On the 18th day of June, in the year of 2003, Richard and I, along with sister Barbie and favorite brother-in-law John went on a journey to Sydney, Australia. Of course we had read everything we could find about the country. We learned all sorts of exciting facts about Australia, including how many lethal spiders live there. No worries. We were brave.
Somewhere during the planning of this trip, I realized something even worse than deadly spiders was threatening me. I was about to be trapped in a chair on a plane for fourteen hours. Some events, such as giving birth, having a root canal, and sitting still for fourteen hours, just call for medication. I am glad my doctor agreed. I was prepared.
We met up with some of our travel mates in a holding area at LAX. We had about two hours to wait. We people-watched and tried to decide which ones were in our tour group.
I gave some thought to the identity that I might try on when we met the others. I don’t know what it is about those “Tell us your name and a little about yourself” occasions that gives me such an urge to be a part of the lunatic fringe.
“Hi, my name is Tallulah Funnypants and I was born in a Tijuana jail. My mother was a tightrope walker and my father was a con artist. I grew up in the circus and…what?
I’m a retired teacher, and I grew up in a small town and have been married to the same guy for forty years.”
I found Barb’s boyfriend. (You know that game? The one where you find an unfortunate-looking or funny-acting person and be the first one to say, “There’s your boyfriend!”) He was pacing back and forth with his hands poked in the back of his trousers. He had painted little simple objects all over his luggage and backpack with sparkly, pastel, puffy paint. I assumed that was so he would be able to locate them on the luggage carrousel, but a grown man with flowers, trees and houses puffed all over his luggage is just asking for it as far as I’m concerned.
Barb soon found my boyfriend. He looked sort of like Alfred E. Newman with Henry Kissinger overtones. He had so much ear hair that he seemed to be wearing mink earplugs. His elastic-waist pants were twisted like a toddler’s who was just learning to go potty alone. Guess that made me the boyfriend winner.
We finally boarded and were served dinner for the second time that night. They gave us something with lots of pokey spikes sticking out all over them. I was leery, thinking about those spiders I had read about. Also, the main course looked suspiciously like kangaroo meat. I took my travel medication, and knew nothing until two days later, according to the calendar, (It’s that Date Line thing), and the cabin attendants were serving more strange things for breakfast.
We got off the plane in Sydney. Our group leader, Tim, was waiting for us with a Grand Circle Tours sign. He was a comforting sight. I overheard people talking about how we have only three more hours to go...
Um, what? Excuse me?
Aren't we here?
Sometimes it's a good thing to be unaware and dependent upon others to get you to each destination, because if I had known I had to get back on another plane when we just got there, I might have gotten cranky. I knew we were going to Cairns; I just wasn't prepared for it to be immediately.
As we waited for our flight to Cairns, (pronounced Cahn, so why they don't just spell it that way, I do not know.) I sat on the floor and recharged my camera battery. I had made the first of many, hour-long videos of the inside of my camera case. It’s a mystery to me why I am trusted with the historian duties.
While waiting for our flight, I heard a voice on the P.A. system calling stragglers to gate 11 to board flight 19 to the Gold Coast.
A minute later, "Flight 19 is in its final boarding process. Board the plane NOW!"
A minute later, even more emphatically, "Final boarding call for flight 19 to the Gold Coast! If you aren't on the plane, you aren't going!’ they threaten, “The flight is closed!"
Thirty seconds later, "Will Mr. Ralph Soandso PUH-LEEZE go to Gate 11! Your flight is getting ready to leave!"
YES!! This is my kind of country! In the States, if you are late for your flight, they just leave your sorry ass. Here, they give you a personal page. I need this type of service, as I have been known to miss calls for flights. I have found my place!
The second flight was only three hours long. A piece of cake, unless those three hours are the hours numbered 15, 16, and 17! Barb threatened to run up and down the aisle screaming at about the beginning of hour number sixteen. That sounded like it would be entertaining, so I encouraged her to do it, but we came into very bad weather at about that time. The pilot told the stewards to sit down and buckle up. It was 1,221 miles of the bumpiest ride I’d ever had. I could see the wings outside the window, and they were actually flapping! If I hadn’t been holding the plane up by my tray table, we never would have made it. Everyone should have thanked me. I was exhausted.
We finally stumbled off the plane, disheveled and feeling grimy with airplane gradoo. As I passed a couple of young guys, I swear I heard one say to the other, “There’s your girlfriend.”