Today, I was on my usual walk trying to beat rain yet again. Totally lost in my thoughts, a Delta flight went over my head and it reminded me that this time last year I was with Mum in New York. It’s Mum’s birthday this week and she flew all the way last year to spend it with us.
So this time last year we were staying at the Paramount Hotel just a couple of blocks away from Times Square. Neither of us had been to New York before, and it was Mum’s first time long haul. You know, she got off the plane at Newark looking a million bucks, at midnight. Mum had a chest infection and was lucky they let her on the plane. But there she was. It was nerve wrecking to fly to New York on my own, and meet her there, not knowing if she would make it that far and I’d end up stranded. I decided that I’d been plenty of places on my own by then, so how hard could New York be? It would’ve been much harder for Mum to get on the plane trusting I would be at the other end.
Our first glitch was the Hotel. Now I don’t like publicly dissing anyone or anything, but the hotel had put us into a room with one king single bed, and not enough space to put down bags let alone swing a cat. There was no tea or coffee making facility, drinking water, room service, or restaurant and the little shop off the side of the main lobby was closed at eleven pm. Mum had tablets to take, and had travelled all the way from New Zealand, to San Francisco, to New York, unwell and needing assistance, so I wasn’t going to stand for it. I went to the lobby and explained our situation and was told that it was the way it was reserved and basically it was too bad. They were fully booked for the Fourth of July celebrations. I managed to get a couple of takeaway coffee cups and was directed to the gym where there was a water machine to get water in an ‘emergency’. Hmmph. Never the less we topped and tailed that night, and I have to say I never ever thought I’d be sleeping with my mother at fifty-something years old! But you do what you have to do.
The next day I took photos of the room, emailed them to Mum’s travel agent who had made the booking, and went back to the lobby. I explained that I’d put in an official complaint and expected an upgrade to at least two single beds. I pressed Mum’s health concerns and got the upgrade for an extra fee that was charged on top of the exorbitant fee already paid. Hmmmph again. We were given a much better room and shifted there once it was available, but honestly, what a money making scam that was! I promptly emailed the extra account to the travel agent as well.
We had arrived on the third of July and spent the first part of the day organizing bus tours with Grey Line. I realized the thirty-six degrees heat, jet lag and being still unwell, was going to hinder Mum a bit. So, I thought lets go to MacDonalds as it was something familiar and might help her from becoming overwhelmed in a foreign country. There’s no MacDonald’s in Bermuda, so it was an attractive option for me. Poor Mum, the girl at the counter I think was from Hispanic descent and couldn’t understand Mum’s accent, likewise Mum couldn’t understand hers, and it was packed with people of all different nations, and we were hurried to make our order. We got a table that was sticky, found out the toilet was locked for security when we needed it urgently, and once we remedied that with the security guard – got out of there again asap. We spent the rest of the day just having a wander around Times Square and orientating ourselves, visiting the Hard Rock Café was a highlight, as was having a drink at an Irish Bar when Mum’s legs got a bit wobbly. The barman was so nice and chatted her up wonderfully. We had a nice dinner at a Restaurant not far from the hotel, but again felt hustled along by the staff and realized that everything was hurry hurry to pack in the customers and make their money.
The next day which was the Fourth of July we went on one of the Grey Line Bus Tours. If you have limited time, low energy, perhaps having trouble with adjusting to the heat, I highly recommend them. Our second glitch was that you have to go to their office and queue for your daily tickets. That was time consuming but we got smart on day two and were there much earlier. The staff are really fantastic and help with everything, are at the stops to make recommendations and suggest shortcuts. We didn’t hop on and off much, but got to see Upper Manhattan, Lower Manhattan, Brookland, and a Ferry ride out to the Statue of Liberty all for the two days tour fees. Not bad really. People came past with baskets on sticks with water for sale for a dollar, that they can reach the upper deck of the open top double decker bus. And a tour guide chats about what you are seeing as we fly by. One tour guide was intent on having a catharsis experience recounting his childhood memories, but the rest were really great. They had it down pat knowing when to duck missing the traffic lights and signs, it was exhilarating to watch. While we were on the bus, we saw the queue to the Fourth of July fireworks that we had hoped to attend. People had been there since ten am and it wasn’t till late evening with the explosions at midnight. There were hundreds of people there already, so we decided to watch it on tele in the comfort of the better hotel room.
Mum really wanted to go to see the theatre production of the ‘Lion King’ for her birthday. After a busy day touring and a quick dinner we were off to Broadway. Glitch three was when Mum missed a step in the dim light of the theatre and couldn’t quite grab the stylish zig zag railing and down she went. Poor Mum it was quite a fall, hitting her elbow and head on the way down. The theatre staff raced to her aid and got a cold pack for her, and checked her out. I was sent off to get an ice cream, but because the show was starting got told they had closed. That was it, I got a bit growly then and explained that my mother had fallen down their stairs for lack of their lighting and they’d better give me an ice cream or I’d give them what-for via my solicitor. I arrived back in the nick of time for the start of the show with ice cream in hand. It was a wonderful show. The costumes were fantastic and it was well performed. With all the Broadway Theatres to choose from I’m glad this was the one Mum wanted to see.
Afterwards, being our last night in New York, Mum wanted to have a coffee at Starbucks. We headed up to Times Square and went to cross the road and suddenly down Mum went again. Glitch four! I could hardly believe it, two men were instantly helping trying to pick her up from under a bus. Not knowing how hurt she was, I was telling them to leave her, then realized if the bus rolled back it would be worse. They were very kind and wanted to ring an ambulance, but Mum said she was alright and wouldn’t let them. She hobbled over to Starbucks, and I tried to get a cup of ice so I could russle up a makeshift ice pack for Mum’s now hurt knee and face. The Starbucks staff refused to help and said she needed an ambulance, and I was beginning to wonder if she really did. Then glitch five: Mum had no medical insurance. Oh crap! We were in New York, injured, not broken yet, luckily, and on our way to Bermuda, London, Paris, North Wales, Birmingham, and for Mum back to Heathrow to fly back home to New Zealand – with no medical insurance! A stay in an American hospital with a broken bone might have cost her thousands, her house maybe, or a kidney. Actually by the way she looked, they’d be eyeing up mine! By golly, I got that cup of ice, and serviettes and mum’s half strength trim latte.
Arriving here in Bermuda on Mum’s actual birthday she looked a bit of a sight. Bruised cut face, puffy colourful knee, and black and blue elbow. A few dark ‘n stormies sorted her out for a good nights sleep. The slower pace and R and R helped a lot and we were soon winging our way for the rest of her wonderful world trip, with no more glitches. It was so nice to get to do that with her and be her tour guide. I was so proud of her just for getting on the plane to begin with. The other thing was how great it was for her to see her daughter bravely negotiate travel in several countries as though she’s been doing it forever. Don’t tell her that in two thousand and nine, I stepped out of the underground in London and was disappointed I’d missed the double decker bus. My lovely husband said ‘don’t worry, there will be another along in a minute’ and had to contain his amusement that I thought there was only one!
Oh and when Mum and I were in Paris we got a nice email from her travel agent explaining the extra charges for the New York hotel were being reimbursed. Good work Mum’s travel agent!
More soon – Sally