After Arabella finished hugging the pilot, she stepped onto the plane and the door was closed behind her. Organising her own itinerary, she had about a 35-hour journey back to Sydney via China (China being in no way, on the way).
Meanwhile, I had the trolley with all our luggage and I again took it down to the Air-Train and went over to Terminal 8 for my own flight from JFK to LA. I was in a sweat with a rapid pulse thanks to all the drama Arabella had put me through. The sweating and rapid pulse continued as I glazed at the amount of excess baggage I now had with me.
As I queued at the American Airlines counter, I prayed to be served by someone kind-hearted and sympathetic. But I didn’t pray hard enough because I was summoned to appear before a stoney-faced, emotionless robot who talked like she was on remote-control. ‘Passport’, she barked without looking at me. I nervously handed it across the counter.
‘How many bags are we checking?’ she said without making eye contact.
‘Well, the thing is…’
‘How many bags?’
‘Yes, well there’s been a situation and…’
‘How many bags you checking?’
Defeated, I answered, ‘Two’.
‘Put them up’. And I lifted the first bag off the trolley and tried to make it look effortless like it wasn’t actually heavy.
‘Next’. I lifted the second bag onto the scales.
‘That will be $94.00 in excess baggage’. I handed her my AMEX card. She had a colleague standing with her and they were in deep conversation regarding some aspect of the job they didn’t like and how one of them nearly ended up in a whole lot of trouble and while talking to her friend with her back turned to me she proceeded with the process of checking me onto the flight. My suitcases disappeared, I was given a receipt for the excess baggage and handed a boarding pass. I took a look at it.
‘Uhm, excuse me’, I said as I interrupted her conversation, ‘I went on-line and booked a window seat. This isn’t a window seat or even an aisle seat’.
‘There aren’t any window seats; they’re all taken’.
‘And one of them was taken by me when I went on-line and pre-booked a window seat and then I was sent a confirmation email confirming my booked window seat’.
‘You booked seat 16F but it was already taken’.
‘Then why did the website allow me to book a seat that was taken? And she shrugged and turned to her colleague.
‘Well where else can I sit?’
‘It’s a full flight; there’s nothing else’, as she turned away from me.
‘Excuse me’, I said, raising my voice, ‘There was a tack on the floor and while I’ve been standing here it’s gone into my shoe and I can’t get it out. Do you have a tool to take the nail out of my shoe?’
‘Nothing’. And that was my introduction to American Airlines.
I arrived in LA and tried to pull my suitcases from the moving carousel but they were so heavy I was being pulled along with them and leaning over in my sundress I’m sure I was making quite a spectacle of myself. Em was there to meet me and then we had to haul the luggage into the boot of her car. When we arrived at her house I hoped her husband would still be awake but he’d gone to bed and in the morning he said he was glad he did otherwise he’d have been a sherpa.
We decided Arabella’s suitcase should just stay in the car. From the garage I lifted my suitcase up a narrow and steep set of stairs and once I was at the top, Em told me her house is another three stories high. I decided my suitcase could stay on the lower level and I’d just pick things out of it. I opened it up and handed Em a gift. As she hadn’t been able to come to Archie’s 21st, I gave her a few bottles of wine from the party. That wine had travelled with me from Sydney to New York and then to LA. As I lifted the weight out of my suitcase I’d never been more happy to give someone a gift. I also had toys that were in big boxes for my nephews so it was with great joy I handed these over as well.
I needed all the space I could find because you might recall that when Arabella was in LA she had told me to pack lightly because she was leaving a whole lot of things at Em’s for me to take home – excellent.
I spent 22 hours in LA and although short, had a really lovely time. Em and I went out during the day and she drove me around her favourite places and then before heading to the airport we went to dinner at one of their favourite venues. Also dining close to our table was the very stunning Jennifer Aniston who was wearing a beautiful black floaty sundress with shoestring straps and casual black sandals. When I’d only see her on-screen, I envied her hair; now I envy the complete package. Photography at this venue is strictly banned but the dessert looked so good I was given permission to take one photo. The serving was more than generous; we ordered one Eton Mess between the three of us and even then, we couldn’t finish it.
After dinner I changed into my winter-woolies and Em’s husband took me to the airport. When I saw the lengthy queue at the QANTAS check-in I was not encouraged.
I hoped for the best but alas, I asked for either a window or an aisle seat and was told they were all taken. Then she said, ‘But the good news is, I can give you a seat just behind the bulkhead and that will give you six-inches of extra leg room’. And after I paid the $75.00 excess baggage charge she handed me my boarding pass.
And then they confiscated my hand luggage. I was boarding the plane when I was pulled aside. Yes, my hand luggage was bulging and yes, it did look like it weighed more than the allowed 7kgs. They asked me to lift it onto some scales and whoops, it weighed 14kgs. I was told it was going into cargo.
After all the messing around with the scales, I was about last to enter the plane. I started heading down to the back and when I saw my seat I was gutted. Because on the aisle next to me was an incredibly large man weighing about 200kgs (440lbs) whose frame was so large he was not only sitting in his seat but in mine as well. His shoulders were so wide they spread across his seat and finished halfway across mine. I found the nearest flight attendant and said, ‘There’s a man sitting next to me who’s so large he’s occupying half of my allocated seat. There’s no room for me so can you move me?’
‘I’m sorry; it’s a full flight’, as he breezed on by. Sitting behind the bulkhead is a dud spot as you cannot stretch out your legs and that ‘six-inches’ of extra leg room is just fiction. There was nowhere to put my handbag so that was on my feet and I had to lurch to the right because of the bulk of the man on my left but even then his shoulder was still touching mine. With him beside me and the bulkhead in front of me I felt utterly trapped.
However, there was a miracle. About an hour after take-off another flight attendant approached and said, ‘I have an aisle seat for you further up the plane if you would like to follow me’. I couldn’t get up fast enough. He took me into the galley and said, ‘I could see you must have been extremely uncomfortable. It’s a full flight but two people missed the plane so I can move you’. I could have kissed him.
I sat in a new seat with no one’s flesh touching mine – as long as I didn’t move my elbows. All was going well until three hours into the flight when it was about 3am LA time. I thought I’d try to get some sleep so I slowly and carefully and mindfully started to recline my chair. The thug behind me yelled, ‘Oi, excuse me! I’m trying to have a drink back here’. I don’t think I’m up for a long-haul economy flight ever again – they are just hell.
After 16.5 hours I was finally back in Sydney. I pushed all my luggage through the terminal where I found Carl who was with Arabella and Alfie. And then Carl announced he had driven his small sports car to the airport. I was shocked. ‘Did you think about all this luggage?’
And no, he hadn’t thought about it. We could only fit one suitcase in the boot and the other had to stand up on the front seat. Arabella, Alfie and I were squeezed into the back seat just like an economy flight – welcome home!
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