Planes, Trains and Automobiles
It’s Thursday morning and the cobbled pavement is making life hard for my suitcase. The wheels chugged and shuddered under the stress before finally making their way into the smooth-surfaced station. A moment’s respite is short lived as the realisation that I’d have to traipse over the foot bridge hits home, arse. The journey from the heart of Lincolnshire to the Gaming Lives headquarters is filled with torment, frustration and nowhere near enough bottles of Coke to keep one’s self cool on the greenhouse-like trains, but it was nothing compared to what lay ahead as four writers begin their journey to E3 2011.
The morning of the trip started rather smoothly, folks reared their sleepy heads, last minute checks were carried out and, before long, we were making the arduous trek uphill to the train station in a race against the clock. Cue the Countdown music as four gamers struggle with physical activity but, with enough stat points in our stamina banks, we made it; we were on a train and heading to the airport. Gaming Lives writer and social media mogul Lee decided this would be a good time to audition for the role of terrorist as he made the fatal mistake of leaving a bag on the train, somehow managing to run and retrieve it just as the train started to depart; all it needed was a Lethal Weapon style explosion and a slow motion jump to complete the effect. Sadly, a religious wife beater in Glasgow was a bit hard to find.
The remaining portion of Project Get To The Bloody Airport On Time went ahead without any further hiccups; we even got to view the world’s most expensive air hockey and, at a whopping £8 a play, our hopes of further earning it a spot as an Olympic sport were slashed more than the prices at an SCS sale. With all the excitement of security over with, the only thing remaining was to sit and wait for departure, binge eating Wine Gums and Frazzles to take one’s mind off of the actual flying part.
The plane itself was nothing special and, despite hopes of them giving a squadron of Harriers one last visit to the skies, we were left with just your average plane. Taking the whole journalist tag seriously, myself and seat-neighbour-in-crime Lee did our research to unearth the rather non earth shattering fact that the plane itself was a 757 and , sadly, didn’t feature in Lee’s plane spotting manual.
Having nabbed ourselves some pretty swanky exit seats, we were preparing for the added responsibility they brought with them and, for the next few hours, were officially part of the crew – the equivalent of a Starfleet Ensign, minus the red lycra and impending doom by Romulan hands. The seats even managed to offer a few glimpses through to the cockpit, which only served to confirm our suspicions that, sadly, Han and Chewie weren’t flying. If they were, we’d surely have heard the Wookie thump the ceiling to get the plane moving, as opposed to resorting to standard call centre tactics of turning it on and off again and, yes, that did actually happen.
The flight itself wasn’t that exciting but, approximately thirty minutes in, disaster struck. There are no words to describe the horrors we suffered, the mental images and emotional scarring – I requested an American Coca Cola. How can a country that puts people into space on a fairly regular basis create such a vile tasting concoction? The E3 adventure was in ruin and Mark, the group’s token Pepsi drinking heathen, was loving it. Bastard.
Falling back on to Plan B, namely Orange Juice, discussions began to circulate about the contents of our food tray… mostly regarding the spreadable factors of frozen butter on to stress ball style rolls, and whether or not the green vegetable gloop was, in fact, edible. We decided that it wasn’t. In no time at all we were back on the runway as we landed into Philadelphia, the ‘city of brotherly love’, so we were reliably informed by the dozen or so posters around the place. In our eyes it had another meaning and, due to the nature of the trip, Philadelphia should now be known as the ‘city of brothers to the end’. Mayor of Philadelphia, Mr Michael Nutter – if you’re reading, make it happen.
We dodged a loaded chamber in the form of border control thanks to the vast number of people trying to get their feet on US soil. With a connecting flight to catch, things started to look bleak but, thanks to some good old fashion American ingenuity, which basically meant they opened more booths, we made it in time… go team! Fingerprints taken, I was officially part of the system.
Baggage transfer completed and security cleared, we found ourselves with a spare thirty minutes before boarding, during which time the disappointment of American Coca Cola was put behind me as I tasted a rather fantastic Vanilla milkshake, savouring every last drop. The Coke branded cup it was housed in, along with the smug grin on the Pepsi-drinking face of Mark, served as a reminder of the painful memory from the previous flight. In this case, the cow had defeated the mega corporation.
Philadelphia, home of the Cheese Steak, fantastic milkshake and, of course, the Rocky films. It had been a bit of a bumpy ride but overall I was happy. Next time though, the Cheese Steak shall be mine – a meal that can only be described as a shredded cow on a plate with a topping of cheese… next time, oh yes, next time. The flight to Los Angeles can only be described as an under-performing penis trapped in a condom. There was no food except for the option to purchase an overpriced packet of cheese. What sort of sick world do we live in when cheese comes with a price?
Despite the best attempts of the stewardess, who was a cross between Olga the Viking and Paul O’Grady, I wasn’t buying it; the land of the free my arse. The flight was so bad I allowed myself to fall into a coma, only to be woken by Lee – “Ben, wake up… I’m bored” and so I did. We landed and I was now in Los Angeles… the City of Angels and absolutely massive billboard advertisements, with the latter seemingly located within every viable space possible. In Return of the King style fashion, our ending never quite happened when it should have. A missing bag was causing grief so myself and Lee (again) resorted to making up an on-the-fly Taggart script, with Mark providing the inspiration during his performance to a US Airways baggage worker.
There was no murder, and soon enough our feet were out of the airport and officially on US soil. Resisting the urge to go and buy a gun, we made for the taxi rank when, in hindsight, I wish I had. The best thing we could do to improve British – USA relations would be to send a fleet of London cabbies stateside, as L.A. cab drivers are about as useful as birth control in the North East of England. Two taxi drivers later, five Taco Bells passed, and somewhere called Jiffy Lube peered at suspiciously, we arrived at our home for the coming week. This is our Cheyenne Mountain, our very own version of Stargate Command, Operation E3 – engaged.
P.S. we also have a squirrel that lives outside. Result.
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