Friday, September 14, 9:08 a.m.
weight unknown (v.g.), calorie intake unknown (v.g.), thigh circumference unknown (v.g.), cigarettes 0 (v.v.g.), alcohol units unknown (but >0, hence only g.), predictable plot twists 2
I boarded the Skybus late because stuffing my stuff in my suitcases took longer than intended and apologized to the driver. I don’t think it would have changed which bus we boarded at the Southern Cross Station terminal, but I still felt embarrassed. At the airport, I checked in, proceeded with no delay through customs, and went to claim back the GST from my opal purchase. The girl working the TRS booth started peeling the cover off my passport, which nobody had done so far at any customs station, then, when she realized it wasn’t easy, handed it to me and asked me to remove the cover. Confused by the request and annoyed at the prospect of having to stuff the passport back in, I asked: “Why would you need that?” She took the passport back. “Oh, right, I don’t. I’m used to being over there,” she said, and pointed to the customs booths. She went to work on the computer, and I was left to reflect on my question and my tone. “I’m sorry if I was rude before,” I finally said, belated and still not fully admitting guilt. “No worries.”
After getting my documents and passing through the security check two officers pulled me aside for a random check to pat me down and swipe a detector for explosives residue on me and in my carry-ons. I’m quite sure the TRS girl had nothing to do with that. I passed the search and continued on to the gates, all located in a circular hall with stores in the nexus. I bought a lemonade and a rocky road at the only coffee shop and sat down to read. The book I held in my hand was “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” but the real reason for reading lay in having registered “Prey” at Bookcrossing before and indicated this coffee shop as the drop-off point. I thought it was quite clever to read another book and placing “Prey” in full view on the table, because that way I could pack my things and everyone would see that I was packing a book and hopefully infer that “Prey” wasn’t mine. It worked, but I think the subterfuge was wasted on the loud Chinese around me who clearly had other things in mind than hollering after me that I’d forgotten my book.
The plane was a bit late boarding and then even later leaving. A Qantas flight to Auckland on to L.A. was delayed by about two and a half hours because it was waiting for a missing part from Sydney, and the passengers bound for Santiago de Chile got reshuffled to our flight in order to be able to make the connection to Chile in Auckland. I fell asleep in the waiting plane, only to wake up to the sound of the purser’s voice announcing that boarding was complete.
Friday, September 14, 1:00 p.m.
Runway, Melbourne Tullamarine
We took off into a patchy sky and circled over the plains west of Melbourne. Through one opening in the clouds I saw an area with a surprising number of O shapes, possibly horse-racing tracks or something similar. It looked like a giant piece of retro appliqué with earth tones and elbow patches arranged at ninety-degree angles to each other. We flew right over the CBD, so I saw nothing of it. After that came the ocean, and I turned to the entertainment program and watched “Surf’s Up,” which I enjoyed as a fun divertissement, noting in the process that Zooey Deschanel has a lovely speaking voice.
Flying into Auckland just after sunset the colors turned magical: soft hues of steel blue with orange highlights in the clouds, intense aquamarine and turquoise with sandy swirls in the water, and rich green with darker woods across the landscape. The guy next to me caught sight of my Hawthorn scarf as we got ready to deplane, and said that had he known I was a member we could have spent all flight talking. Instead of voicing my gratitude for the way things had turned out, I quickly admitted to being a rookie member and a fake one at that, but I think the scarf alone and the reminder of the great game the previous weekend were enough to cheer up this guy who had clearly not enjoyed the delay we’d had. (Note: Hawthorn lost this weekend against the Kangaroos and is unfortunately out of the competition. Now I have a beef with roos.)
Friday, September 14, 6:45 p.m.
Auckland International Airport
Auckland airport once again seemed convoluted for so small an airport. We passed security first thing after leaving the plane – even those carrying on to SFO on the same plane – and then walked round a corner up a flight of stairs into the main departure hall. I passed the chapel on my way to the bathroom, turned in, and found a pulpit with a Bible on it open to 2 Kings or something similarly exciting and approachable. To the side, a compass sat fixed to a wooden pillar, with an outlined T above the needle, the crossbar facing east-west and the upright pointing north. Below, on the railing, a small plaque with an arrow pointed to Al Kaaba. Above, in the main hall, I ordered sparkling water and received Coke without the syrup. I hurried up with drinking because the display proclaimed 10 minutes until boarding for my flight, although even so apparently the gate was yet unknown. Soon it switched to proclaiming five minutes until boarding, a number it stuck to for a quarter of an hour. When Gate 8 appeared on the board I walked over toward the gates, where two officials sat behind a trestle table in front of three sheets of paper taped to the wall. Two papers seemed semi-permanent and indicated the way to the gate; the third looked more improvised and more ruffled and read “LAX Gate 8” in two-tone highlighter. After the airline employee checked my ticket, two officials again asked me to step aside for a random search. I passed again, amidst quips about being used to it because of the search in Melbourne. I must have been the safest passenger on board that plane.
I read more Bridget Jones and wondered if just as Jones is annoying to me because of her scattered flightiness, I am annoying to other people because I curb and hedge my enthusiasm. Somehow my thoughts meandered off and ran to being on the beach and needing suntan lotion, and I suddenly realized my suntan lotion was still in my camera bag. 60ml of liquid smuggled on board just like that!
I found it harder to sleep on this flight. Air New Zealand served lamb (darn good for airplane food) and after a few hiccups provided a decent entertainment selection. I watched “The World’s Fastest Indian,” a delightful quirky story that makes a man want to build his own motorcycle, “Ocean’s 13,” with a plot of such basic simplicity and such byzantine contortions that I’m not sure I followed it, and an episode of Top Gear. I finally fell asleep, only to be woken at breakfast by the flight attendant moving my seat back into the upright position.
Friday, September 14, 1:35 p.m.
We land. Taxiing takes a long time, as does waiting for baggage, which shows up on belt 6 instead of 5 and gets taken off the belt by an eager official before it makes the round back to where I stand. My smaller suitcase has sustained damage, par for the course for flights to the US. The walk from the baggage claim to the exit is short, the arrival room looks like a proviso with the ATM standing in the section that’s inaccessible once you’re out of the double doors. I wait, armed with not a single dollar, and a few minutes later Heather arrives to pick me up.
Jetlag weariness keeps me from relating the rest of the weekend now.