Oh, the jet lag. This is just one of the by-products of a big trip to Australia/New Zealand. While the trip was fabulous, I had no idea that merely getting home could be such an arduous “adventure.” It’s yet another reason why maintaining a sense of humor is not only important, it’s vital.
We’d been away from home for over a month, culminating in a few days visiting friends in Melbourne. After all the previous traveling, it was wonderful to just unwind and visit (and play with an adorable 1-year-old, who really bonded with Larry). We flew back up to Sydney the night before the first leg of our scheduled flight(s) home, thinking that we’d get a decent night’s sleep near the airport and be able to get to the airport easily in the morning.
We arrived at our hotel near the airport, exhausted, but without incident. But that’s where all sense of normalcy ended. We checked into what was probably one of the smallest hotel rooms ever; there was a structural pole in the middle of the room, and there were about 4 inches around the sides of the bed in which one could move. We were sufficiently tired that we figured we could deal, and got ready for bed.
As I pulled the covers off the bed, a giant cockroach scampered out from beneath the blankets. I was sufficiently freaked that I didn’t get a chance to kill Megabug; it wisely headed under the bed where I couldn’t get to it. There was no way I was crawling into that bed, so we called the front desk attendant.
The attendant then showed up in our room with a can of roach spray. I was not keen on staying in the same room after the spraying of pesticides, so we were moved into another room (the hotel was going to clean up our room in time for some other folks who were checking in later that evening). So far, so good. The pole in that room was all the way on the side, so it didn’t interfere with normal movement and gave us a few more inches of space. We thought all was well.
About half an hour after we’d gone to sleep, we were jolted awake when our heads were sprayed with cold water. It seems that the air conditioner, which was located on the wall over our heads, decided to spew water all over us. Strangely enough, even though Larry turned the entire unit off, it continued to blow frigid air (to the point where the room became an icebox) as well as spray water. The front desk could do nothing for us; there were no available rooms left in the hotel and given it was the middle of the night, there were no repair people available. We ended up shoving the bed against the far wall (which was only about 3 feet away) and attempted to sleep.
Larry was unable to sleep after all this nonsense, but was able to determine that if he rolled up a towel and put it on the ledge underneath the air conditioner, he could stop most of the spray from reaching the bed. This worked well until each towel became saturated and fell onto the floor from the weight of the water. So every few hours, Larry came back, picked up the fallen towel, and replaced it with a dry one. When he wasn’t on towel duty, he ended up hanging out in the lobby (where there was NO ONE but the shuttle driver around). I managed to scrunch down to the end of the bed and cover my head with the blankets. Sheer exhaustion won.
I woke up in the morning feeling like something was crawling up my leg – I couldn’t find anything (and this could have been purely psychosomatic), but I jumped out of bed anyway. Larry came in and asked me how I wanted to deal with paying for the room. Based on the look on my face, he decided to turn me loose on the front desk attendants.
Strangely enough, I didn’t even need to rant in order to get a full refund. Merely complaining about how unacceptable our accommodations were in a calm voice did the trick. Score 1 for civility. For once.
Once we arrived at the Sydney airport, we discovered that our connection in Fiji (from Nadi to LA) was canceled. Apparently scheduling a flight without actually having a plane available isn’t all that unusual. This became especially problematic since I was scheduled to work on Monday. Then again, I was seriously becoming confused as to what the current day was. That pesky International Dateline thing kept rearing its ugly head. No worries, I’d just let my boss know about the snafu.
For some bizarre reason, the international terminal at the Sydney airport does not have wifi. Anywhere. The domestic terminals do, but not international. If there is a hidden message in here somewhere, I am missing it. At any rate, I managed to find a terminal that provided free Internet access via some random provider, so I was able to access email and let my boss know I would be AWOL.
Ok. No worries, we got to Nadi, Fiji, where apparently it’s a sauna. Washington, DC in August pales in comparison.
Those of us trying to get to LA were herded like sheep (and yes, I know what this looks like, I was just in New Zealand) through a series of lines where we were eventually told that we couldn’t fly out until Sunday morning. And we had to be back at the airport to check in at 4:30 AM.
It took about 40 minutes to get a shuttle bus from the hotel that was literally across the street from the airport to pick us up, but we were dropped at the hotel and the hotel folks were really nice. They helped us deal with our luggage, provided a room that was three times the size of the one in Sydney (and the roaches were the size of a dime, and limited to the bathroom, at least initially). They provided us a nice dinner, even with ice cream for dessert, in a room so heavily air conditioned that when we left it, our glasses immediately fogged up.
An actual human being gave us our wake-up call at 4:15, and we staggered out to the shuttle and got to the airport at 4:30 AM. Even at that hour, the climate was crazy hot and humid. But the Nadi, Fiji airport had it covered, with air conditioners like this:
(I did mention that a sense of humor was required, right? Here’s Larry, putting forth his best effort at 4:30 AM with piles of luggage. And it was his birthday.)
We had hopes that we could still get home on Sunday (given that International dateline thing), albeit very late.
We landed in LA at about 8:30, and it took so long to get our luggage and get through customs (which we had to do before the airline would book us a connection) that we were too late and were herded yet again through a series of lines that culminated in our being told we’d have to stay overnight in LA and have to get home to San Jose on Monday morning. The day really took a lousy turn when we realized that Larry had left his ipad – a birthday present from last year – on the plane. On his birthday.
Fortunately, we got to stay at the Hilton at LAX. Beautiful place, decent food, really nice people. Downright luxurious after the last two nights. I can’t even fathom how much the airline had to shell out for this place…(the place in Fiji was listed at $165!)
We’d had the foresight to schedule our trip home for 11 AM so that ostensibly we’d have time to check with lost and found at LAX for the ipad, and not have to get up at o-dark 30 again. We were SO close to actually getting home.
Strangely, American Airlines had no record of Air Pacific’s booking for us at 11 AM. There was a supervisor at the counter, so after about 30 minutes of finagling, she managed to get us seats on that flight. At least she got Larry a seat. We had to deal with the resurgence of a problem that had occurred when we first LEFT on our trip: somewhere in the booking process and many changes of flight information by the airlines, my last name was truncated. Therefore, the name on my passport didn’t match the name of the reservation and TSA will not let you onto a plane under those circumstances.
This was supposed to be fixed back on 11/3 when we left; we had spent an hour on the phone with the airlines, had to miss our flight to LA from San Jose, and ended up paying to get the name changed on the reservation AND having to buy a ticket from another airline (since AA had no available flights for us). This was FIXED, or else I wouldn’t have been able to leave San Jose. Why was this rearing its ugly head AGAIN?
Apparently Air Pacific had exchanged the ticket to be under my correct name, but did not give any indication to American Airlines what the exchange was FOR. 30 minutes later and multiple calls to Air Pacific (which apparently does not answer its telephones with any regularity), I had a ticket.
But then there was the issue of luggage. American thought that we were restricted to 2 checked bags. We had 3. We had not previously paid for any bag fees. American thought that we needed to pay for the 3rd bag. Then they couldn’t figure out how much to charge us for said bag. At one point they wanted to charge us by the kilo since we’d started out in Australia and that’s what they do there, with a cost of $273 for the one bag.
ANOTHER 30 minutes later, the American counter person said that the system was no longer asking for bag fees, so we somehow got the bag covered without cost. I have no idea what happened.
Larry had about 20 minutes to run next door to the Air Pacific counter to see about lost and found items. Unfortunately nobody was there. He figured his ipad was gone forever. What a lousy birthday.
We got on the plane and finally arrived home on Monday about 1 PM. Even the huge piles of mail did not affect my sense of relief.
But the most incredible thing occurred: Larry got an email from the airline saying that it had found his ipad and wanted to make arrangements to get it back to him. WOW.
So while getting home was incredibly hard, the vacation was fabulous. More on that soon. Once the jet lag abates.