Australia Trip, Day 2: The Delay Anchored Friday for Me

I wake up sometime around 4am on August 13. My cell phone says a text message awaits. The screen glows, and the words register in my brain, and not too long after my reply, Becky calls me from a stake youth dance she and Karl are chaperoning. We discuss a possible change in plans. We decide to mentally prepare for extra visitors, in case they show up in the next few days.

If the plane had departed as originally scheduled Thursday night, it would have arrived early Saturday morning. Friday would have disappeared, and maybe I would have been more confused, jetlagged, cranky, premenstrual. Who knows.

I go back to sleep for two more hours. Then I wake up, shower, dress, and catch the shuttle to the airport. Not sure which gate to report to, I check through security and follow the vaguish signs to where I think I’m supposed to be. I see my airline’s counter, but no gate assignment. But the neighboring attendants guess for me, and I doubtfully nod. Then one of the airport employees confirms it. I look for the friend I made yesterday, but it looks like she hasn’t shown up yet. I’ll know I’m in the right place if I see her.

She lives in Sydney. She  attended a friend’s wedding Dallas, where she went to “uni.”  She’s lived in Sydney for five years, something she never originally intended. She was cool; I wish I’d gotten her name.

Burger King is the closest food place, so I order one of those croissanwiches with ham, egg, and cheese. I try to eat slowly, but hunger commands, and obedience is mandatory.

Two hours before the plane is scheduled to depart, I sit in the waiting area. I’m texting several people, reading a book, and listening to music to pass the time.

I can’t sleep.

A few guys catch my eye, guys I hope are single and traveling alone. Guys I hope have a seat near mine.

One hour.

The cabin crew starts to congregate near the desk. Uncannily, they are all unbelievably attractive. All I can do is shake my head and smirk. And text friends about it. They seem happy for me, like it’s a really nice unbirthday gift. That’s fun.

I plug my phone into a charging station and sit down to flip through a few more pages of Cold Sassy Tree. It’s getting close to boarding time, and since I didn’t sleep well, I’m anxious to get settled on the plane.

My friend from yesterday appears. I feel a lot better.

The time for boarding has passed. The time for departure has passed. We’re still grounded. Violent thoughts sneak into my mind, and all of a sudden I’m texting friends about my desire to punch babies.

Finally, somebody gives the okay to board, and it doesn’t take very long at all for us to get on and find our seats. I’m in 21C:

So I sit down and let the person by sitting in 21A. She seems quiet and friendly enough. She’s wearing a pink shirt and has a tattoo of the state of Texas on her inner left forearm. She wears rainbow ink on her left wrist. No one sits between us. Cool.

The plane takes off, and I explore what’s on offer for in-flight entertainment. Not a bad selection of movies, television, music, and games. However, I end up sleeping until the first meal. When the cart stops at our row, the other girl and I choose the same main dish. It’s not bad, but as you can tell, not all that memorable. The list of beverages runs through my head, and I know I have to stay hydrated, so it’s juice for me. That’s in addition to the bottles of water they handed us earlier.

Sleep visits sporadically yet intensely, and in between naps, I read, write, watch Fantastic Mr. Fox and Date Night; I listen to a lot of music, work on crossword puzzles, and kick another passenger’s butt at Battleship. I get up to refill my bottle and grab sandwiches and cookies from the food kiosk, and I flirt with very well-behaved babies. No punching whatsoever.

Then, right under my nose, Saturday happens.

Australia Trip, Day 1: Sometimes Glitches Are Paradise, Too

The plane flies from SLC to LAX and arrives around 1pm on August 12. I get to the international terminal around 2pm. So far, so good. The kiosks reject my attempts to check in: they keep telling me to see my V Australia attendant, but the counters haven’t opened yet. So maybe that’s part of the problem. And maybe it’s eight hours before the flight leaves. Yeah, that might be part of it, too.

I sit in a waiting area, and before too long, one of my attendants comes and asks me if I’m flying to Sydney. I’ve been watching her and another person set up the queue corrals. My head stops mid-nod as she tells me the flight for tonight has been cancelled due to mechanical issues and is rescheduled for tomorrow morning. She tells me I can still check in, and they can put me up in a hotel for the night and give me a food voucher.

Checking in doesn’t take very long, and the girl in line ahead of me takes a change of clothes from her suitcase and stuffs them into her backpack. I do the same, and we don’t have to lug around our … luggage. The hotel shuttle drops us off at the airport Holiday Inn about 10 minutes away. The helpful hotel staff assign me a room and hand me a $25 voucher for dinner at their restaurant. Cool.

The room is pretty nice. Big TV, nice desk, coffee maker, king-size bed.

I make some coffee because I like the smell. I talk a little with friends and Mom.

The people I wanted to hang out with for the evening are unavailable in different ways. I know people, and I know people who know people here. They have parties to go to or are out of town or just won’t pick up the phone. The one day – the first day – I’m in Los Angeles as an adult, I get to spend on my own.

Dinner is salmon with salad and garlic mashed potatoes.

Then I ask the concierge how to get to the beach. He tells me to hop on the trolley bus, hands me a brochure, and says it costs $5 round trip, which is so much cheaper than taking a taxi.

He wasn’t lying.

The sky is overcast at Manhattan Beach and the sun starts to set. It’s fitting I find myself here. The air is chilly as I walk by the upscale shops toward the pier. People are still swimming. I stroll to the end of the pier and back as slowly as I can. I don’t want to go back to the hotel, so I take off my socks and shoes and roll up my jeans to the knees.

Soft, fine sand massage my feet as I approach the ocean. It still holds the day’s warmth. The water reflects the now-lit pier, and I’m taking pictures of everything, making sure to keep the camera strap around my neck.

The Pacific washes over my feet. The sea’s temperature doesn’t agree with the air’s, and it surprises and delights me. All of a sudden, I’m in love with Southern California’s beaches.

This isn’t a bad way to spend a delayed flight at all.

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