It had never been my intention to ever go back home during the winter, but a sudden surfeit of holiday leave coupled with the need to see my new grandson saw me and my wife in Upstate New York during the worst winter in thirty years.
We managed to land between snowstorms and arrived with little difficulty. The only bump on the trip over was, as usual, the security interview, which had been beefed up—for your protection—with a few new questions:
When we presented our passports to the security officer, she eyed the pair of us and asked, “How do you know each other?” To which I replied, “And just how is that any of your f*%king business?” Or, at least I might have, if my wife hadn’t chimed in with, “We’re married.” That satisfied the guard, despite the fact that my wife could have been lying; I might have just met her in a pole-dancing club the night before and decided to take her to America with me. Does a couple travelling together suddenly become more secure when one of them claims they are married? The mind boggles.
Then the guard asked my wife something. My wife answered, “No,” then leaned to me and whispered, “Just tell her ‘No’!” When I heard the question, I understood my wife’s concern:
“Is there anything in your suitcase that could be used as a weapon?”
I won’t even bother; think up your own scenarios—smothered with a jumper, eye poked out with a Q-tip. The absurdity of the question screamed at me, but with thoughts of a small back room, rubber hoses and a big man pulling on surgical gloves held firmly in my mind, I simply smiled, said, “No,” and passed through the barrier, wondering if MacGyver would ever be allowed to fly again.
And then we were in New York. It was bleak.
In a way, this was a good thing: it gave my wife a taste of what I had to put up with for the first four decades of my life, and reaffirmed for me that the decision to move to Britain was the right one.
We endured a snowstorm, enjoyed the thrill of driving on treacherous roads, shovelled snow, chopped wood and, along with our hosts, went slowly stir-crazy.
The experience reacquainted me with the joys of constant cold: dry skin, nosebleeds and nothing to do. We couldn’t even go for a walk because the snow banks meant you had to walk in the road. During the second week, my wife had me drive her to the mall just so we could walk around. We watched a lot of television.
The most shocking—literally—thing I was reminded of was the amazing amounts of static electricity generated by dry air and slippers shuffling on carpet. Every time I touched something metal I heard a sharp crack and then found myself slumped against the far wall, in a haze of ozone, with my hair standing on end. Before I moved, I used to carry a large paper clip with me so I could ground myself anytime I got within striking range of metal.
But it was, naturally, all worthwhile. We got to meet the new grandson, bounce him around and hand him back to his mom and dad when he got cranky. He’s a loveable little guy and we’re already making plans to introduce him to Britain when he is old enough. I think I’m going to like being a granddad.
And the day after we left, they had another snowstorm.