Thursday, January 10, 2008

Flights: Round 1

En route from Auckland to Christchurch

A fairly good trip so far, though not without ups and downs. Our layover in LA was 1.5 hours which is enough time if everything goes smoothly. But the weather in Chicago has been more like New Zealand summer than Midwest winter, with thunderstorms and temperatures in the 60s – truly spooky weather for January. Yesterday (well, two days ago modulo the International Date Line) the weather had started settling down but things were still squirrely enough to delay us almost an hour. That made for an exciting transition in LA, running with carry-on bags for our International check-in, inevitable stop at security, and finally a sprint to the gate, where we made it with minutes to spare before they closed the gate, only to sit on the aircraft for an hour until they could push off.

Last year I came home from Auckland in Business Class, where the flight attendants were practically waiting for you with your cocktail before your Business Class Butt hit its fully-reclining seat. Now returning the other direction across the Pacific, my seat towards the front of Steerage had, as its view, Business Class, where the cocoon-like seats beckoned like a mirage across a threshold of just a few feet, or a few thousand dollars, depending on how you look at it. The space under the seat in front was half-occupied by some sort of machinery (entertainment system? Ejection seat hardware?) so that my legs could only fit in at an oblique angle, much less my carry-on. Worse, next to me, reading USA Today, sat a man (also in the Antarctic program, turns out) as tall as me but twice as wide [Editor's note: in the shuttle from the airport in Christchurch, this guy filled us in on the flight schedule, as he manages flights out of McMurdo. We fly to Mac Town on Saturday, and Pole on Monday]. With negative elbow- and leg-room, my chances for sleeping or even resting peacefully throughout the flight had essentially vanished. This wasn't going to do. I'm interested in expanding my comfort envelope, not shattering it. I asked the characteristically amicable Qantas steward if he could reseat me should the opportunity arise. This turned out to be a good move, as a few minutes later he returned to show me to two empty seats adjacent the aisle towards the back of the plane.

The rest went according to plan: dinner, Chardonnay, in-flight movie (you might be skeptical about "The Bourne Ultimatum" on a four inch screen, but try the Moroccan fight scene during heavy turbulence while holding a hot cup of tea in your hand), followed by iPod+Tylenol PM which afforded a few hours of unconsciousness.

Of course, our luggage didn't make it – it's still in Los Angeles. I get to push my "packing light" philosophy to the limit until tomorrow. Travel makes your world grow (three continents in three days) and shrink at the same time. For 48 hours I am living out of a small backpack. After lunch in Christchurch I will have to go find a toothbrush.

Update: Arrived at Devon, home-away-from-home, lunch at Dux De Lux awaits, following a shower. Life is good.

Update II: After shopping for some essentials (toothbrush, shorts, underwear), was able to go for my favorite run along the Avon, opposite the Botanical Gardens. Now, having blissfully napped for an hour or so, it's time for dinner.

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