Friday June 10th 1983 - Delays
The day after the general election. Maggie has won by a landslide. All the turkeys voted for Christmas. Surely they couldn't expect anything other than more of the same. Workers are being sacrificed for the benefit of the wealthy. I try to shake off the gloom. We are off to the US, our long planned trip, to the land of the free and Maggie's best mate Ronnie.
The flight from Manchester is late and it is unexpectedly diverted to Gatwick. Something about passengers left stranded there, but we are delayed a further two hours. A problem in the plane's galley. We eventually leave at about midday. Everyone is already hot, bothered and grumpy. There are a lot of moans and groans, but being mainly British passengers no one is making much fuss.
When we booked it was offered as a non-stop flight from Manchester to Los Angeles. Now we were told we were to land at Bangor, Maine and travel on to Los Angeles as domestic passengers. LAX is being redeveloped for next year's Olympic games and they are operating on reduced capacity for international arrivals. We arrive at Bangor at 2:00pm local time, 7pm on London time. We have been travelling more than 12 hours and are only half way to our destination.
Bangor airport isn't very busy. In fact it seems we are the only plane to have arrived, but it doesn't prevent long delays at immigration and customs. We have visas, but we stand in a long queue and eventually arrive at the desk. The immigration officer has a huge book which appears to be an enormous listing from a computer, the 132 character lines. He looks at our passports, asks a few questions, looks us up. He asks more questions. It's as though he thinks we want to move to the US. For heaven's sake man, we are only coming for a couple of weeks holiday. Don't get so paranoid. But we don't say that. We've been warned that immigration officials the world over have had a sense of humour removal and the US staff are particularly bad. Maybe they really believe theirs is the land of milk and honey and everyone from everywhere wants to live there.
The conversation repeats three times. Another customs officer comes across
We collect our bags and get to customs. If we thought immigration was slow, this is worse, but the customs officer seems to have something of a sense of humour. He is joking with the woman in front who has brought a fruit cake for her son. It is wrapped in silver foil and he is explaining she isn't supposed to take it into the country, but she persuades him it is thoroughly baked and he lets it through. Then it is our turn.
"What you got in the bag?" he asks. We tell him clothes and camping equipment.
"You sure you've not got alcohol?"
"Any food or other drink?"
"No just clothes and camping equipment."
"You really don't have any alcohol?" The conversation repeats three times. Another customs officer comes across.
"They say they don't have any alcohol," the first guy explains. "I think we'd better take a look."
"You sure you don't have any alcohol, 'cus if we find any you could be in a lot of trouble," says the second guy.
We repeat that we have no alcohol. They ask us to open the bags. We do and they stick in their hands and start feeling around. After a few seconds the eyes of the first officer light up and a big beam spreads across his face. "You haven't got any bottles, so what is this?" He withdraws his hand and, looking at us and not the items he's grabbed, holds aloft a camping torch which has been partially pushed into a plastic drinking cup.
"A torch and a beaker. Camping equipment."
He looks at it and the smile disappears from his face. "You don't have any alcohol." He says again, this time more as a statement than a question. He hands the items back to us and tells us we can go. I hope the people in the queue behind were amused. They were certainly kept waiting.
There is a sulphurous smell in the air. Is this the LA smog forming?
Eventually we board the onward flight and eventually arrive in Los Angeles at 6pm, or on our time clock 2am Saturday morning. It's murky and cool. We had expected it to be warm. As we wait for our bags at an outdoor carousel we watch planes take off and quickly disappear into the mist. There is a sulphurous smell in the air. Is this the LA smog forming?
We are on the edge of the airport and outside. There doesn't seem to be a proper terminal building. My companion, Stewart, complains that it's grotty. It is not what we had expected at LA and we are nowhere near the main airport facilities. We can't see any signs to the car hire depot but we find a phone and manage to ring Hertz. They send a shuttle to pick us up and in no time at all we have hired a small car, a Toyota Corolla, and I am driving through the LA traffic, onto the highway and towards our motel. Stewart navigates.
I am shocked that there is only one bed
We do pretty well finding our way we but wish there were junction numbers. We are not familiar with the boulevard names and I'm a little worried about missing the exit. We get lost very close to the hotel, but soon find the way. Driving on the right was not as difficult or stressful as I had expected, but I'm tired. It is 9:15pm local time. I was driving for one and a half hours from the airport and we have been travelling for over 24 hours.
The hotel room is smaller than I expected and I am shocked that there is only one bed. We thought we had booked a twin room, but it is a double. Fortunately it is a huge size bed. We are so tired we don't bother to find anywhere to eat, we'd eaten on the plane and we aren't hungry. We notice a sign on the door indicating the room is $70 per night. We worry because we thought it was $53 and if all the rooms are best part of $20 more than we thought, our budget will be blown.
Despite our tiredness it is hard to sleep.