I am carrying my belt and bag in one hand, with the other clutched desperately to my iPad and a clear bag of toiletries. I tear through the seeming narrow expanse of Philadelphia airport with an inability to process the fact I am now in America.
My flight was delayed by two hours, prompting my connecting flight from Philadelphia to Atlanta to be at the bottom of an hourglass I am desperately trying to swim through. I spent the entire flight from London to Philadelphia concerned with both my hydration and the fact I am probably going to miss my flight to Atlanta.
Going through immigration angry is not ideal. I step from foot to foot, gingerly offering my digits and my whereabouts for the next two weeks. I am offered an alternative route by a sassy Southern belle sat at a makeshift plastic table where everyone is groping for their rerouted flight tickets with all the zeal of the Hunger Games. Mine says I can go to Charlotte, and then catch another flight to Atlanta, arriving shortly before midnight. The time between those flights is about twenty minutes. No, thank you.
"Can I still make the flight to Atlanta?", I breathlessly implore of a check-in attendant at what is possibly the most mercifully empty check-in desk I have ever seen. Either Philadelphia is being used for the next 28 Days Later film or the universe really loves me.
"Honey", she raises her eyebrow at me, "you better run".
I give her my bag and another woman sat on a chair motions for me to run in the right direction. I wave my thank yous as they holler at me to go.
My God, I have turned into Hugh Grant.
I don't even remember getting through security. I don't even know if I did for sure. All I know is that it has taken me half an hour to get from one plane to the next, and I am now on board a flight to Atlanta. I am too tired and overwrought to think, move or fall asleep. I spend the entirety of the flight sat bolt upright, wondering if what just happened actually happened.
To add to the surreal absurdity of the situation, I am sat next to a man who in my daze I am convinced is Cee-Lo Green. I don't think it helped that I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey on the plane from London (followed by Julie And Julia. To this moment, I am equally obsessed with Julia Child and haunted by black monoliths on Jupiter).
He makes very extroverted talk about his nightmare day (he was stranded in Philadelphia airport for a few hours) and I offer him my story. This is my first culture shock. Why is this man talking to me? In London people sit next to you and offer a polite breathy "sorry" every time you hit their elbow by accident.
"Man, you're from London! Is that England, right? It's not in France?"
I smile, the view from this side of the world is charming for the Euro-centric traveller. After all, to his credit, how many Europeans could point out Atlanta on a map?
We talk about Kim and Kanye's wedding in Paris and he tells me I should visit New York, amused that he feels the need to point out the sights, like I haven't been raised on a steady diet of Sex And The City and Spider-Man. ("There's this street called Fifth Avenue" he explains, "very good for shopping").
It turns out he's obsessed with European fashion, as evidenced by his enormous red PVC Versace trainers. His equally large gold Jesus face on a cross would make the Pope cry with jealousy. It turns out he's going to Atlanta for a family reunion, and to organise some work.
"I'm a tour manager, for some rappers".
I don't think he expects the rap conversation to go any further with a little Mediterranean boy and his messed up accent on the way to Atlanta.
"What rappers?" I ask.
"Oh" he says, "They're American rappers. They're called 2 Chainz and French Montana".
My eyes almost burst out of their sockets. "I love them!"
He seems amused. "You know them in London? Cool!", and he contentedly settles to nap.
I lean back into my chair and beam. I am definitely in America now.
- Jonathan Pizarro.