Journey to America

Here’s something I wrote on the plane that I’ve only got around to posting now.

I can’t sleep, I don’t know what time it is or where I am and I am so uncomfortable as we fly over little orange patches that are towns in the black of America at nighttime – into what I think is New York at 4am. We’re 3 hours behind schedule and I’ve now been awake for about 24 hours because I didn’t get much sleep this time on the Auckland – Los Angeles flight. Obviously I can’t publish this now but I can write down some stuff from along the way so far.

Best inflight snack ever on a domestic flight in NZ has got to be Abe’s mini bagel crisps, natural.

I was not impressed with some guy in the airline lounge in Auckland who hogged one of the 4 public computers there. He got a great bowl of smelly food and a couple of beers and just made himself at home. Mind you so were a lot of other people. I guess that’s the problem living your life on Facebook and blogs and online chat, there’s no concept of jumping on to a computer to quickly check your email, which is what I wanted to do and would’ve thought was polite behaviour in a crowded room with only 4 computers and others circling to use them.

There were lots of groups of people travelling and I’m always amazed by the amount people eat and drink when waiting in the lounge. Must be the free food mentality – the 2 groups of 4 either side of us had so many beers and glasses of spirits and great plates of what looked like mince and chips and rolls with ham. God, I can’t think of anything worse than being full of mass produced, over-garlicked food and dazed and red-faced from alcohol just before a long haul flight. Especially when that’s exactly what you get in the 1st 2 hours of the flight anyway!

I felt pretty good when we got to LAX and was positively brimming with anticipation at stepping out the terminal doors into the sun – we were only half a dozen back from the front in the immigration queue and only had 2 hours to fill in before out next flight and I prematurely wondered why people moan about transferring through LAX. We’ve never had a bad time there.

Except this time, my fingerprints were ‘blurred’. What? I mean that one other time my fingers were too clean for them to get a print and I had to try again but this time I had to be escorted to the ‘Secondary Inspection’ room. It was near the baggage carousel and so the Mister waited out there for the bags but could see me through the glass sitting on a hard plastic seat with 20 other ‘naughty’ people. As time past I realised that it was me and a room full of Mexicans, each one of whom had some visa problem and they were all being called in turn from their place in the pigeon-hole system of queuing to be questioned about one time or other they tried to enter the country with out a visa. When one guy was being questioned about a particular situation in 1968 I began to realise just how long I was going to be there. And one of our bags was VERY slow at coming off the carousel and both the Mister and I were beginning to get concerned about our dwindling connection time, and had to communicate through hand gestures and ‘read my lips’ because I wasn’t allowed out of the room and we both had to stay behind our respective lines, scared out of our wits of doing the wrong thing with all these uniformed people with guns all round the place.

And then with 45 minutes to spare the bag popped out of the hole, they called my name, I answered a few questions and we were on our way. Who knows what was really wrong with my prints, and why they didn’t redo them and why they seemed to have no record of my previous trips to the U.S. (unless they were all questions to test my accuracy). We got to have our lovely we walk in the sun, past bushes of beautiful hibiscuses – you know you’re in a sunny climate when you see a hibiscus – and into the domestic terminal to find our flight to New York, no queues at the security checkpoint and we didn’t set off any alarms. Just enough time to get a coffee and scone and a couple of sandwiches for our dinner on the flight. Hopped on our 757, laptop ready to watch 4 or 5 episodes of Lie To Me.

Then the dreaded ‘excuse me ladies and gentleman …’ damn flickering fuel light. Mechanics had to come. I’m sure this exact same thing happened last time! So we filled in the 20 minutes it was going to take them to fix the light by doing our first ever Sudoku in the back of the inflight magazine. We’d done about half of it when we got the bad news that it was going to take an hour to replace the fuel filter which had turned out to be the cause of the flickering light. However we were allowed to de-plane. Never had that happen before! So most of the plane emptied and hung around in the lounge as requested. Then more bad news, more than an hour to fix so they were going to shift us all to a different plane due to arrive in an hour or so – so, could everyone get back on the plane, get all their stuff off and then make sure they were back at the same gate at 7pm when the next plane was due to arrive. MAN! Many people were getting very short-tempered, shouting at the airline staff and I commiserated with a guy from New York who’d been on the flight from Noo Zeeland 22 hours ago and just couldn’t stand a 2-hour delay!

So we settled down with a couple of magazines to wait when unexpected news arrived 10 minutes later – plane was fixed so we could board in another 10 minutes! Of course my first thought was to worry that we wouldn’t be able to leave on time because many people had wandered off to spend the hour in a bar or shops and would only return at 7pm. So off I went, much to the embarrassment of the Mister, searching the terminal for flight buddies to tell them to get back to the lounge because the plane was fixed – managed to fin 4 of them. The people I found didn’t seem to recognise me so they probably wondered how I knew they were on the flight! Just observant! One of the people I found was the guy who’d come from Noo Zeeland, he was in a bar talking to a woman and was just putting his hand into his jacket, I think about to swap phone numbers, I hesitated for a micro-second but then figured he wouldn’t regret my interruption if it meant he wouldn’t miss his flight! So we were finally on our way 3 hours later.

God I hope it’s nearly time for the descent.

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