Despite the ominous-looking, but not at all ominous-sounding Winter Storm Nemo, and the accompanying weather-related hysteria that swept most of the Eastern Seaboard, my personal chauffeur XFE and I went to New York this past weekend for our Global Entry interviews.
Well, XFE went for the Global Entry interview. I went with a secret wish in my heart to accidentally stumble into one of the New York Fashion Week shows, or at least see a ridiculously dressed fashion blogger or two (Mission: Perhaps Accomplished? I’ll explain further down).
Global Entry, for those of you who don’t know, is kinda like the self-checkout lane at the grocery store for Americans returning from travel overseas. You get to skip the line at customs, go up to this high-tech kiosk and self-check yourself on through. Also, you don’t have to fill out that customs form on the plane. It’s all done at the kiosk.
I’m telling you, teleporting must be right around the corner.
Anyway, we applied online for Global Access about a month ago and got approved within days. The next step is to go to an airport to get interviewed by the lovely Homeland Security folks. However, the next interviews at Dulles Airport weren’t until May. So, we looked at our options and decided to drive up to Newark, and spend a night in New York before driving home.
This whole plan got a bit iffy with Nemo on the warpath. We went back and forth and fretted about whether we should drive into a storm. I’m sorry, a BLIZZARD. Watching the Weather Channel on Friday night did not help our decision making. I was pretty firmly in the “no way” category, while XFE was in the much more reasonable “we’ll decide on the morning of” category.
Sure enough, Saturday morning we learned that New York had not been hit as hard as expected. So we loaded up the car with snow boots, and a makeshift-emergency-living-in-your-car-kit and hit the road.
Oh, what’s in a makeshift-emergency-living-in-your-car-kit, you ask?
- One fleece blanket for staying warm
- Car charger for cell phone (for tweeting, obv.)
- Several varieties of Kind bars (so we don’t have to resort to cannibalism)
- Several bottles of water (sparkling, naturally)
- Bottle of wine (Celebratory; as in ‘rescuers are on their way,’ or last hurrah, as in ‘they’re not on the way.’)
I think there were other, more practical items in there, like shovels or flares or something, but XFE packed the kit, so I’m not sure. My contribution was several recent celebrity magazines. Because gossip doesn’t care if you’re stranded.
Nevertheless, we never drank the wine, nor had occasion to break into our kit because the roads were totally clear. And totally empty. We saw maybe two dozen other cars the whole 3.5 hour trip, an unheard of situation. (We did see, however, lots of electricity repair trucks, snow plows, and for some reason, cement trucks.)
We arrived at practically empty Newark a full two hours before our appointment time. It was so weird and creepy to be walking around what is probably one of the busiest airports on a Saturday morning, and see only a few other living souls.
After watching a short video and answering a few questions, we were done and on our way to New York. We went to the Breslin at the Ace Hotel for lunch and that’s where I saw the maybe fashion blogger. In the middle of our lamb burgers, this blonde Asian girl in a swirling oxblood cape and matching fascinator came sweeping in and joined a table of Asian guys next to us. She’s exactly what I imagine an Asian fashion blogger would look like.
We had a similarly interesting lunch experience on our way back to DC on Sunday. One of us really, really wanted to get on the road and made the mistake of thinking that we’d just get food somewhere on the road. (Not me, by the way. I’m all about eating first. Pretty much before any activity, really).
Thus, we ended up at a Ruby Tuesdays somewhere in southern New Jersey. The service was a bit lackluster, and we spent at least 15 minutes in a practically empty restaurant reading a table tent promoting their seafood fondue. The tent promised that if our server did not offer us the option of ordering the fondue while taking our drink orders, we would receive a fondue for free. Alas, when our distracted waitress finally arrived to take our orders, she did suggest fondue as well. (We passed. I’m not fond of seafood in my warm cheese. Blech)
But it wasn’t just the lackadaisical service and odd-tasting lime-chili sauce (I had the chicken tacos, XFE the quesadilla. Both came with chili-lime sauce) that made this lunch stop so entertaining. No, it was the brilliant conversation that was being had at the next table over.
The waiter—let’s call him Jim—was training a would-be server, and he apparently recognized the patrons sitting at his table. After introducing his trainee, Jim launched into a loud and friendly chastisement of how he had not seen these elderly patrons in quite some time. He was laying it on pretty thick.
That’s when we heard the elderly gentlemen explain that his wife had been very sick for a while.
After an awkward pause, Jim began to backtrack and apologize for teasing them.
Another awkward pause, and Jim changed the subject with a cheery, “OK then, so what are we thinking about as far as drinks?”
Pretty sure the training manual doesn’t cover this scenario. I also don’t think I heard Jim offer the couple the seafood fondue.