Smile Politely

Good on me, mate…

A few of you may have noticed I didn’t write my column last week. Instead, I decided to spend my last few hours in Australia enjoying a fabulous meal of modern cuisine.  Although I had a pang of guilt for about a second, I’m now convinced I made the right choice. The trip was an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The Perthites by whom we were surrounded are incredibly gorgeous, insanely rich, intensely fashion conscious, and overall, just plain fabulous.

The scenery was amazing, too; I saw a ton of kangaroos and a kookaburra in an old gum tree. Driving on the opposite side of the road was interesting, and there were a few times I had no clue what I was eating, but still enjoyed every bite. Their exit signs are green and have a picture of a dude in a running man position on them, which makes a lot of sense to me. But oddly enough, when I catch myself talking about the trip, it’s the journey to and fro that usually ends up dominating the conversation. Spending a total of sixty hours on planes and in airports makes for a unique and surreal experience in its own way, and one worthy of a closer, albeit dizzying, look.

Our excursion took us on a total of six planes — three to get there and three to get home. We landed in five different cities with three drastically different time zones.  We traveled to the other side of the International Date Line and equator, advancing as many as fifteen hours into our future, and then traveling backward fifteen hours into the past. Thinking about the time changes alone was quite mind-fucking. When I tried to combine that concept with the number of times I’d gotten drunk without actually sleeping for more than an hour at a time, and whether my last meal was a breakfast or a dinner, things got pretty whack, pretty fast.

On top of that, I had to remain responsible for my passport, computer, money, etc. I had to go through immigration and customs without having slept or even brushed my teeth for a few days. I felt like the very livestock about which the customs officers were questioning me. The questions these people ask should be relatively simple ones to answer, but when you’re heffed up on Klonopin and terrified the officers are going to send you to one of those notorious Australian prisons if you say the wrong thing, answering them becomes quite challenging. I realized that what should be clear, declarative statements to the agent’s questions were come out awkward and interrogatorily:  “What are you doing here?” “Um…visiting?”  “Who are you visiting?” “Um…no one?  I mean I’m here for a conference?”  “Really. A conference.  What kind of conference?”  “Um…I have no idea? I have some trail mix in my bag?”

After a few tears, I made it to the other side of the gate, and continued to march onward into the unknown. “The Unknown,” also known as the fifteen-hour flight, was the beastlike middle leg of our trip both on the way there and on the way home. It’s unbelievable that anyone survives these flights filled with screaming babies, zero leg room, recurring turbulence, bad food, and scary bathrooms — somehow I managed to time my trips to the loo with the roughest of air pockets, which made for a rather comedic scene that I hope some of you take a moment to imagine.

Luckily, before being launched into space on our return flight, we scored some tickets to our airline’s “business lounge.” All it took was for a steward to set a tin of chicken and rice in front of us when we ordered vegetarian meals. When we walked into the lounge, it was definitely time for business. We found dozens of bottles of wine, liquor, and beer. There was no one tending to any of these precious commodities, and the appropriate glassware sat alongside the booze.  Um, seriously…it’s a fucking help yourself bar?

Suddenly, it mattered not that our watches read 10:30 am. We were about to get raped at 30,000 feet and for fifteen hours. This was serious. In addition to the booze, a beautiful buffet of delicacies surrounded us. We loaded up our plates and carried as many glasses of everything back to a comfortable table and chairs with a decent few of Sydney’s airport.

As I was drinking — okay shooting — my second Jameson, I looked up and saw an older man watching me, slowly shaking his head back and forth. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect prompt: I got up and poured myself another glass of wine.

After deboarding the plane from this flight, my body physically resisted my brain’s efforts to immediately board a third plane. Somehow, though, we made it back home safely, with all of our belongings, and without missing any of our connecting flights.  The edema in my legs has finally gone down, and thankfully, so has my urge to get sloppy drunk before noon. Good on me, I suppose.

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