From New York to Florida- The SUV chronicles
Day 1: Airport, Atif, and the bitch next door
I thought I’d give daily account of our Amreeki adventure as it went along, but like all my plans, it flopped the first day we reached the US. However, I did manage to keep a sort-of journal which I’m using as Cliff notes of my trip. Anyway, like every multi continental journey, mine starts with an airport.
The airport would have been boring had I not SURPRISE! met Atif there. He was headed to Dubai to meet his brother who has gotten him a job. Good for you yaar! Hope you’re minting money there. If possible, do kick a shaikh and see what happens. Khaer, Zehra and I hung around with Atif for a while, then I got cheated by Costa Coffee; they gave me Ovaltine when I asked for hot chocolate and thus unwittingly started a defamation campaign against themselves. Costa Coffee is going down!!
Anyway, if you’re going for an International flight, security is tough. Other than checking your hand-carry luggage for fluid of any type (*including toothpaste and shaving cream) security personnel pass your shoes through X ray machines too. It seems that a few years ago some immensely bright fundo had snuck in explosives in the soles of his shoes. If only they worked so hard on their physics…
Finally they let us on the plane. Since I opted to sit away from my parents (what they can’t see me do, they can’t disapprove of), the two seats next to me were empty. Now if God had paid attention to romantic comedies He’d have realized that this was an opportune moment to send along a semi decent looking young guy with a semi-functioning brain (Heaven knows i’m not picky) but no…God watches Real-life inspired dramas, and instead of a future Harvard law school grad I got to spend 18 continuous hours next to the world’s most obnoxious woman and her husband. Woe woe woe.
And to make matters worse check out the list of movies available on the in-flight “entertainment” list:
2. The Mist (The ending robbed me of whatever was left of my childhood)
3. Michael Clayton
4. Lions for Lambs
5. In the Valley of Elah
6. PS I love you (ten minutes into this movie and I wanted to kill the screenwriter. what crap.)
7. Alvin and the chipmunks. Puh-leeeaasssseee….
So I watched ‘Atonement’, followed by ‘the Mist’, then Michael Clayton. By the end of the first ten hours, I was in tears.
Stopping at Manchester
The English may have spent 300 years in the subcontinent but they didn’t return to their country with any respect for the ‘hindustanis’. We got off at Manchester and went through an extremely humiliating ritual called security checking in which they turned our bags upside down and sniffed our deodorant and confiscated our water bottles. After 45 minutes, they released us into the Manchester airport and we roamed uselessly among snobby goray log.
British people are strangely colorless. Their airport was surreally clean, and noiseless and though there were many people around, they sat like wax sculptures, either solving sudoku puzzles or reading popular fiction or newspapers. Very silent, very boring. I didn’t expect it to be as noisy and insane as Jinnah International, but this dead?
No wonder the British worshipped Diana. She must have been their Madonna.
Arriving at JFK on the 4th of July
We arrived on the 4th of July and it was slightly raining. And I realized the difference between the British and the Americans. Americans live. The corridors of JFK are as artsy-fartsy as Manchester’s are dull. Fake plaster of Paris curtains are supposedly hung on the walls, there are mosaics depicting famous New York City landmarks like central park, statue of liberty and the Empire state building. And there’s graffiti! It’s colorful and felt friendly. And that’s a characteristic you’ll find in 99% of the US population. They’re almost unbelievably nice. For example, imagine meeting someone on an Immigrations counter who doesn’t act like it’s a crime entering their country…seems unlikely no? Well, we did. And it was shocking. I mean, wait, you’re glad we’re here and want us to have a great stay? Really?! Call Ripleys!!
Ok, now imagine walking out into New York City. Step outside and right in front are the world renowned yellow taxi cabs standing in line, and just then a monorail flies past your eyes and you learn that it circles all round the airport continuously. and then you walk to the 4 story parking lot and onto the hydraulic powered lift and realize that the country you love so much and have left only 18 hours ago may not be able to reach this level of sophistication in a thousand years if ever.
Then imagine driving on roads where every car follows the lines painted on the tarmac, and people give indicators before switching from one lane to another. And you’re driving through a freeway and there are trees on both sides, and sometimes you see a sign warning you that deer might cross your path. If you look closely you can see their eyes shining among the tree trunks. and while you’re driving it’s drizzling, and you pass small towns and bridges and everything is straight out of- no it’s not like anything you can imagine. Not if you’ve lived in Pakistan for 12 years and only remember your childhood in patches.
It’s unreal. I’ll never forget the ride from JFK to Newburgh. If that was even 1/10th of Heaven, I’m a born again Muslim.