Sunday, January 12, 2014

In Review

Let's just say that the actual travel part of travelling can be the least fun part of travelling. I mean, when one faces four flights spanning more than twenty-four hours one just knows it's not going to be the best part of the trip; the question is just how much awfulness it can encompass.
 I suppose it could have been far worse, as it started off well and then suddenly badly and that pretty much set the tone.

Queues at the airport were light. Check-in was relatively uncomplicated. The lines for security were short and then it all came crashing down a bit.

As an aside, let me just say that each of us has logged many national and international flights (my son somewhat less so, but still plenty) and that while we have always been aware and careful about checked baggage weight limits, carry-on has always been the safety valve for excess (and I won't say "excess shopping" because often it has nothing to do with shopping. When you're going to live in another country for some number of months or years, shopping is the least of it) and this time was no different.

On the way to Australia my hand-luggage was almost entirely gifts, so I brought a flimsy fold-up suitcase as my actual luggage, fully intending to use my carry-on wheelie as the sum total of my checked baggage after presents were disbursed. Due to (a) my mother's intention to unload as much of her excess goods and chattel as will not ft into the new apartment, (b) my daughter's plan to use everyone else's luggage as license to shop more and (c) my realization that I'd be using the fold-up suitcase anyway, I bought a couple of things - nothing excessively large, though I guess soaps are pretty heavy and I bought more than one. More than ten.

We packed our suitcases without scales, guessing at weights, with our hand-luggage filled with crystal and silver and other momstuff as well as my daughter's camera equipment (she WILL NOT check that as it's too valuable) and other excess.

Turned out the suitcases were each at least two to three kilos underweight so we could have packed more, though the truth is that there was little in our hand-luggage that we would have been comfortable checking.

In. Brisbane. They. Weigh. Hand. Luggage. At. Security.

The limit is 7.5 kilograms or 16.5 pounds. I can easily fill a lightweight child's backpack with that weight, so wheeled carry-on which is not weightless and is considerably larger will easily weigh more than double the allowance. (Mine was eighteen kilos. It had books).

And they don't care. Rules are rules and they go on and on about safety and how anything larger than 7.5 kg is dangerous. I'm thinking that if your plane is crashing and jiggled about so much that the overheads burst open and luggage falls on your head then (a) most likely luggage falling on your head is the least of your worries and (b) if the overhead is so tightly packed (and it always is especially on international flights) then nothing is going to jiggle free anyway.

Back we were sent to the check-in counters where an extremely kind and patient person did her best to help us distribute fifty kilograms among three people and five pieces of carry-on luggage - I was carrying a painting which accounted for one of my pieces. Do the math. It's just not happening.

Eventually we realized we had to check one piece, and my wheelie, being the biggest and heaviest was it. Unfortunately all that left me was the bag I made for my travels which was (a) too small for my 7.5kg of necessities and (b) slightly broken (the strap) due to shoddy workmanship (yup. Mine) so I had to blow $40 on a very ugly and ever-so-slightly-too-small backpack to accommodate my stuff. I'd been hoping for a cheap and ugly canvas tote bag, but I guess Australian airport tourist shops don't go that way.

Once that was resolved, and once we saw that NO OTHER AIRPORT gives a crap about carry-on, we decided that (a) we're never flying out of Brisbane again because bitches, and (b) Virgin Australia is so NOT our favourite airline. Next time it's Qantas and Jet-Star all the way. Virgin's only win over Qantas was the really cute free pen, but that's not enough to sway us.

That being said, our flights were mostly uneventful from then on, though there were annoyances in Sydney, LA and Detroit, all of which required terminal changes in and out of security again (except Detroit which had its own issues) which is just a nuisance and a waste of time, energy and any vestiges of goodwill that we may have retained.

In Detroit we had less than half an hour to departure time (boarding had started by the time we landed) to make our connection home and the estimate gate-to-gate was fifteen minutes, so we ran and ran. And then sat on the tarmac, sweaty, in an unairconditioned plane for at least another half an hour or more. In the US, the airlines are extremely mindful of closing the gates on time, as the fines for lateness are excessive, but I'm guessing the fines (if any) for not leaving the gate on time are less so.

The only good and unexpected part of the journey was that all our luggage arrived and we didn't have to wait the usual forty-five minutes to an hour for it. And oh yes, temperatures were not close to absolute zero so it wasn't horrifically cold getting home from the airport.
 Except for the stringing and the clasps, this is what I made in the airports and on the flights. Two necklaces.
This is the rest of what I made on vacation (eight more necklaces), except for the two I gave to my mother and sister-in-law.

It's taken until this morning for my poor cat who was so sick while I was gone to forgive me. She's washed me thoroughly, and is purring and sleeping on my lap. My other cat has relaxed and no longer seems to be afraid that I'm about to be Not Here.

There's work tomorrow and grocery shopping today and, y'know, life moving forward and I do wish I was still on vacation.

Sleeping outside on my brother's deck.

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