Or maybe you should?! Best read on to find out what happened to me when I agreed to a free ride from the lady sitting next to me on the plane!
What's in this post:
Lets start at the beginning!
For those of you who have known me for a while, you will know that despite travel being my number one passion, I am also a bit of a disaster when it comes to it. It’s like I attract situations that can be turned into a good dinner story.
For example, I once fainted on a plane as we were boarding. I got taken off and abandoned in the terminal, where I remained semi-conscious for over an hour before someone finally stopped to help. I’ve tried to board a plane only to find I had my husband’s passport and not mine on me! I once even drove 7 hours to the airport to realise I had forgotten my passport altogether. However, I still managed to get to Spain on a fake ID card despite this. It was a little more troublesome at the Spanish customs side as they knew it was fake. However, I cried, and they let me in the country! That is my travel life. If anybody is going to get asked to bend over and cough, that will be me!
So for those who know me, perhaps my most recent adventures in flying to the USA will not be such a surprise, but for my new team, who are still getting to know me, it was quite a shock!
I love you Mr Taxi Driver!
On Monday 14th March, my husband dropped me off at the airport and wished me farewell as I stepped into a 9-week work adventure. I would love to say we had a romantic embrace as we told each other how much we would miss each other. But the reality is that I was LATE! Before the car had even stopped, my door was open, and I was jumping out, flinging my backpack and picking up my suitcase in one quick swoop as I sprinted off into the airport without even a backward glance. I shouted “I love you” as I ran off, which the taxi driver I was passing thanked me for! I’m not sure Doug even heard me!
Truth is, he was in just as much of a rush as me! We had been sitting for an hour at a standstill on the M25 motorway, me gradually becoming more panicked about my imminent flight departure, and Doug wishing he hadn’t drunk so much water up to that point!
Luckily check-in and security were fast and straightforward, and I managed to make it to the gate in time for boarding to commence. Phew!
The US Government has its eyes on you!
As I handed over my passport and boarding card at the gate, the machine made a funny beep, and I was told to stand aside as I had been flagged for extra security. I’ve never seen or heard of this before. Still, following my previous track record, I also wasn’t surprised. Once, in Germany, I had been picked up going into security and taken to a small room for interrogation. Apparently, the fact that it was my second time trying to pass security in the space of an hour was of concern to them. Or maybe it was because I had only just been erroneously arrested an hour ago? But anyway, I digress, that is a story for another time!
So I stepped to the side and watched as all my fellow passengers boarded the plane while I waited for officials to come and perform whatever this extra security might be. Eventually, with nobody else left for boarding, I was taken away.
My every belonging was checked and swabbed, as were my feet and hands, before being given the all-clear that I did not, in fact, have any traces of explosives on me. As I was leaving, I asked, “Is this a random check that always gets done?”. I figured it probably happens all the time, and I had just never been picked before.
“No, the US government flags certain individuals” – well, now I’m concerned! What have I done to have piqued their interest!?
Released and relieved, I made my way back to the plane, where everyone was waiting for “the last person” to board so we could get on with our journey. I had drawn the short straw of a middle seat again. However, unlike my last trip to the US, where I had to share my seat with two obese ladies on either side, this time, I was able to enjoy the full extent of the seat to myself!
“Please, if you need to use the bathroom, let me know. I don’t mind if you wake me up. If you have to go, you have to go”. – she said. I mean, I was glad she clarified that she didn’t expect me to use a bottle! However, I couldn’t help but use this as an opportunity to engage and recount the time that I had woken up to a man who had tried to step over me while I was asleep, only for me to wake up and find this massive hulk standing over me. I’m not going to lie, he gave me quite the fright.
Of course, this then resulted in commentary as to just how much she loved my British accent (which, by the way, is very un-British since I grew up in Spain!). She also insisted on sharing her snacks with me. Of course, I couldn’t turn down chocolate!
My new mum!
Throughout the flight we chatted on and off. I learned that she was the daughter of Italian immigrants, and so she spoke with passion about her Italian heritage and her love for Italian food. It was at this point that she gave me her address and invited me to go and stay with her whenever I wanted to.
She’d obviously taken a motherly liking to me as when I woke up from one of my power naps, I found that she had tucked me in under her blanket, seeing as she thought I was cold (which I had been!). Now, I saw this as endearing. Many people I have told this story to think it sounds creepy. I blame Hollywood for all the horror stories of seemingly kind people turning into psychotic murderers.
Can I give you a lift?
As we were landing, she asked where I was going. Upon learning that it was on her way home, she offered me a lift. Of course, I refused. “That is so kind of you, thank you very much, but I could not possibly inconvenience you in that way.” – I said.
“It wouldn’t be an inconvenience at all, it is just off Route 95, and anyway, you would be keeping me company” – she replied.
As we went back and forth with me saying thanks but no thanks, and her insisting, all I could think of was all those books I have read about adventurous souls that say yes to opportunities and the amazing experiences they have as a result of it. Of course, everyone I have told this story to has reminded me of all those books when adventurous souls say yes and end up dead.
Anyway, I decided to say yes, just like all those kids lured into white vans with sweets. At the grand old age of 36, I had been lured into a red car with chocolate, because let’s face it, she definitely won me over by sharing her chocolate with me.
Where is the car?
We trundled through the airport together, breezed through immigration without needing to answer any awkward questions, made our way to the car park only for her to announce that she didn’t remember where she had parked her car. Some of you may roll your eyes at this, but as someone who has managed to lose their car more than once in multistorey car parks, I felt her pain. In fact, I once managed to lose my car in a city. As in, I couldn’t remember where in the city of Merida, Spain, I had actually parked my car! Let me tell you, it is much easier to find a car in a car park than in a city!
Anyway, I digress again! So here we are in the economy car park of Newark airport, with 10 different zones, and not a clue where the car is parked. All I know is that it is a red manila and that it has a squirrel on the boot.
So off we go. We decide the best tactic is to divide and conquer. So I take row B9, and she takes Row 10. When I get to the end, I cross over to her row to see where she is up to, but she is not there! So I cross back over to my row, thinking she may have swapped over, but she isn’t there either.
Have I been abandoned?
My first thought is that she has just left me. But then I remember that I am actually carrying her bag, so it wouldn’t make sense for her to have left me. My second thought is that her bag is full of drugs, and I’m about to get busted, giving the US Government confirmation that I am indeed a dangerous individual. Surely if she had managed to get through security though, she wouldn’t abandon her drugs. It is more likely that that would have been the case had she asked me to carry the bag through the airport (which she didn’t).
The only explanation is that she had been abducted. So I start walking along the end of the rows, trying to figure out what row she is in, but she is nowhere! Row after row is empty. Where the hell is she? I’m shouting her name, but the constant roar of plane engines is drowning me out. “Fi fi” – I shout. “Fi fi!!”. Nothing.
I walk back to the original row. Not there. Did she collapse? Is she lying on the floor? I walk up the row, still looking for her. Nothing. Where is she?
Where is she?
Just at that point, I hear my name. “Bea”. “Bea”. She is calling me, but I can’t figure out from where. It’s like I’m now starring in a movie scene, one of those where you are locked in a room with voices coming from everywhere, and you are searching, but keep finding your reflection looking back at you! Only I’m not in a room, I’m in a giant car park, looking for a lady who I don’t know. What have I got myself into?
I eventually find her. Deciding it is too risky to leave her to her own devices, I sit her down at the bus stop with all our luggage, take her car keys and set off on my own in search of the car. Up and down the rows, clicking the fob, hoping for the sound of the alarm to give away the car’s location. My watch buzzes. “Congratulations, you have reached 10,000 steps”. At least that was one thing I wasn’t going to have to worry about later!
One hour after arriving at the car park, I find the car. I retrieve Fi-Fi and our belongings, and we start our journey south.
The Yes Theory
Our journey from here was uneventful (if we ignore not being able to get out of the car park and the near-death experience of trying to get across traffic to not miss our exit). We chatted away for the hour-long drive south as Fi-fi filled me in on her life story and its many trials and tribulations. All I can say is what a wonderful lady Fi-fi was.
Against everybody else’s advice, she helps other women out, giving them lifts and showing acts of kindness to them whenever she gets the opportunity to do so. Just like I was warned not to take her up on her offer of kindness for fear that it would result in murder, her family also worried that I was the one that was going to murder her! Yet here I was, at the end of my journey, receiving a warm hug from a complete stranger that had gone massively out of her way to get me safely to my destination. If you ever read this Fi-fi, thank you so much for all of your generosity. You really were the highlight of my trip!
Would you have accepted the lift? I would love to know! Let me know in the comments.