Five-and-a-half hours. Customs queues. Re-booking queues. Waiting, stripping, pocket-emptying; I was seconds from becoming a deranged passenger on an airline reality show, running maniacally about the terminal and screaming indiscriminately before collapsing in a maddened, drooling, broken heap.
Fortunately, I was rescued from the brink of impending lunacy by an experience perhaps more American than excruciating air travel itself: a hearty session of rampant, unabated consuming. Therapy came in the form of American Airlines' in-flight shopping magazine, and I was delighted to discover a day's travel tension could be undone with a few simple swipes of my credit card.
I began up top. My airport experience had undoubtedly cost me some hair, and I was pleased to discover the Sky-Mall magazine offered a variety of solutions. I overlooked hair replacement pills ($50), turned down Go-Away-Gray shampoo ($20) and instead called the flight attendant for a brand new I-Grow hair rejuvenation helmet ($695).
I tore it from its box and immediately began restoring my follicle base. The helmet's laser lights and ultra-modern detailing looked like something created by Nasa, and as we jetted down the runway I drifted into somewhat of a cosmic mood.
Page 17 had just the fix. A brand new R2-D2 Star Wars robot was modestly priced for such robust sweatshop engineering ($200). He's voice-activated and dances on command. Row 28 had never seen such joy.
Distracted, though, by my new Star Wars friend, I worried I may have left the I-Grow hair rejuvenation helmet on for longer than perhaps was recommended. As we pushed through 3000m, I hit the crew call button and swiped for a home electrolysis roller ($100), speedily removing my unwanted hair before the seatbelt sign had even been switched off.
Settling in for the flight, I flicked through the magazine a few more pages, and was most embarrassed to have to recall the attendant on realising I'd forgotten to order any of the selected new home furnishings. I began with subtle improvements; a six-foot tall acrylic Easter Island statue ($1100) and a weatherproof Bamboo Tiki Bar ($500) to continue the Pacific theme. Of course, the northern summer won't last forever and I made a couple of quick buys to improve my apartment's interior as well. My Disco Magic fluorescent showerhead ($60), Justin Bieber singing toothbrush ($15) and cast iron giraffe toilet paper holder ($30) will do wonders for the bathroom and, in discounting the digital age as a mere passing fad, my new CD cabinet can hold 2262 discs.
A cynic might point out I don't own that many CDs, or at least I didn't, before buying 14 copies of the 154-CD complete works of Johann Sebastian Bach ($400). Inspired by imminent weeks of listening pleasure, I wisely added a teach-yourself piano keyboard ($130) to the cart in case I should fancy composing my own symphony or two.
By this stage, I'd bought so much stuff I barely had room when the drinks trolley passed. My new Beer Can Shorts ($40) with their special beer can pocket really proved invaluable, and with my Insta-slim underwear ($20), I truly had "nothing to lose but lumps, bumps and bulges".
We switched off our electronics and fastened our seatbelts for landing. The runway lights were in sight, the plane dipped and swayed. I reached the final page of the magazine.
"Enter a state of Euphoria." I read an advertisement for the Somawave Stress-Relief helmet ($80), boasting a shiny plastic shell and 15 points of stimulation. "You know what?" I said to the flight attendant. "I'll leave that one, thanks."
She squeezed past the masses of packaging and products heaped in the aircraft's aisle.
"Euphoria? I'm already there."