Friday, September 30, 2011

New Zealand trip, day 1: It begins

Friday, September 30

Normally traveling is exciting to me. Sure, there's always the last-minute-prep-induced stress and tiredness. But it's exciting to me to print off my itinerary, connecting information, etc., highlighting key passages, and organizing it all in a nice, crisp folder. It's exciting to get a ride to the airport, to bid that close friend farewell, to approach the check-in counter with photo ID in hand, even to go through security. And of course, it's exciting to board the plane, to settle into my (hopefully aisle) seat, to listen to the safety instructions I've heard literally hundreds of times, and to watch the ground grow smaller and smaller beneath me until it's enveloped in clouds.

This trip, though, I'm just plain exhausted. Don't get me wrong--I'm incredibly excited about hanging out with my brother in New Zealand. But right now my excitement is muted by my exhaustion. It probably has something to do with how busy things have been at work lately--start of the semester, training two new student employees, helping with a large event on campus, and using every spare moment to teach my three student workers--two of whom have only been here a month--how to do my job in addition to theirs. Also, this is the only time I've traveled internationally by myself. And, while I was focusing most of my energy on getting my boss and student workers ready for me to leave, I was doing very little to get myself ready to leave . . . until a few days ago (so mostly last night and this morning).

Then as I was in line today to check in for Flight #1 (of three), I got a voice message from the airline to tell me one of my flights had been cancelled. And right before I heard that message, I learned at the check-in desk that I have to abide by Qantas' more strict weight allowances even though I booked through American and thought I was only bound to their restrictions. Awesome. (In case you're wondering, American's weight limit is 30 lbs. for the carryon, so that's what I was aiming for, rather than Qantas' 16 lbs.) I'm pretty sure that my carryon and personal item are each over 16 pounds, so I'm not sure what's going to happen when I check in for my LA-to-Auckland flight. Tears might be shed. Flight #2 had been cancelled, so they stuck me on an alternate flight. The voice message ended with, "Your connecting flight to Auckland is experiencing delays, and the new departure time is--please wait while we connect you to a representative . . . [silence; end of message]" Are you kidding me? So I called American, got transferred halfway through, only to learn that LAX-AUK is not delayed (yay!).

On Flight #1, I was excited about getting some orange juice, but they didn't give us drinks. Granted, it's only 35 minutes long, but usually they manage to throw drinks at us and give us about 49 seconds to chug them. I feel jipped.

Then I got to Airport #2, and Alternate Flight #2 was delayed. Woohoo. Which I knew would be fine, because I have like 7 hours in the LA airport, but it's still a little nerve-wracking. While in Airport #2, I noticed that American had given me a boarding pass for my LAX-AUK flight and assigned me to seat J-something. So I looked up a Qantas seating chart, and seat J is in the middle (as in, between the window seat and the aisle seat). Middle seats should not be allowed. Maybe on a one- or two-hour flight. But on a 12-hour flight? That's just mean. Just sayin'.

The guy beside me on Alternate Flight #2 appeared to be flying for his first time. He had the window seat and probably took 100+ pictures of taxiing and takeoff. I'm pretty sure he also took photos or video of the surrounding passengers, because a couple times he held up his camera and slowly rotated it to get a good 360. When we landed in LA he turned to me and asked, "Los Angeles?" I was so glad to answer him, "Yes," and I'm not sure what would have happened had the answer been, "No." Can you imagine?

Now I'm hanging out on the floor of LAX, waiting for my 11:40 p.m. departure. I spent almost $6 on a chicken sandwich from Burger King and have 4 more hours to burn before boarding the flight to Auckland. After that, I get to find my luggage, then the bus station, hang out for a couple hours, take a bus for six hours, then find (or be found by) my brother. Oh yeah, and enjoy being in New Zealand!

Now, for some important life questions:
1. Why is ginger ale only available at the store or on airplanes?
2. What is the purpose of the sheer curtain between first/business class and the rest of us? I can see straight through it, and I guarantee it blocks no sound. Why is it there?

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