Saturday, January 10, 2015

Nah, I don't suffer from jetlag (part one of no doubt a million shattered fragments of my mind)

however I have discovered that I may have been doused heavily in a miasma that has only been slightly lifted by a therapy known as "mowing the lawn".

This is but one of the tremours we have experienced - little land-wobbles that have covered a full gamut of emotions in the last few days - but it was the first one, and it was a doozy.

You may need a coffee.  (I know we did...)  You may need a stiff drink.  (Its possible I did)  You may need drugs by the end.  (No judgement from me)


We are back in Australia.  Check.  Returned to Paradise.  Check.  Attained all encompassing wisdom and bobbing on the fountain of benign happiness of all blessings?  Maybe by Monday next...

Its funny (in hindsight - at that particular moment in time, possibly not) but it was the re-entry to our shores that initially prismed my innate calm and good nature.

Prefacing this by saying how wonderful the Virgin crew were throughout all other steps of our journey.  It was therefore with some surprise upon landing to find that the wheelchair arrangements* had seemingly fallen on fallow ground, and an offhand "well, I suppose you can take that one" after some discussion (that had not been needed at any other juncture of the whole journey) was our complete set of instructions when we got some assistance for V.

* V doesn't require full-time usage of a wheelchair, but requirements for him standing or walking for any length of time (let alone after 13 hours in a tin can - or even worserer with an Canadian Gridiron player less than 8 inches in front  of the joint) are impossible for his knees to work without maniacal internal physical protest, thus wheelchair is the request that I make well before any such endeavours.

Compare that to the lovely Camilla (which may have been her name - it started with C and she was friendly enough yet polite and incredibly efficient) who chauffeured him from the plane through the whole chain of Customs requirements at LAX, and the relay team of well-organised officials on our departure. 

Its quite benign, isn't it?  "Well, I suppose you can take that one" actually sounds quite promising compared to the opposite of "you can't"  - but it opens the doorways - a chink - to the trials of hell that awaited us that could have been alleviated slightly with the Standard Operating Procedures adopted on foreign shores.

In LAX, Camilla took V in her chair and walked - briskly - through empty corridors to lifts that took us straight to the correct line for processing by the first scary guy, through another couple of miles** to the correct line for processing by the next scary lady and down the alley to the third more friendly but still quite scary bloke, along another few miles of corridor to the collection of baggage, where a trolley was able to be used to help him walk.

** I may exaggerate.  I  am allowed to do that in Imperial Measurement.

One the way back, a lady was called who took V from one terminal to the next, where a wheelchair swap was orchestrated for a gent who took us down empty corridors to lifts that took us directly to the xrays and take your shoes off department, and then down empty corridors to lifts that took us directly to a junction where a little motorised train (I kid you not) was waiting to take any clients in the same predicament (and their family) directly to the gate of their need.

So you see, the "well, I suppose you can take that one" smacks of dropping the ball (or wheelchair).  We then went down increasingly crowded corridors*** to a bottleneck.
*** I may never know if 7:30am on a Tuesday morning was what is termed "Peak Hour" at BNE, or if efficiency measures put in place in Australia were the culprits - I only know that when next this experiment of hurtling around the world takes place again, 7:30am on a Tuesday morning will be the time least likely to be booked.

The bottleneck was funneled through one be-vested Official of the lady persuasion **** which required merging with 7 lanes of foot traffic - a wheelchair, a teenager, a five year old and myself being held together by sheer bluster and the possibility of bruised shins and elbows to the face ****.
**** and as my grandmother would have said, "I am being polite in calling her a lady"

***** okay, that bit only happened in my mind, but man did it happen in my mind after a long yield to the masses of humanity.  Don't judge me, okay?

"Wheelchairs to the outside" she barked at us, like we were cretins to not have sucked that particular piece of information out of the ether.  So again, the trek across the 7 lanes of humanity to a line that said "Crew" (which is a clue as to why I might have been clueless that I didn't know innately that Wheelchairs were, indeed, to the outside), to be immediately surrounded by willowy women and men with their matching luggage and a certain disdain for those on the inside - and indeed, uncrew on the outside.

Click.  They went through.  Click.  They went through.  They were so down pat with the process that it was like watching ballet.  Chatter and laughter about the glitz and glamour of the high air-pressurised lifestyle interspersed with a preen, then a duckface freeze - in time - at the masses on the inside, with a slow-motion pirouetted resting bitch face towards the uncrew on the outside.  Click.  They went through.

And then us.  
A bark of "don't put the wheelchair there".  
"Where are the forms?"  Forms and passports handed over. 
"Not with the passports." Take the passports back. 
"Now the passports." Hand the passports over. 
"Where are the other forms?"  Blank from us.

That is right folks, I expletive-delete (but my goodness it was bold and uppercase in my mind)-ed up.  Those bits of paper that said "Ebola Information Sheet" were in fact not Information Sheets (that I had put to one side in case we needed to know anything about Ebola) but actually forms that I should have filled out - four times.

"Off to the side".

I found out that there was indeed a harsher, colder place than being on the outside amongst the crew at the BNE airport, and that was off to the side of the outside line, sitting on the floor with a wheelchair, a teenager and a five-year old, filling out expletive-delete (really, really extra-large bold uppercase and possibly said really loudly once or twice not quite under my breath)-ing forms that asked for EXACTLY THE SAME expletive-delete(see above)-ing information that was requested on the first, fully-completed form ******.  Four expletive-delete(and again)-ing times.
****** Fully completed because it looked like a form and told me it was a form - see, proof I am not a complete idiot!!!

Then we had to push back in to that line, because there was no way to get back to the end as the procession of willowy women and men with their matching luggage and a certain disdain went click, click on by...

Welcome back to Australia.

Thank goodness we have looks (or rather sunshine and nature), hey, because we certainly aren't offering our stellar personalities at the front doors!

'Salina had bounded ahead, as is the wont of a teenage girl, forcing us to break into line in front of a particularly vocal cluster of willowy women and men with their matching luggage and a certain disdain.  

"Where are the forms."  Forms handed over without the passports. 
 "I need the passports with them" an octave higher.  Passports handed over. 
"MOVE THAT WHEELCHAIR BACK" in a very high-pitched screech, which sent Paris and her social-anxieties over the edge and she made a break for it to her big sister who wasn't being yelled at.
******* a suggestion that an additional paragraph be offered in the "how to be a customs officer" manual along the lines of "an emotionally drained five-year old who has just hurtled around the world and suffers from extreme shyness is not coaxed by screaming at them and their family".  Please?

"MAKE HER LOOK INTO THE CAMERA" repeated, then interspersed with, into the radio, "send me a female officer" and to a chorus of rolling eyes and thought bubbles popping regarding being off-duty and not having to listen to screaming children by the willowy women and men with their matching luggage and a certain disdain.
General Public Announcement.  A saying that my father is known to use often, that should be in all good policies on certain animals that have certain flight zones.  "Work 'em wide".  Screaming "make her look into the camera" is an example of NOT employing this method.

I was then requested to FORCIBLY make her look into the camera so that he could ensure that the child on the passport was the child screaming into the neck of the woman who is documented (confirmed through their camera on her own passport) AND electronically linked as being the child's mother.

Because, you know, terrorism.  ********

 ******** because there is indeed terrorism worse than that inflicted by a five year old with extreme shyness being taken completely out of her comfort zone and then tortured by her social anxieties peaking at being screamed at.  Apparently.

Then it was to collect luggage.  From the carousel at the farthest end.  Carousel 7 *********.

********* To give them their due, the airport was great is having the correct carousel being on display for our flight in a very timely manner.  In fact, the whole way through that previous adventure we could see the well displayed number.  Go Team Australia!  Gotta love a small victory!!  We are adequate!!!  Yay!!!!

As we had access to a luggage trolley able to be used to help V walk, I endeavoured to return the wheelchair to the airline.  

The only officials from the airline were in the Luggage Enquiries office, so I went up there to see where I should do so.  The initial offhand "well, I suppose you can take that one" was bookended perfectly with the "just put it over there" - an excellent example of the "Just Don't Give Two Expletive-Deleted (but probably required)-ing Hoots" policy that we pride ourselves on here in Australia.

Huzzah!!  We got our luggage (very sneakily tagged by glittery pink Christmas ribbon) and piled it all aboard our trolleys.  We could smell - something.  It might have been freedom.  Yeah - but no.

We then had to find the end of the line, which was RIGHT AROUND the OTHER side of Carousel 7.  There appeared to be a few eddies of new lines forming as we made our way back, but we were RIGHTEOUS in our going to the end and staking our place.  We took turns in toilet breaks and removing layers and feeling like we could almost see the light at the end of the tunnel...

Federal Budgets are funny things, aren't they?  It seems that they can spend a lot of money on forms that don't look like forms and pretend to be Information Sheets by cleverly labelling themselves thus that need EXACTLY the same information as the form that looks like a form and says it is a form but you can't enter the expletive-deleted(no explanation required, by this point - my children know now that mummy swears, and they learned it at the BNE airport)-ing country of freedom and promises of less red tape BUT you can actually save money if you sack a few workers who get the people from the expletive-deleted (there may have even been specific politicians mentioned here)-ing luggage collection point to breathing clear air (or sucking on a cancer stick for those in the audience who have not reformed from bad habits) and contemplating a future free of airport stress. **********
********** The good news is, standing in such a line for such a long time with such little glimpses of getting out does enable you to "get ready" for freedom.  "Get ready" involves a panic that the paperwork for the security parking for the car isn't at hand - but the ninja skills of an artful packer means that precision is attained when the first-chosen case of the seven suitcase stack offers up paperwork that looks like the paperwork for the security parking for the car.  Sure, it isn't what is required, but it will expletive-deleting well DO, okay?

To put that into laymen terms, our line started at the other side of Carousel 7, the carousel at the farthest end, and went up and around and back down this side of Carousel 7 to once up through the middle between Carousel 7 and Carousel 6 and up and around and back down Carousel 6 to once up through the middle between Carousel 6 and Carousel 5 and up and around Carousel 5 to MERGE with a line that had the same pattern in reverse from Carousels 3 upwards which then formed a line across the WHOLE luggage collection section ***********.

***********  I would actually have taken a photo of this line to give you full view of this phenomena, but apparently you can't take photos here.  If the official lady hadn't told me - in a manner that made me believe that it was a requirement of all officials welcoming those who had travelled from Outside Australia into Australia to be LOUD and DEMANDING and RUDE - I would have learned it once the queue reached its third-last turn - but that was another 25 minutes into my future at that point in time.  
Note to the Australian Welcoming Committee:  I am expletive-deleted (I had, by this stage, developed my own cadence at this particular expletive)-ing really good at reading signs, and would prefer my information to be delivered thus.  (I am generally really good at reading and filling out forms, too - far better at it when they tell me they are forms rather than masquerading as Information Sheets, but that is by the by).  Therefore I suggest (really quite strongly - almost expletive-deleted-ing strongly) that you put up more signs and employ less people in the shouting roles.  (Maybe move them to the bit at the end of the line where people actually escape this level of hell).

Then the line went past a woman who asked each and every person "do you have an express card?"  Every person answered in the negative, to which she replied "oh well, it doesn't matter.  Just have the first form ready if you didn't give it to the last checkpoint.  If you did that, thats okay."  Finally, some laid-back attitude.  Didn't make any expletive-deleted (with a resigned air)-ing sense, and raised the very pertinent query in everyone's mind of "what the expletive-deleted was an express card and how do you get one - and if it doesn't matter, then why have the system that nobody knows about and doesn't expletive-deleted (confusingly)-ing matter" - in their mind's but NOT said out loud, because after the queuing that has already been undertaken thus far, the fact that there are only six visible turns left in the line in front of you - all visible, right there before you - and two people gloriously JUST THERE, only six turns away, who have the procesing power to set you free, and there is NOTHING at that point in the journey that is going to be spoken out loud to jeopardise reaching those two people as soon as expletive-deleted (mouthed)-ing possible.

Dead silence from all participants from that point forward.  Turn one. 

Notice a guy a few turns ahead of you was in front of you when you first joined the line.  Try to find mirth in that.  Can't.  Turn two. 

Meltdown by Paris imminent - realise heck, form meltdown by Mummy (or maybe photo meltdown by Mummy or Welcome to Australia meltdown by Mummy or even where is the paperwork for the security parking for the car meltdown by Mummy) may not have been the best policy, but it sure shows that nature and nurture each have their roles, because darn, she takes after Mummy in the meltdown department and she is learning some of the techniques (okay, a horrific yet pervasively proud Mummy moment at how quick and well she learns).  Turn three. 

Read a sign about photos.  Meltdown averted by promises - may have also been interpreted as bribery or deception, I have no idea,  My logical mind just had a background track of "need coffee and to get out of here" tune on, and whatever was said worked.  Turn four.

Glide forward ex-crut-i-a-ting-ly slowly without one freaking-hair-daring-to-go-out-of-place type silence blasting in the background.  Turn five.

Met by a very friendly official called Pete Smith (maybe - bloddy good bloke though) with a lovely "Welcome to Australia - party of four?  Why don't we just fast-track you through this newly-opened lane?"

Pete expletive-deleted (but in a very jovial, affectionate manner)-ing Smith, you are a LEGEND!!!  The man deserves the Order of Australia, and totally redeemed the Country.

Pete, mate, you did you country PROUD!!!!