One night, one hotel room & two new friends

New York Travel Blog

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Natasha - nycgirl76 protecting me from the criminals in Central Park!! What criminals?!
Anyone that know's me will know I hate flying. The take off at Bristol Airport was horrendous and New York's Newark airport seemed strategically positioned to ensure maximum fear! I realised I had also chosen the wrong side of the plane, so I could see nothing of New York's skyline (Sit of the left side facing forward if you want to see Manhattan!) so I had no idea how far away I was from from anything.

As it was the first time I had ever been to the US I had a lot preconceptions about how the people behaved and what might happen at border control. The rumours making it back across the pond were that in the US I would be strip searched, zapped with a cattle prod and questioned as to why I would DARE to consider coming for a visit. So, I was strangely nervous and feel it's my duty here to let people back in the UK know it wasn't *that* bad but it wasn't that good either.
The Ukranian party animal


I queued for about 2 minutes before a guard called me forward to his booth. His eyes ran over me critically and I smiled politely. He didn't smile back. I handed over my passport and the typing began. What seemed like five minutes passed before he asked me very blunt questions. Where are you staying? How long as you staying for? What do I do in the UK? Who do I know? So, you're here on your own and you don't know anyone? Place your hand here. Look here. Do it again. No personality at all - they might as well have replaced him with a robot.

I felt really awkward, not used to dealing with someone so cold and emotionless. It was complete contrast to my visit to South Africa where a friendly border guard greeted me and told me where I should go and eat that night or in Australia where they smiled and joked about Wales getting beaten by Australia in the Rugby hours before. I'll say one thing, the border guards in the US are not there to promote tourism and make you feel welcome. It's not that I don't understand what happened in 9/11, I was working in Deutsche Bank in London on the day of the attack and we all felt it but its that a balance between being human and security hasn't been achieved in the US. Maybe it never will.

After the friendly welcome, I was feeling right at home. Ok that's a lie, I now was wondering if I was going to have any fun at all. I headed out into arrivals and was stunned by the aftershave worn by two enormous men in long dark winter coats, holding up name boards. I caught a taxi and sat silently in the back, the taxi driver couldn't speak any English and I didn't speak Creole! I got to my hotel the Lexington and collapsed into my bed, just before calling Natasha. At last a friendly voice! I arranged to have a few hours sleep and meet her in reception. I started to cheer up - at least tonight would be fun because I was meeting Nat and Jeff.

I sat in the hotel lobby in a huge chair, watching American's shaking hands and patting each other the back. Saved from my obsession of watching people, Natasha arrived fashionably late. We hugged and chatted as we walked out of the Lexington. Outside it was freezing cold and I was aware that I didn't even know how to cross a road properly. She explained to me that to meet up with Jeff we'd have to catch the Metro. Cool! I was like small excited child - I've always wanted to go on the Metro. Yes, that's sad right? I walked over to the machine to purchase a ticket and the machine instructed to me to "Dip" my card. I had absolutely no idea what the machine was asking me to do. Dip? My card? What? Nat took over and in a few seconds it coughed out a ticket.

The train was full and it reminded me of when I lived in London. Except the were more English speaking people! A few stops later and we got off and met up with Jeff, waiting out side the restaurant. I have no idea where I was, what I ate or drunk because I was so tired - but I know that we all stayed out late and the waitress was very kind to us all. I remember Jeff was a very funny guy and him and Nat were getting along as if they'd known each other a long time - which was sweet ;-)


Dancr says:
The U.S. border guards have been cold and emotionless long before 9/11...I experienced the same thing my first time into the U.S. back in the 90's...it always felt good coming back home:)
Posted on: Nov 17, 2008
PhinsAndGills says:
I once had a customs agent scare me to death after I'd been in the Caribbean (and had a good amount of leagle, but still a large amount of liquor bottle with me). He asked in that cold manner you spoke of "Where are you going?" I replied "Ohio, sir". He looked at me, laughed this rather evil laugh and said "No you're not!" I thought "WHAT DID I DO?!?" Turns out there was a massive blizzard and the Ohio airports were all closed, but before he told me that part, I felt like a common criminal for something I hadn't done!
Posted on: Aug 23, 2008
alicegourmet says:
The title of your blog is very interesting! I was a lone-gun traveller when I was visiting NYC in '99. I heard a lot of stories about how dangerous and scary NYC was. I applied my common sense in a big city and I had a good time over there...got back home safe and in a whole piece! LOL!

I think a lot of people had a wrong impression of New York City. As a matter of fact, it's safer than L.A. now after the police department had a new chief and he did a great job in fighting the crime in NY.
Posted on: Jun 05, 2008
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Natasha - nycgirl76 protecting me …
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The Ukranian party animal
The Ukranian party animal
New York
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