later. Their webcam broadcasts their dumpling prowess for all the world to see. Alas, this year I realised it would be one hell of a walk from where I was, so I abandoned that idea and set out for my next planned stop.
Whole Foods is an organic paradise with an awesome range of fresh fruit and produce, chocolate, bread, flowers, a salad and hot food buffet and even a grind-your-own peanut butter station! It's basically a natural supermarket for the health conscious. And yuppies. I bought what I always do - a big brown container of the salad bar/hot buffet/dessert buffet. At $7.99/pound, it's a bargain! I avoided the dessert section in favour of some scrummy salads and was the happiest I'd been all day, curled up on a chair looking out the windows at the New York streets below as I munched on my ogranic goodness! It's amazing how much better things taste when they're not dowsed in steroids, pesticies and rat repellants. If organic food wasn't such a blatant rip-off in Dubai and so woefully difficult to get to in the horrendous 24-hour traffic, I'd eat it all the time. Not that they'd have anywhere near the selection in NY or a buffet of any kind, but it'd kind of feel like I was cheating on Whole Foods.....
From Whole Foods, it was back on the tube to underwear mecca: Victoria's Secret. Walking through those revolving doors is a different experience - there are racks of gorgeous underwear and hordes of credit card waving women and confused looking men. Oh, who could forget all the life size pictures of stunning supermodels wearing aforementioned underwear with killer curves plastered EVERYWHERE around the store? Enough to make you suck in your spare tire, pull your jeans up over your love handles and insist you ARE a size small when the over-zealous sales assitants chirp "hiiiiiiii, howwww arrrrrrre youuuuuuuu?" the nano-second you step foot on the premises.....of course not....
I wandered around, picked up a few things and then lost all hope when it became apparent I had more knowlege than the sales assistant/bra fitter regarding bra sizes and fittings of such contraptions. I left the store with a bulging trademark pink striped bag (not containing any bras, strangely enough!) and set off in search of shoe heaven.
I recently flew with a girl who had the funkiest sandals I've ever seen and when she told me she'd bought them at Steve Madden in New York I nearly squealed with delight while trying to explain that I'd be there in less than two weeks time. She tried to let me down gently, telling me she'd bought them a year ago, but I scoured their website and they still had them! Alas, at almost 6 feet tall I've been "blessed" with rather large feet. I'm a size 41/42 and was very hopeful when I saw on the website that their shoes go up to a 10. I estimate I was about 1 size too big for the shoes and there was just no way I was squeezing into them. I will now have to wrestle with shoe envy for the rest of my life. Or until gladiator sandals go out of style. These babies have graced the feet of Heidi Klum, Bar Rafaeli and Kate Moss....I so wanted to join that funkily dressed crowd.
By this time I was seriously hitting that sleep deprived wall and it was about 3pm. I was starting to wish I'd had that nap after all.....until I realised I'd still be in bed and not shopping. That perked me up a bit, enough to brave another clothing store. I ventured into Gap, where I bagged a cute little knit sweater with groovy button detail on it and then hit up the locals behind the register for directions to my hotel.
That's right, navigationally challenged Pink Poodle vetoed the conceirge desk prior to strolling over the Brooklyn Bridge because there were wayyyy too many tourists all haggling for maps. So, not knowing which train stop my hotel was near, I decided those who live in NY might be able to help me. I stand by my belief that Americans are rather helpful souls. Slightly painful when OUT of their country, they're just great when they're in it. While some didn't really know the answer to my questions and gave me directions that would have surely resulted in a very wild goose chase, it was the thought that counted.
By this time, my feet were killing me and I was on the lookout for a pharmacy to stock up on some industrial strength bandaids! I'd foolishly worn the same sandals I'd trecked around Paris in only a few weeks earlier after vowing to never again wear them for distances greater than 2 blocks. Pain is unavoidable and sometimes necessary when shoes are involved. I discovered Duane Reade on my first visit to NY when I was in desperate need of a bottle of water. How to spot vacationing cabin crew? They're armed with a 1.5 litre bottle of water at all times! My mate Duane (there's pretty much one on every corner like a 7-11) carries an awe-inspiring range of bandaids, chocolate, painkillers, chintzy greeting cards and an uber cool line of nail polish called OPI. Not only are the colours awesome, but they're very long lasting and fairly chip resistant. Very important in my job, as a chipped nail can be very distracting on a long flight. It can lead to picking off the rest the polish or even breaking the nail in frustration when you just can't get that last chip off. Terribly woeful when compared to world hunger. Each colour has a super cool name, such as "you're such a kabuki queen", "cajun shrimp", "bubble bath" and my all time favourite "lincoln park after dark".
At only $8.50, they're a steal! I grabbed three new colours and a bottle of hideous Evian water (higher in sodium levels than the salt plains of Utah) and hightailed it out of there and into the nearest subway station. After interrogating a few of my fellow passengers, I exited the tube at what I hoped was the nearest station to the hotel. The Marriot not in sight, I approached the nearest fruit vendor and caught sight of some of the most delicious looking and smelling fruit I'd seen all day (sorry Whole Foods!). After buying some dinner snacks, I hit him up for directions. He didn't speak English. Lucky for me a passerby did and she have me rather correct directions. By this time I was staggering like I had a very bad case of arthritis in my feet and was desperately in need of some sleep. I walked past some of the crew who had to call out to me about 4 times and looked really confused when I looked at them blankly. I'd entered the no-return sleep zone and was fading fast. I asked (in hindsight I may have demanded) where the hotel was and staggered to it. They were all peppy because they'd wasted half the day sleeping and were off to see the Brooklyn Bridge in all it's night time glory.
I got into my hotel room, collapsed on the bed, ate my fruit and painted my toenails an awesome summer orange colour (cajun shrimp) and then passed our for 12 hours. It was then time to get ready for the flight back to Dubai.
New York is officially my new favourite flight. With not many passengers to look after, hours of sleep in the crew bunks and the best city in the world to layover in, who wouldn't want at least one a month on their roster??