When you go on a trip, lots of little things can peck, peck, peck at you, but you have to learn to laugh and remind yourself that you are on vacation. No ice, endless stairs, left and right--it's all just a one eyed bird insulted that you would not pet a kangaroo (on your birthday in Australia), but I digress.
I was finally able to sleep in until 5 a.m., but it was my last day and I was supposed to leave in less than a half hour. No worries, I was all packed the night before and by 5:25 I was in the lobby with my last can of ice cold diet coke looking for a place to sit and wait for Adam. There was no place to sit down. What kind of a hotel has no place in their lobby to sit down. Oh, I could have walked down the two large stairs to their "waiting area" with big uncomfortable furniture, but I didn't want to do that again to my knees. They had two chairs next to the desk and I could have tried to sit on those. But they were antiques and really low. Not chairs anyone would actually sit on. Clearly just for show for the brochure (that really should have mentioned that no ice and no wireless thing). I was just trying to decide if I would chance sitting on my luggage, when Adam pulled up in front. [He didn't help me with my luggage--that's a bad sign--he's a very helpful guy.] Did you get any sleep I asked him and he said a little, but clearly his "little" was as deceptive as his "few blocks". Ok, I thought, just stay awake long enough to drive me to the airport and then you can go back to bed and sleep for days, but I didn't say it out loud.
I was already thinking ahead. Twenty minutes to drive to the airport. Fifteen minutes to return the rental car. That would get me to the reservation desk for the airport approximately four hours early. That's my target now. I have to get a window seat. I focus on the window seat and try not to think about actually getting on the plane and staying there for 14 hours. I try to put that out of my mind completely. I'm focused on the window seat plan. I'm focused. Twenty minutes, Fifteen minutes, rental car...and then I looked at the gas tank gauge. "Didn't you go get gas last night" I yell frantically to Adam. "No," he says, "it was raining." It's raining now too.
Suddenly my twenty minute, fifteen minute, four hour plan is unraveling like cheap yarn at the paws of a frisky kitten. And don't forget, we are driving...in the rain...ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD...on a side street... with stop lights. How can this be the right way to the airport. I don't really know that we are twenty minutes from the airport, we could be sixty minutes from the airport! [That thought kind of made me laugh, because I was still going to be over three hours early. As an aside, let me tell you a little about myself that most of you know--I'm always late for everything. Maybe I think I'm too important to be on time, maybe I underestimate how long things take and I'm always trying to do more than I actually have time to do or maybe I really don't like waiting for things and other people. I hate getting to a movie early--that time before the new movie previews start in a movie is like a slow and painful torture. So it really did make me laugh at myself when I frantically thought, oh no, I'll only be three hours early.]
Lucky for Adam, we passed a gas station and I yelled (in my no nonsense--don't forget who in charge-- voice) pull in. He said, we can stop closer to the airport, but I gave him a very cool, don't mess with me stare and he pulled in. It was a very nice gas station (open all night luckily). I tried to switch gears to "I'm on vacation--this is the last time I'll be seeing Adam for a while--get back to the fun part" and asked Adam if I could get him anything from the little convenience store. "Milk," he said sulking. He's so tired I thought vowing silently to try not to sweat the small stuff. We're getting gas. It's taking no time at all. My plan is not ruined. Just don't think about the 14 hour ordeal around the corner--that corner is still plenty far away.
Back on the road, we started seeing signs for the airport. We passed the intersection where I had told Adam to go right, meaning left--good times. When we got to the airport, there were no signs for Thrifty car rental return, but we were able to go right back to where we picked up the car and we parked it there. We went into the terminal and back to the car rental counter. The same little kid was there. He said did you fill it with gas? Yes. Ok, great. Here's the key, we parked it back in the same spot. Ok. And that was it. The car was returned. It was 5:55 a.m.. I was there 4 hours and 15 minutes early. And the airline counter wouldn't open until 7 a.m. I hate being early.
I thought about being the first person in line (no one was anywhere near the ticket counter), but I really wanted to sit down too. I tried to sit on my luggage--not pretty--did not work. So Adam and I found some seats where we could see the counter and make sure no one else got in line ahead of me. It was a long wait, but I was no longer anxious about the rental car and Adam was no longer enduring mean old Aunt Kathy yelling at him. We settled in to pleasant conversation. I'm going to miss this kid.
At 6:45 we started to see lots of activity at the counter--all the agents were arriving to work. A couple with small children got in line and well, that's just the sort of thing the universe does to lull you into complacency, so I jumped up and got in line too. Within seconds, there were six people in line behind me. Meanwhile, Adam is looking at me puzzled--like did aliens just snatch my body or something--one minute we are sitting nicely and talking and the next minute I've turned into a mad person racing to be in line. There's hardly nobody here he says--there are more people behind the counter than there are in line. I try to let him put things into perspective, but my mind is singlely focused on getting a window seat. It is necessary for my very survival.
As we wait in line I scope out the behind the counter people. There are all sorts of signs over their stations. There is a station for first class. There is a station for business elite. There is a station for domestic. None of the signs seem to be for me. I've seen this movie before. It looks like there are lots of people to help you, but actually, the airline only has "peggy" (that guy on the phone in siberia--cute comercial) to help me. I'm flying economy. I have a bad feeling.
Finally, a very pleasent, competent looking person calls me to their station. I hand her my ticket, I put my luggage on the scale (did all those suveniers put me over the weight limit--I worry about the weirdest things--I bought four baby tee shirts, six magnets, some little boxes of butter cookies and some paintings on cloth. If they weighted six ounces, I'd be surprised, but I'm holding my breath to make sure that my luggage doesn't exceed the weight limit). Anyway, the gal smiles at me very bright and says, ok, we're all set and I remember (how could I have let this go so long in the exchange) "can I have a window seat" I blurt out. There I've said it. Her smile dims noticeably. The air cools dramatically. "Let me see," she says. She types. And then she types some more. I'm practically the first person in line--surely no one else has had an opportunity to take all the window seats. "Ok," she says (kind of meanly), "you have the last window seat. It's in the last row." "The last row," I say (whine actually). "Don't you have anything more toward the middle." "No," she says. "That's the last window seat." Maybe Peggy Sue gets asked for a window seat a lot and there never are any window seats. Maybe I should be feeling sorry for Peggy Sue, because it is her job to tell lots of people that they have to sit in the center seats. Why on earth would airlines even make planes with three seats and even five seats across--what were they thinking. And poor Peggy Sue gets to be the punching bag for all those poor hapless souls who have to sit in the middle. I should feel sorry for her, but she's just consigned me to siberia--the last row--that's next to the rest room. Lions and tigers and bears.
I suppose that my single minded obsession with getting in line and getting a window seat has a tiny bit to do with not wanting to say good-bye to Adam. He's really tired and he still has to take the train home before he can go back to bed. I give him a nice long hug and he tells me to message him when I get home. And I go through security and wave goodby as the line snakes around a corner. My vacation is over and the ordeal of airtravel is about to begin.
Riddle me this. They will not let you take liquids through the security check points. But they have lots and lots of shops and restaurants before you get to security. In LA at least, they have lots of shops and restaurants inside after security, but Brisbane--not so much. One shop and one restaurant inside. I looked through the one shop for a long time and couldn't find anything I wanted to buy. I thought surely there will be something closer to my gate. And then I walked six miles to my gate. SIX MILES. At this point it feels like walking in sand. At mile four, there was a sidewalk mover--that was pure heaven, but it was over too soon and I still wasn't to my gate yet. Meanwhile there is nothing--not a single vending machine anywhere on this six mile treck. I finally get there and off to the side, I can see a vending machine. I can't believe how incredibly relieved I felt. There is no way I am walking back. It was for water, not diet coke. I sit down. The seats are too low--it is really going to hurt my knees to get up. I'm ready to cry. I take out my book and try to read. Don't forget, I'm now three hours early. It's going to be a long day.
After about an hour, I start to get my second wind. I really want a diet coke and potato chips and chocolate and a magazine and maybe a new book and some more souveniers. I'll just walk back to that little store and hey, maybe I'll go and have breakfast at that little restaurant. That would make the walk worthwhile. I'm certainly not eating on the plane. This little bit of logic has me walking back the long, long treck. The moving sidewalk only goes one way and now I am going the opposite way, but there's certainly diet coke and chips at the end of this treck--I can make it. Even though my carry on doesn't have any diet coke in it, it is still really heavy (got to be the ipad). I'm trying not to think about how I will be able to make it back to my gate carrying an even heavier carry on filled with diet coke.
The restaurant was really crowded and nothing on the menu sounded palatable, so I pass and move on to the little store. There were lots of isles and I slowly went up and down each one twice. They had lots of toys that the kids would like, but I laughed at myself for even letting the thought cross my mind--no way am I carrying that stuff on the plane. The books are all books I will be just fine ordering on-line for my ipad and let's face it, I don't really want to add an ounce of weight. None of the magazines were worth their weight. The chips look suspect, but walking all that way just for a diet coke seems like a waste, so I got three diet cokes and a bag of chips.
As I stared down that long, long corridor I happened to see an abandoned luggage cart. No one was anywhere near it. It did not belong to anyone. It wouldn't matter if it was abandoned here or at the end of the six mile treck. I put my carry on on the cart. It was so easy to push. It was so easy to walk without that horrible weight of the carry on. The cart was soo nice. I couldn't believe my luck and in no time at all I was to the moving sidewalk and in no time at all I was at my gate. There was an empty table with nice high chairs. The chips tasted salty, the diet coke was nice and cold, and my book started getting good. Ah, the life. I love being on vacation.
A while later, an airline guy said he'd need to clear the area around our gate. They had to set up another check point for the international flight. By now the other gates had lots of people and there were only low seats available, but my book was still good at least. I didn't really pay attention, but when I looked up there was suddenly a very long line to go through the new security check point. And they were starting to talk about boarding our flight. How had all that time passed by so quick. I got in line and when I got to the front they told me I couldn't take the cart. Boo hoo. I was really pretty attached to that cart now. My carry on was heavy.
They singled me out for an additional security check and I was directed to a curtained area. They were finishing up with a twelve year old boy behind the curtain. I was next. Then they directed another guy over and he went in (cutting in front of me). I was annoyed but no one seemed to care and how annoying are you allowed to be at a secondary airport check point to see if you have a bomb. I didn't say anything. Then they sent two more women over. They saw me. They wouldn't cut in line. Then they sent another woman over. She said--what's going on--are only females being checked? There was nervous laughter but no one was willing to engage further. It is not fun to be checked by security at the airport. When it was my turn, the security person put special gloves on and checked my hands and my luggage for bomb residue. There wasn't any, whew.
By now I was fed up with my carry on. I transfered the bare necessities to my purse and on the plane (all the way in the back) I put everything else in the overhead bin. I gave the airline pillow and blanket to the steward and tried to make my seat belt as loose as possible. I settled in and opened my book. The seat all the way in the back was only two across, so I would have just one seat mate. When she got there she was skinny and didn't seem to speak English. She went right to sleep--it doesn't get any better than that.
I think my book lasted a good two hours into the flight. Then I tried to sleep--nope. I started a new book and that lasted a while. No I don't want breakfast, but I was not shy and demanded a cup of ice. So I had my diet coke and the snacks I brought and tried to sleep--nope. I watched tv and tried to sleep--nope. Then I did nothing at all. Just stared off into space. That's when I got sick. I thought--oh, no. Not a heart attack at 10,000 feet. I'm all the way at the back of the flight, in economy. They are only going to have doctors in first class. I was hot and ready to puke and couldn't breath and I started to wonder, ok, what part of my life is going to pass before me as I die on this plane. Luckily, the ready to puke is an age old trigger for get out of your seat and to the rest room (right next to me) as soon as possible. I was still dying, but now I was up and moving and dying--it didn't seem so very dire if I was able to stand up. I didn't throw up and I didn't die and soon I just really, really, really wanted to sit down. I turned the air blower on me full blast and I survived. Wow, I thought, an EPISODE at 10,000 feet.
I tried to sleep--nope. I looked into space. It was dark outside, but I couldn't see any stars. I think we were in clouds because there was a lot of turbulance. We left a 10 a.m., but we were going back in time because we were going to arrive the same day at 6 a.m.. After a while, I asked a steward for a refill on my ice and handed them back my cup. I'm happy to recycle--I'm right there at the back near their station. I was given back the cup with ice and I poured in the last of my water which was now leaking like a waterfall from the cup. I yelled back to the steward station that had about six people milling around as the water poured over me and my neighbor. It still took about five minutes for them to hand me another cup and another five minutes to get a couple of napkins to dry up the spills. Fun times.
Finally, I watched a movie, but I was now racing the clock. We were almost there and the captian kept interrupting the movie to tell us how close we were. I was the last person off the plane, but at least I was home in LA. The shuttle bus took forever (six stops before me), but soon I was in my own bed, under my own covers. I slept and slept and slept. Days later I still had jet lag, but not so many days later I was able to relive my whole trip on this blog. That was pretty awesome.
I hope that you have enjoyed this journey. I really did have a wonderful trip, but I wouldn't mind a bit if my next vacation was a whole lot closer than a 14 hour plane trip away.