How an air-conditioning mechanic in Sydney Australia became an award winning broadcaster in Britain; Part 80.


When you’ve just spent twenty five hours squashed into an economy class seat and a few more hours in airports changing planes between Sydney and New York via Auckland, Honolulu and Los Angeles, the thing you look forward to the most is a nice hotel room and a comfortable bed. Unfortunately, that’s not what we got on our first trip to New York.

It was February 1997, Julie and I were in the process of moving from Gosford on the New South Wales Central Coast to Bournemouth in England. It was stressful, we didn’t have anywhere to live once we got to Britain. The sensible thing to do would be to get to England as soon as we could, which would have given us two weeks to find a flat before I started on the air at 2CR. Instead, we decided to have a stop-over in New York City for a week. Now we’d only have one week after arriving in Britain to find a place to live before I started work but, hey you only live once, what could possibly go wrong? Sadly, we found out pretty quickly.

We didn’t even get out of JFK airport before we made our first big mistake. We thought we were seasoned international travellers but we were really just a couple of hicks from a coastal town in New South Wales arriving disorientated in the capitol of the western world. It was close to midnight, we needed a taxi to take us to the hotel we’d booked in midtown Manhattan. After we collected our bags, a big bloke walked up to us and said, “Taxi?”. We nodded and followed him outside to a big black car. As he put our luggage in the “trunk”, he asked us where we were going, we told him and then headed off into the night with this total stranger. I couldn’t see a taxi meter, that’s when I realised just how stupid we’d been. This was not a taxi!

The big bloke could have driven us ANYWHERE or worse, to the middle of NOWHERE! We could have been ripped-off, robbed or raped! At the time I would have been more than happy with ripped-off.

As it turned out the only drama during the illegal taxi ride took place in our heads. The big bloke couldn’t have been nicer. He charged us a flat fee of $30 (I gave him $40 for not killing us), then he placed our bags on the “sidewalk” at the hotel entrance and wished us both a pleasant stay in New York.

Breathing huge sighs of relief but tired and stressed out like we’d never been before, we checked in. That’s when things really went wrong.

The desk clerk was flustered and took ages to find our reservation. Eventually, he gestured to the bell hop who grabbed our bags and asked us to follow him to an “elevator” at the back of the hotel. Once out of the lift, we followed him down a corridor and up another two flights of stairs. Eventually we got to the room, it was horrible! I can’t remember that much about it other than it not being much bigger than the double bed that was wedged in it. It was a cold winter night in New York but the room was boiling hot. That was because an uninsulated rusty steam pipe ran vertically up one corner of the room. By now it had started snowing outside but it was so hot in there, we had the window wide open all night. If it hadn’t been for the sleepless journey we’d just survived from Australia, I don’t think we would have slept at all but as it was we both just shut down.

We learned later that if you plan to check into a hotel in Manhattan and will be arriving after midnight, you should always call ahead and re-confirm. Although we’d paid for the week’s stay in advance, and the flight arrived on time, our travel agent hadn’t told the hotel to expect a late check-in so when we hadn’t shown up by midnight, they thought we were a no-show and gave our room to someone else.  The room they had now put us in was the one they usually rent by the hour to hookers and junkies.

After making many phone calls the next day to the travel agent in Australia and to hotels all over New York City, our situation didn’t improve. There was an international toy manufacturers convention on in town that week, hotel rooms were in short supply. Then we turned on the TV news and found out that pilots from American Airlines were planning to go on strike the day before we were due to fly to London with, you guessed it, American Airlines.

So on our first trip to New York, the Big Apple was rotten to us.

Craic on!

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