Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Our US Trip: Part 1 - Flight to LA.

Saturday 4th December

Over 20 posts I'll be serialising Ali and my trip to the US, one post per day of travel. Of course since time warps between Australia and the United States, so the dates get kind of mucked up. Each one has the day's highlights in the title, regardless of however many places we visited or things we saw. My highlights do not necessarily correspond to Ali's highlights, but she's not the one writing the posts!.

We finally got our arses in gear and started packing on the Saturday morning. Flight wasn't till 4:30pm so it wasn't really an issue. Stuffing clothes and stuff into my little bag I wondered how we'd go when we came back with all the stuff that we'd be returning with. Presents for the girls, souvenirs, books, CDs. I'd been monitoring the weather in our target cities, so I had a few cold clothes, nothing as severe as a hat or gloves, though. Paul and Roz had promised to loan us their ski parkers for the majority of the trip. I'd remembered the Sydney winter to Toronto summer I'd done before, surely the weather change couldn't be all that bad.

The plan was in place, all flights and hotels booked, meetings arranged. Our flat was being looked after by Andy & Mandy, my car was at Christine's place. Everything.

Sydney airport was same as ever - busy. And it looked a little grubbier than normal. We were there early enough to walk almost straight up to the check-in line, however. Didn't bother with the usual browse through the airport stores and went through a near-deserted customs and immigration.

Immediately after the x-ray machine, this tiny little bloke in customs uniform pulls me aside. He's obviously picked me as a Swedish tourist or something. In a barely understandable accent (Indonesian, maybe?) he starts with, "Hello sir. Do you speak English?" I held back my first offensive response which was, "Yes. Do you?", and my second humourous response which was trying to fake him out with my high school German. Customs Officers tend not to have a decent sense of humour. Apparently I'd been randomly selected to undergo a compulsory "substance" examination. Compulsory as in, you've been selected, you can comply or not get on the plane. So he wipes his magic swab over my pockets and carry-on bag, then the inside of the bag, and after 5 minutes or so of wiping & beeping, sends me on my way.

Waiting around in Sydney airport is pretty boring, there are not that many shops. Well let me change that. There are plenty of shops, but I'm not sure I'm the type of bloke that would be buying incredibly expensive designer clothing or souvenir didgeridoos. I did look at a Wallabies jumper for Paul, but the cost ($149) scared me. Later I felt bad when Paul mentioned something to Roz about wanting a Wallabies jumper. Bugger!

The United Airlines flight was uneventful. I read and slept the whole way, doing my usual business-trip trick of setting my watch to destination time as soon as I got on the plane. The movies were old, and didn't tempt me in the slightest. One thing surprised me: 13 hours Sydney to Los Angeles and I somehow managed to get through the whole flight without a visit to the toilet. For my miniscule bladder, that is an effort, particularly as I'd had a couple of those dinky little red wine bottles.

With my reading, I managed to knock off the first half of 1421: The year China discoverd the world. Alright, the basic premise might be OK, but there are a LOT of long bows drawn in this book. I also got a really cool sketch done of the plane's wing out of my window. It was the only sketch I started during the whole trip. I am so glad I lugged my sketch gear half-way 'round the world.

United Airlines has gone downhill since my last business trip to Auckland two years ago. The coffee and tea wasn't the worst I've tasted, only the next-to-worst. It should have prepared me for the weeks ahead. Also, I'm not one of those demanding people or anything, but getting the attention of the steward/esses was hard. I think they've had that special training where they learn to ignore people whilst simultaneously looking busy and efficient. And one of the stewardesses had this annoying thing where when you said, "Thank you" to her, she would respond with, "Uh-huh." No, woman, you obviously didn't hear me. I said, "THANK YOU!"

13 hours. And to get woken at 3 in the morning to get fed. Ugghh!

It's amazing how sore you feel after that amount of time in one position. I suffer from being tall enough to never be comfortable in the narrow space between my seat and that in front. And if I'm uncomfortable, I can't sleep. Somehow I did manage to squeeze five or six hours of broken sleep, because I survived the trip way better than Alison. In fact, by the time we arrived in LA at 7:30 am on Saturday morning (huh! we left at 4:30pm), I felt quite normal for that time of morning. I guess this says more about me as a morning person, than about my ability to cope with jet lag.

No comments: