Thursday, April 4, 2013

The long trip home

DISCLAIMER- This post, much like my last one, will contain some profanity...OK...more than some...a lot actually! If you are easily offended, please stop reading now and move on to another post. Otherwise, don't be bitchin' about it later. Enjoy!

Australia is beautiful...or at least what I saw of it. The major cities I visited, Melbourne and Sydney, were gorgeous. The trip out to Deniliquin was picturesque. Gold Coast was stunning. The people I met while there were extremely polite and giving of their time and efforts. All in all, it was a wonderful trip and I cannot wait to get back and visit again. Hopefully, the next time I go I will be able to see even more of the country.

My trip back home...
Holy shit!! I thought the jet-lag was bad going over to Australia. I lost an entire day going there. Seriously. I might as well go ahead and permanently clip March 23 out of my 2013 never happened. While in Australia, someone commented that I would "get that day back on the way home"...BULLSHIT!! I left my hotel in Gold Coast at 4:30 am on April 2...travelled a total of thirty hours (including layovers)...and arrived back home at 10:30 pm on April 2. I didn't get my March 23rd back...I just had to experience the same day, April 2nd, for longer than should ever be necessary.
And what a day it was...
To begin with, our hotel apparently sat on the line of two different timezones...and where my clock on my cell phone and the clock in the hotel room were both reading 3:30 am, it was actually 4:30 am. So a mad rush was in order to get my stuff gathered up and out the door to begin the journey home.
---By the way...did I mention that I had only two hours of sleep before getting up to go home?---
We get to the airport and get our boarding passes, and then I make my way to the security checkpoint, where I am told, after waiting in line for almost thirty minutes, that I cannot board the plane with the gift I had purchased for one of my daughters, a didgeridoo (or as she called it, the "blow-through-the-stick-with-your-mouth-and-make-the-wow-wow-wow-wow-noise-thingy"). I was informed that I would have to go back to ticketing and check it. So...
I run back to ticketing to check the damn thing. Lucky for me, all of our checked baggage had not been checked in...we still had some large, over-sized pieces that were being tagged when I got back to the counter. I check the didgeri-whats-it and run, run, run back to security to try to be screened...for the second time. I wait in line for another ten minutes and just as I was putting my stuff on the conveyor belt to have it X-rayed, I hear the final boarding call for my flight. Oh shit...oh shit...oh shit!!! I CANNOT MISS THIS FLIGHT!!!
I get screened, and before I leave the checkpoint, a polite fellow with a badge and strange Indian accent decided he needed to pull me aside and swab my backpack for explosives. A gigantic pain in the ass, but considering that I was looking haggard from a lack of sleep, anxious from the fear of missing my flight, sweating bullets due to my early morning sprint to and from the ticketing counter, AND considering that I'm not a fan of explosive devices being brought on to commercial flights either, I was understanding of the situation and happy to oblige. Two and a half excruciatingly long minutes later, the sensor machine resounded with a happy sounding "ding" accompanied by a green light and I was off to the gate.
Again...I run, run, RUN to the gate to find that I was (seemingly) the last person to get on board. Whew! Just did make it!!
Down the chute, into the plane, and down the aisle...I get in my seat as quickly as possible, stow my backpack under the seat in front of me, buckle my seatbelt, and sit back to hear the announcement from the pilot that there was some last-minute oversized baggage being loaded into the plane and that "we should be on our way in about twenty to thirty minutes." ---Well...SHIT! all that running and panicking for much of nothing!---
Two hours later...we arrive in Melbourne to switch planes for our international flight, the process of which included leaving one terminal, rechecking with ticketing, getting over to the next terminal, being re-screened for security, going through customs and immigration in order to leave (hey, that's how they do it over there...who am I to argue?), and making my way through what seemed like six miles of "Duty-Free" shops to arrive at my gate.

Did I mention that I didn't sleep during that first flight...for fear that I would go completely unconscious and be unable to wake back up to switch planes? Well there you go.
I was looking forward to the next leg...a thirteen hour flight from Melbourne to Los Angeles across the during that leg that I would sleep...or so I thought.

I get on board the plane, get comfy in my seat, review the safety information on the card in the seat pocket in front of me, prepare to drift off into a much needed slumber. Then a flight attendant comes by and asks if I would like something to drink. Crap.
I try to close my eyes and relax again. Then the pre-flight announcement from the lead flight attendant. Damn.
One more time I try to relax. Then the pre-flight announcement from the captain. Shit.
I closed my eyes again and took a deep breath. And then an announcement about frequent-flyer programs and a credit card offer. Really?!? Ugh!!
I was on the verge of drifting off one more time and decided to force myself to stay awake for the rest of the pre-flight bullshit. Another announcement. Then the safety presentation which included a demonstration of how to use the seatbelt and (God forbid) the flotation devices and life preservers. The plane pulled away from the gate, began to taxi to the runway, hit the thrusters, and away we went. Oh...sweet Jesus...thank you for the sleep I am about to receive...
I had closed my eyes and was literally on the verge of drifting away into la-la-land when the flight attendant taps me on the shoulder and inquires about my choices for lunch and breakfast. I was growing more and more irritated, but since this would benefit me and affect my disposition directly, I didn't mind so much.
Off to sleep I go...ahhhhh. Then the lead flight attendant makes another announcement over the intercom...a complete regurgitation of the safety video demonstration from earlier. Really, dude?!? Well...FUCK ME!
I was literally almost asleep when the captain comes over the mic and announces that we would be experiencing some turbulence at hours three, four, six, and eight of our flight, but we should be able to get some sleep otherwise. I could actually get some sleep if someone were to break the fucking microphones in this plane and find a way to shut these fuckers up! UGH!!!
At this point, I found myself too irritated to be able to drift off asleep immediately. I was past the point of no return and wide awake. I might as well watch a free movie or something...
So I watched a movie. And then the turbulence. And another movie. And then lunch service. And more turbulence. And another movie. And then I read a book on my entire book! And then another movie...and ANOTHER.
As a side note I must say that when you are sleep deprived, nothing can be more infuriating than seeing everyone around you snoring away and sleeping soundly while you suffer with insomnia.
It was at this point that I decided to watch "The Hobbit". A three hour film...surely I would succumb to exhaustion and be able to drift away to dreamland. Unfortunately, the movie was awesome. Of course...just my luck that I would watch an epic film, hoping to become bored and fall asleep, only to become deeply enthralled in the incredible storytelling and cinematic splendor. Then the movie ended...but the story was no where near finished. No one told me it was a multi-movie epic. Upon discovering that I had been ensnared in an epic film with no real closure at the end of it, but instead met with the implied "To Be Continued...", I literally vocalized my frustration...and much louder than I meant to. Mo-ther FUCK-ER!!
I caught myself and looked one was awakened by my outburst.
I decided to calm myself and try to relax in the hopes that a completely quiet mind would lead to some sleep. It was then that I noticed exactly how uncomfortable a seat cushion can be. My ass was aching. My legs were aching. My back was aching. I certainly hope that those things are better at being an emergency flotation device because they certainly sucked at being a comfortable seat cushion.
I decided to stand up, stretch my legs, and quietly walk a lap through the plane in the hopes that it would make the aching go away and that I could finally relax and maybe get some rest.
I stood up, raised and extended my arms above my head, stretched, yawned twice and started my quiet stroll. Ten groggy steps later, I noticed that the air pressure and my upright stance had caused my insides to feel as though I was about to explode. Really. I felt like I was sitting on a fist. It felt like I was about to give birth to a train wreck. I quickly sought out the nearest toilet only to find that it was occupied. Damn it! I found the next nearest one and...that's right...also occupied! FUCK!! I was dancing.
---Have you ever had that feeling of having to shit so bad that your asshole muscles were cramping, seizing, and convulsing like an olympic powerlifter going for the gold medal? That was me!!! I actually began to break out in "shit sweats"!---
Finally, one of the toilets became available...and just in the nick of time! I hurried in, locked the door, and tried to get my pants down before my asshole exploded like Chernobyl. I sat down thinking that I was about to release a major biohazard into the toilet and then...
Well butter my butt and call me a biscuit! It was only gas. I farted for what seemed like an eternity. Seriously...I had enough hot air blowing out my asshole to power a sailboat to an easy victory in the America's Cup. And that was it. No stench...and no need to wipe, though I did anyway. Nothing but air.
After gather myself back together, I made my way back to my seat only to find that it was even less comfortable than before. I closed my eyes.
I sat there for at least an hour with my eyes closed, and just as I thought for sure that I had begun to drift off to sleep, the cabin lights began to come up and the announcement was made that breakfast would be served shortly. You have got to be fucking kidding me!!!!
Sleep was not in the cards for me...apparently.
I ate my crepes...or actually a thin pancake rolled up around a few blueberries...and sat quietly in my seat hoping that soon my flight would land and I would at least be able to stand on U.S. soil soon. No such luck. I checked the flight monitor. Two more hours of flight before landing. SHIT! DAMN!

I'm not sure when I fell asleep...but I did. I only woke up because the captain was making the announcements of weather, local time, and U.S. Customs protocol at our destination and speakers sounded like they had been cranked up to full volume. I was seriously considering ripping them out of the ceiling at that point.

A very short time later, we landed. Then it was off the plane and onward to immigration. And then to collect baggage. And then to Customs...where I had to explain to a U.S. Customs agent that I didn't owe taxes on the cigarettes in my bag because I purchased them in Alabama prior to my trip to Australia and simply had not smoked them all. Showed him the tax stamp on the bottom of one pack that clearly read, "State of ALABAMA. Taxes paid." For some reason he didn't understand. Either I was so sleep deprived that I wasn't making any sense to him (not very likely) or this guy was a bit of an idiot who only got his gig because someone owed his family a favor...logic seemed to escape this guy with the same amount of expedience as Forrest Gump running from the Viet-Cong...and I'm still convinced that Forrest Gump would seemingly possess an Einstein-esque level of intelligence by comparison. I think he eventually must have realized that my ability to give a fuck was completely gone and that I might actually risk jail time and karate-chop him in the throat if he didn't shut up about the cigarettes, because he shrugged, signed my declarations form and let me through.
Immigration...cleared. Customs...cleared. Bags re-checked...done. Quick trip outside to have a much needed smoke...done. Off to the gate for the next flight to Atlanta...done.
The rest of my journey home was much like the last couple of hours of the trans-Pacific flight...quietly holding back my internal fits of grumpiness with the smatterings of intermittent sleep thrown in for extra irritation.
My four hour layover in the Atlanta airport was without incident...saving of course, my run-in with a couple of really terrible hotdogs from Nathan's Famous. They may be awesome on Coney Island, but they sucked balls in the Atlanta airport!! I suffered through three bites...burned the shit out of my tongue...and upon deciding that it was pointless to continue eating since the ability to taste had been rendered useless due to the searing of my taste-buds, an upgrade if you ask me because they tasted terrible to begin with, I gathered my carry-on belongings and made my way to my gate...which got changed...and changed again...and changed again. Will the insanity never end?!?! Thank goodness there are several smoking lounges in that airport...

Of course, I eventually got to Birmingham...and saw my sweet wife and one of my daughters waiting for me. Holly looked absolutely beautiful and I was so glad to see her. I had only been away for ten days, but with jet-lag, the sixteen hour time difference, and the difficulties of communicating with regularity being hexed from the get-go, I felt like I had not seen her in months. A long, welcoming and comforting hug, and a greatly needed kiss and I was finally home, in spite of still standing by baggage-claim in the airport.
I loved going to visit Australia...but I loved coming home more!!

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