Ask The Editor, 11/22/2004: The Flight From Hell
Greetings, and welcome to my travel diary! About a month ago when I was first given the opportunity to travel in Australia and Japan, I figured it would be interesting to chronicle my journeys for all to see. I'm a pretty keen observer of culture in the U.S. - why not extend that eye to my journeys as well? Thus, this series was born.
Unfortunately, it was supposed to start a week ago, but I had problems with connecting to local networks. Add that to the knowledge that Ferrett was doing his own Ask the Editor Thang, and it meant that my need to write this series quickly was less pressing. The end result was that I could spend more time doing things and less time writing about it - at least not right away.
A couple of warnings before we continue: The writing here will not be Magic-centric, though obviously Magic tournaments were the impetus for this journey, and will therefore mean that at least each weekend there will be spell slinging. Also, I'm not writing this to live up to anyone's expectations. If you find you don't like it after an installment or two, shove off, or better yet (this so rarely happens, but I'm the editor so I have to mention it anyway), feel free to write your own series that conforms to what you think I should be saying. (Assuming that Ted decides it's worthy of being published - The Ferrett)
And now... on with the show.
Tuesday, November 9
My kind and gracious wife drops me off at the airport at buttf*** early in the morning, where I make it through TSA and check-in with no real problems. It got cold enough in Charlottesville that night to frost everything for the first time this season, so I tossed my winter coat on to keep away the chill, meaning to leave it in the car when I got out. This does not happen, and I'm forced to lug my winter coat with me to a place that was 88 and sunny the entire time I was there. In the end though, this worked out well, because the Qantas flight was freaking freezing - and surprisingly enough, winter coats make nice blankets. But I'm getting ahead of myself here...
I take the shuttle from C-Ville to Washington - Dulles, where my connecting flight doesn't leave until 11:15. Bleagh. Welcome to layover hell, while we descend deeper into in L.A. I have paper tickets and had to transfer airlines, so I go to check in at American gate in D.C. when they tell me I'm not authorized to travel to Oz.
Exsqueeze me? Baking powder? Vhat are j00 sayink zu me?
The lady says that I need some little flag flipped that gives me electronic transit authority to head to Oz, and I don't have any, therefore I can't go. This seems very strange to me, because I have, like, a ticket and everything, and Australia isn't exactly hostile to our country (unlike France, where I imagine you have to get a visitation visa just to enter the country as an American these days, but whatever). I then remember that we just re-elected GWB and figure this is a recent development.
I cleverly ask, "Is there anything that we can do to fix this scenario?"
"Well, sure," she says, in her New Yawk accent, "The airlines can give you what you need for $25 - I'm just surprised they didn't do it when they booked your ticket."
Sigh. I pay the money, feeling like I've just been scammed out of $25 (You have - The Ferrett), eat some crappy biscuits and gravy at a food stand, and doze for an hour or so. The L.A. flight goes without incident, as I sleep the entire time there, except for a few shining moments where I woke up, looked out the window, and watched the Grand Canyon pass underneath us.
If you find yourself wondering why I am able to sleep so much here, it's a gift from God and a strategic decision I make to generally travel tired on long flights. This makes the flight shorter for me, giving me less time to think about how cramped my 6'2" slightly pudgy frame is in airline seats, and it generally adjusts my schedule as well.
Do you know what the foulest fast food combination is on one's olfactory senses? Me neither, but I'm guessing it's the combo Starbucks and Burger King, which is what greeted me upon exiting the plane. Welcome to LAX, folks. Anyway, I then settle in for my seven-hour layover, eat some reasonable Chinese food, finish book 3 of David Farland's Runelords series, start on Book 1 of Lord Foul's Bane, wander around the international terminal, marveling at all the strange airlines I've never heard of, and wait until 4 freaking 30 p.m. for the Qantas counter to open because my flight isn't listed properly on the big tally board. (It said Auckland-Sydney, when really it was Auckland-Brisbane. Sydney either wasn't involved, or was involved considerably later. Again, whatever.)
Thinking about it, it must be nice to be Qantas... Since nobody else really wants to fly the routes that they do, they only have to be open for seven or eight hours each day because those are the only times they run flights out of the States. Plus, all their employees have either Australian or New Zealand accents, which I think just generally makes for happier workers.
Anyway, we finally board the plane at like 9 p.m., and the very kind airline folks then take over, showering the passengers with decent food, random goodie bags, individual TV screens for each seat and a choice of fifteen movie and TV channels to watch (which is more than my hotel room had), and just generally good service. Having flown on about a billion domestic flights in the last six months, this was completely unexpected.
Total travel time before boarding the plane = 18 hours.
I eventually watch I, Robot, part of Collateral (it cut off for reasons unknown at the forty-five minute mark), and part of Dodgeball before falling asleep at about 5 a.m. Eastern time. I sleep until I realize I'm freezing even with the blankets on - so I grab my coat, cocooning myself until 4:30 a.m. Auckland time, when the plane awakens for breakfast. To make this exceedingly long story and flight short, John Carter and I finally end up in Brisbane, haggard, harried, and desperately in need of showers at 8:10 a.m. their time on Thursday (5PM Eastern, Wednesday). Customs decides that Americans are okay with them, and we are picked up by Level 3 judge and good man Mike Mason.
Total travel time: approximately 35 hours
Movies Watched: 3
(I went back and caught the first half of DB and the second of Collateral)
Books completed: 2
Sleep had: Much.
So that's how I ended up in Australia. Tomorrow, I'll start on what I did there.
Teddy Card Game