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Friday, March 02, 2007

Australia 2: Mykel's Australia-New Zealand Adventure

Mykel's Australia-New Zealand Adventure

Episode 2

March 1 2007:

I grab the crying tot by her pink bib, twisting it around her neck, picking her up off her mother's lap and carrying her to the emergency exit... the one over the wings. With one hand, I pull the lever that opens the exit, bracing myself against the seat to keep from being sucked out of the plane. Using the bib like the tail of a lasso, I spin the kid over my head before letting go. A slight gurgle bubbles from the flying child as it sails past the wing gracefully plunging, arching downwards toward the blue pacific waters... I wish.

What am I doing here? On a flight from Houston to Hawaii. A packed 767, in an aisle seat in the middle section, behind the only seat tilted back. I'm in a pissy mood. Slight headache from caffeine withdrawal and lack of sleep. Not only is the woman ahead of me enough of a bitch to lean her seat back, she's the one with the baby.

My next enterprise: KID-FREE AIRLINES. Who wouldn't pay $20 more to be free from the screaming, bleating, demons? I can't imagine why people fucked in pre-condom days. The consequences would make it just not worth it. A-I-D-S? Hah! The real tragedy is K-I-D-S!

Besides the baby, there's a cough-til-you puke guy two rows up and a card shuffler who not only shuffles at a volume greater than the engines of this plane, but whacks the cards after each shuffle, possibly as a way of infusing luck into his solitaire hand.

And what am I doing here? Why am I on a flight from Houston to Hawaii when I'm going from New York to Australia? It's 11:49 somewhere in the world. That's the time my computer shows in the little digital clock in the corner. The map on the plane video screen shows us nearing in the middle of Mexico. Is it 11:49 here? or is that New York time?

Before transfering to this train, I walked the entire length of the airport. Landed on the New York Houston leg of the trip with a barely hour to spare.

Hold on, they're coming with lunch.... a cheeseburger, a bag of potato chips, a cinnamon chocolate “streusel” the size of my nose, with enough fat to bring on my stroke 10 years too early. I eat the cheeseburger... and the three leaves of lettuce they call a salad. I don't eat the potato chips or the streusel.

We're now over the central mountains of Mexico. The kid is worse. Not crying, but ear-splitting screams. Like it's being tortured. Why torture it? Just kill it! Make everyone happy.

The guy next to me is watching Stranger Than Fiction on the mini-screen built into the back of every seat. My eyes keep wandering to it, even though it doesn't seem like such a good movie. I guess it's Dustin Hoffman. I love to watch that guy act. My screen flashes that we have 7 more hours until we reach Honolulu.

Until 2 hours ago, I had no idea I'd be going to Hawaii. My ticket gave me 3 boarding passes. One from Newark to Houston. One from Houston to Guam. One from Guam to Cairns, Australia. Even this is odd. Look at a map. I don't know why they do it. But it was cheap.
So I made the arrangements 6 months in advance.

“I see you're using frequent flier miles,” said the Continental customer torture agent. “We'll see what we can do about finding you some way to get there. You know, Continental only flies to Cairns.”

“Is that in Australia?” I asked.

“Heh, heh,” comes the reply.

[I declare WAR on the woman ahead of me. She just pushed her seat back again. I should have bought knee-defenders. She keeps bumping her seat back. Every time she does, I'm going to lean on the table attached to her chair. Pavlov's dog.
Hmmm, maybe I'll try dead baby jokes too.]

“So,” says the Continental inquisitor, “I think I've got something figured out. You could fly from Newark to Houston. Then we have a flight to Guam. And from Guam there's a flight to Cairns. That looks like it.”

The plane leaves Newark at 5:30... in the morning. Then I have one hour in Houston... if the plane's on time. In Guam, I wait 6 hours. Then arrive in Australia at the convenient hour of 12:30 AM.

For me to get to Newark at 3:30 (2 hour before check-in) I need to leave NYC an hour before that.

There are no trains at that time of night, or morning. That means call SUPERSHUTTLE and ask 'em to pick me up at 1:30. (Their site says to figure 1:30-1:45 to account for traffic.) At 1AM I'm down at the door ready. At 1:50, I call the company to find out where the ride is. At 2:00 the driver calls me and says he'll be late.

Waddaya mean WILL be late, you're already late.

Somehow he gets me and his other two passengers in the van to Newark Airport by 3:00.

The airport is closed.

A few people on a few uncomfortable chairs sit waiting for someone at the ticket counter. The electronic check-in machines all have one of those Microsoft progress bars in the front. UPDATING they all say. TRY AGAIN LATER. At 3:30, the bars are gone. I try again.

Your ticket needs special attention. Please check-in with Airport personnel.

The computer battery runs out here....

After a quick partial recharge in Honolulu, I'm off again. My timing is off too, as I check the schedule. That six hour wait in Guam is 45 minutes. If the plane is on time. I don't know how I could have made such a... yeah I do.

Back on the plane. The seat next to me is empty, this time. There is a crying baby. Not quite the screamer from last time, but one who should be strangled just the same...

Flash, the screen in front of me gives a landing time of 7:14 now. It seems we've run into headwinds. The most secure transfer, I thought. Is now the most precarious. I'll prepare everything in hand when I leave. The gate has to be at the other side of the Guam airport. I wouldn't be surprised if it were the other side of the island. (ETA now 7:15). Actually, I could handle a day in Guam. If they pay for the hotel. I'd have to call my Cairn hosts and the Youth Hostel, but I could handle it. It's the way back that would be a tragedy. I'd miss my party in Tokyo.

We get to Guam with 20 minutes until the next flight leaves. No problem. I'm there with enough time to breath.

Suddenly, I think I get it. All flights are scheduled within an hour of each other. They all wait until the others arrive. I shudda relaxed. No I shuddna! Gee-zuz. Guam to Cairns is fine. An attractive Australian girl shares my row. But my first hour in Cairns is among the worst hours of anywhere in my life. More on that later.

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