Last week I told you how in 1986 I was nearly burned to death on a Californian summer camp and then travelled across the States before being dumped alone in Miami with less than $100 and ten days before my flight home.
My first hurdle was getting to New York. I headed to the bus station where I discovered the ticket I needed would cost me over half my money. And I still needed food and shelter. I had no credit card and I didn’t want to have to call my parents and blub for help.
I fell into conversation with an English girl called Sally. She had been sensible enough to take advantage of an offer where she’d got a book of tickets which would allow her to travel anywhere in the States for 10 dollars per day. She said she would sell me one of her spares. It would get me as far as Washington DC, still leaving me adrift, but closer than I was now.
Unfortunately the tickets were in her name and also required presentation of a passport for proof of identification. But I was desperate enough to try anything. I nonchalantly schmoozed up to the booth and handed over the ticket. “One way to Washington please.”
As I’d hoped the man didn’t really check it, but asked for ID.
“Ah, I left my passport in New York.”
For some reason the man was dubious but he told me that any identification would do.
“I left all my documents in New York.” I tried to bluff some reason why I’d do such a stupid thing.
The man checked my ticket more closely.
“And your name is Sally?”
“Yes,” I countered, my voice trembling. “In England, Sally is a man’s name as well.”
It was a bold gambit but necessity is the mother of invention. And gangster films are full of men called Sal, so it might have worked. You know if the man facing me was a total idiot.
He pointed at a ticked box, “And you’re female too.”
The jig was up. I leveled with him, but he was offended by my pathetic attempt to deceive him and confiscated the ticket. I sloped back to my seat and still had to pay the real Sally for her lost ticket so was another 10 dollars closer to disaster and I hadn’t got an inch closer to home.
I must have looked like the broken child that I was, because five minutes later the man called me back to his booth and said that he shouldn’t be doing this and I must never tell anyone (sorry, I doubt he’ll lose his job now), but he’d give me a ticket all the way to New York for ten dollars, but if anyone challenged me I was on my own.
It was a nervy thirty-six hour bus ride, but I made it.
Now I just needed to survive a week in one of the world’s most expensive cities on just ten dollars a day. I found an impossibly cheap hostel and ate stranger’s leftovers in cafes, made new friends and had the best week of the entire trip.
When I got back to Heathrow I had less than ten pounds and again couldn’t afford the bus fare, but the woman in the ticket booth told me to pretend I was under 14 and gave me a half. I had two pounds left when I walked through my front door.
It’s thirty years late, but thanks to those kind who took pity on me. I might not be here without you.
A French rugby player called Haydn Peacock (was he named by the Carry On team – “Hard on?” “No Haydn” etc) almost lost his tackle during a tackle. He was pulled him down by the flesh baguette and required 11 stitches to get it back on (show off). I’ve always said rugby is a game for tiny-penised men. Those of us with huge low swinging chariots can easily be caught by the tail.