Welcome to New York
Our first night in the Big Apple was eventful
Winters Chilling Tales # 114
Welcome to New York
After landing safely in New York, Spring was wrong, luckily. We headed for the ESTA entry to America line. ESTA stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization. We ordered these online while in England and they were approved straight away.
We joined the line with about 100 people in front and an overhead sign predicted a 55-minute wait. It was just after 2200 and we thought ‘that’s ok’ we can handle that. Then another plane load from Colombia arrived and another from India. The line behind us grew and grew. We moved quickly for about 20 minutes and then we just stopped. After waiting and moving up slowly for the next hour and a half, some people in front started to get angry. We started to sit on the ground because we didn’t move very much and it was now 2345 and we were so tired. In French time, it was about 0445.
The people who were complaining were asked if they wanted to be processed straight away and they got even angrier and said everyone should just get processed quicker. We had a look and there was one counter open for ESTA entry and there were over 300 people in the line. The thing is they kept wheeling up disabled people and people who jumped from the American citizen line to the front of our line and that is why we didn’t move much. Every time a flight with a large US citizen contingent came in they let the Americans jump to the front of our line. Everyone in the queue just kept shaking their heads and laughing at how ridiculous it was.
So after 2 hours in the line the time ticked over into the 20th of September. This was Autumn’s 14th birthday and she spent the first half hour of it on the floor at John F Kennedy airport, New York.
Finally someone must have said that we had waited enough and began to send us to other counters. We passed through really quickly. The weird thing was when the American’s realised that they were shuffling people from the ESTA line to their lines they started to crack it and sigh and even tried to push in. So strange, but that is the culture they have set up for themselves. Funny the English woman that complained the loudest summed it up, ‘so this is how you treat visitors to your country’. Pretty funny but we all started to feel like second class citizens watching some weird processing.
We have never been treated like this in any country before and we have been to a few now. Saying that once we got to the counter, we were processed really fast and then the fun began.
After we passed the counter we started to get really worried about our luggage because it had been sitting in no mans land for ages. When we walked through the door all the luggage from each flight was sitting in rows beside the carousels. What they did was unload the bags and place them in order of flight but, of course they had no one there to help you find your bags. When we asked airport staff where it was they just said try number 4 or try number 3. It was so frustrating.
Eventually, we found one of our bags and then started to look through this huge pile of bags and found the rest. Such a ridiculous system.
Then we have to show the man at the exit our tags to prove they are our bags, but that’s a good thing so we are ok. He was pretty rude and didn’t say welcome to America just, ‘move, go’.
Unreal, what a welcome.
We then headed out to the taxi rank. Summer had the address on a piece of paper and handed it to the taxi driver. We were staying in Brooklyn close to the border of Queens. We had done our research and knew it was about 30 minutes from JFK to our hotel and could cost up to $40 USD, but we knew we just wanted to get there quickly to have a sleep and then get out amongst the NY sights.
The three girls hopped into the back and I hopped into the front with the driver. He starts to drive and hands me his phone and asks me to enter the address into the GPS app on his phone. He headed out of the airport onto the freeway and we thought the roads were shocking. Heaps of pot-holes and we were flying along the freeway.
The girls thought the monitor was great.
After about 40 minutes, Summer starts to get angry in the back. The thing is, the monitor had a map and she could see that he was taking us for a ride.
Summer went off, it wasn’t really funny at the time but looking back hilarious. Summer come out with some classics, ‘listen here buddy I can see where you have taken us, I have taken photos of the map on the monitor’. The reply ‘excuse me, mam, I am trying to drive the car’ or complete silence, he didn’t want to admit what he was doing. Summers reply ‘listen here mate we have travelled enough to know you are trying to rip us off. Stop the car we are not paying this fee’. She never says ‘mate’ but was trying to sound Australian as everyone thinks she is British. I was looking around downtown Brooklyn and wasn’t too keen on getting out.
We finally got to the hotel and got out of the car and Summer was adamant that we were not paying the fare.
It had ticked over to $78 and with tip would be well over $80. It was now 0130, so nearly an hour after we had jumped in the car. We were exhausted. I agreed with Summer and got the girls and bags out and went inside to the hotel and said we are not paying. He asked are you going to pay and Summer said no. We then asked the hotel staff which really didn’t want to be part of it.
I forgot to mention he was a very large Jamaican American.
Then one of the guests said to the taxi driver “come on man, you are trying to rip them off, $50 dollars max from the airport”.
The girls checked in and went up to the room and I was left with the taxi driver. He spoke to his boss on the phone and wanted me to speak to him, but I said no. He then asked for $70 and after arguing said he would take $60. Well, Summer took everything upstairs with the girls and I only had a $50 and said that is all I would pay. I said take it or leave it, no more. He finally took it and left.
When I joined the girls in the room I kept looking out the window waiting for a drive by or something. We had to wind down after all the excitement. New York time was 0200, but our French body clock was at 0700 so we had to settle down and get some sleep because we had a big day planned for the birthday girl.
Welcome to New York. We can laugh now, but we were exhausted and not in the mood to be ripped off on our first time to the Big Apple.
Next up Autumn reflects on her 14th birthday in New York.