Okay, as zenstar has already told everyone, i'm in the states and i'm alive. So here's the story.
Leaving from CT was uneventful, if a little sad to stand on the other side of a security check waving goodbye to zenstar, knowing i wouldn't see him for more than two weeks. But that aside, checkin and boarding and the flight to JHB were relatively uneventful. I didn't check my bags all the way through to NY because that's how they get lost. 20/20 hindsight, I should have checked them all the way through, because then the probably would have got to New york before me. But anyway... I got into JHB with 2h40min before my next flight. Plenty of time, you would assume. Except that when i got to International Departures, the line for the JFK flight was out of the door. I stood in that line for nearly 2 hours, only to discover as i got to the front (and watched the checkin counters dropping from three to two to one, and for about ten minutes, none) that the JFK flight was full. I later found out this was because the friday flight had been cancelled, and JHB in their infinite wisdom had given my seat to a standby. Lovely. At the desk, the woman said i had two options: stay overnight in JHB and take the next flight, or get on the flight to atlanta leaving in less than half an hour. Since I had to be at work here on monday, I said give me atlanta. I then ran...literally ran... to the SARS office to declare the stuff i was taking out of the country so they wouldn't ass rape me on the way back, and then ran through passport check to the gate, where i was about the fourth last person on the flight. Everyone else behind me had made the same choice.
So i get on the flight. Departure time comes and goes. Turns out some people were no shows and they had to get the bags off. Same old same old. We taxi out to the runway and we're about to leave when... Is there a doctor on board? About 10 doctors rush to a seat where a passenger has passed out and thrown up (in that order). After massive discussion going back and forth with 9 second opinions, they decide she has to get off the plane. So back to the terminal we taxi, offload the patient, wait while they find her luggage (just in case she's faking it and is really a terrorist of course) and then finally taxi back to the runway. Time to take off, you would assume. of course not. The oxygen bottle they used on the sick woman is contaminated, and they were supposed to replace it once used. They didn't and they can't take off without a usable oxygen tank on board, so back we go to the terminal to get a new one. Finally, back to the runway for the third time and we actually take off.
The flight was the longest i've ever taken - 18 hours. This on its own was not too bad. There were loads of movies, and i pretty much spent the entire time watching them. What was terrible was the guy sitting next to me. He was an enormous black guy who spilled over onto the seats next to him. I spent most of the flight with his elbow in my ribs and his right leg over on my side of what should have been a dividing line between seats. i spent most of the flight halfway into the aisle to try and keep away from him. In addition, he smelled as though he had drank a bottle of aftershave and then vomited it up on himself. And he snored. So all in all about the worst person to sit next to. And stupid. Chicken or Beef? Fish please. Why's my video not working? Because it's on Audio mode? Dumbass.
So we land in atlanta only to discover our bags didn't. There was that paranoid moment where you're sure it's just you and maybe you're being stupid and you've just not recognised your bags. But when there are a cluster of you, and you recognise them all as being other people in the line for the jfk flight, you begin to see a pattern.
So we discover the bags aren't there, and are advised to report them missing at jfk which is our final destination. Except it's not the final destination for some of the people, but whatever. Eventually we get a flight to JFK for a couple of hours later. Get on the flight, get to JFK without too much trouble, where i have to babysit the only other person who was actually coming to JFK so that she can work out how to report her luggage missing. Get my ref number, get a taxi, get to the hotel. Check in, call the boss, call zenstar to let him know i'm alive (just after midnight sa time on sunday night... when i was supposed to arrive around noon) and then go shopping with the boss so i could actually have some clothes to wear on monday. Then back to the apartment to crash.
In the morning i spoke to Julie at work who was following up for me. The tour operator was apparently told that i was a no show for the JFK flight and my return tickets had been cancelled. When she phoned the airline to find out what the hell was going on, they told her their records said that i had got onto the JFK flight. Genius. She managed to get the return tickets reinstated, and find out that my luggage went to atlanta on the next flight which was sunday night. The luggage was meant to arrive at my hotel today.
Did it? I'll give you one guess.
Anyway, I have to be at work at 7am tomorrow morning for the grand opening, and it's 11pm here now. I'll probably have time to blog tomorrow evening, so i'll fill you all in on all the weird american things i've discovered are not exaggerations, they really are like that.