Diary of an Ex-Expat, Part 10
Just random babble.
This will be short in addition to being delayed, for a number of reasons such as it's not like there's a hoard of people clamoring for them to show up and also because I'm still jet lagged, the result of landing at 9 AM and going straight to the office to work a full day of meetings and workshops. Yay! I'll be traveling again Thursday, which I think means I haven't spent a full week in Berlin in like a month. Or something. I can't really count.

Business travel is nice, because it gives you the opportunity to stay in fantastically overpriced hotels and then to pay even more for wireless Internet, because if $500 a night doesn't get you 3Mb Wifi, well, $515 certainly ought to.

I landed exhausted enough that I decided it was in my best interests to order room service, which proved to be a $30 hamburger that was, ah, not very good. Dry and flavorless. The $30 included a $3.50 delivery charge and an 18% gratuity; charmingly, a line was provided for "extra gratuity," which I suppose is there for if you want to give the guy a happy ending.

There are matters of opinions on American cities, I know. I like Chicago alright. I like Portland and Seattle a lot. I love Boulder, and I'm pretty down with Denver. San Francisco was cool, though not as cool as San Franciscans think. It is, we should clarify, entirely a matter of opinion, which makes it also a matter of opinion when I say:

I'm just really not sold on New York City, I have to admit.

Greenwich Village is an interesting place, and a fair degree like Berlin. The rest of it, though. It's expensive, and hot, and honestly the subway system isn't all that good. I would describe it as as average, except in terms of noise (it is certainly one of the loudest). It did offer me the opportunity to see one of the weirdest panhandling experiences:

Guy comes on. Okay-looking guy, probably in his early 20s, a bit scruffy, shorts and a t-shirt. Immediately starts winning points for honesty, if not discretion, in a rapid-fire monologue delivered in what you would think of as a stereotypical New York accent:

"Hey, can I have some money? Okay, so I need 3.75. I had $4 yesterday, but I had to buy a pair of socks and I've got this rash all over my hands. See? So here's the deal, guys: I need $3.75. I need to buy a bus ticket, and I need to buy a hot dock. C'mon, help me. Hello? Help me. Is anybody gonna help me? Just a quarter? Give me a quarter? Jesus fucking Christ, what another waste of time.

So, like I said. Points for not beatin' around the bush on that one. And actually, I will say that about the one thing I like about New York is that New Yorkers seem to be pretty cool people.

They do have one of the worst airports. Good lord. I talk a lot of shit about Heathrow, because I think that Heathrow is one of the worst things that reasonable people have done to one another on purpose. But JFK has to be right up there.

The thing is, it's not any one thing about JFK in particular. The terminal is relatively clean, although not conspicuously so. There are enough things to do in the terminal, although it's not lavish by any means. The gate agents are pleasant.

I have now flown from JFK three times. I have never once left on time. The first time was a delay in cleaning the aircraft. Twenty minutes. The second time was "the rain," an interesting invisible-pink-unicorn style construct that did not result in any drops on the ground or on the windows, but did leave us 50 minutes late heading for Schiphol.

This time it was "a problem taxiing" on the part of our original airplane, which escalated into not being able to find space in the taxi queue, which resulted in a two hour delay leaving. So as far as I can tell, the JFK authorities are so behind schedule the airport radio is just now getting into 'N Sync. This would also explain why it takes so bloody long to collect your baggage.

I will also now submit that if you are a frequent traveler in and out of the States, Global Entry is one of the best goddamned things since chocolate chip cookies. I don't mean just any chocolate chip cookies, either, I mean the really good ones that are kind of melty and were cooked with enough butter that they stain the paper they're wrapped in. And they have macadamia nuts.

Global Entry means that rather than waiting in an obnoxious queue, you just go up to a kiosk. The kiosk takes your picture, and you scan your fingerprints, and then it prints out a receipt that you hand to the authorities and waltz out. It's a brilliant thing.

... Unless it's just that the JFK guys are so slow they're only just now realizing I entered. Shit.
31.07.2013 - 9h09

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