Monday, September 10, 2012
Homecoming, Part 1
If our arrival in Sydney was to be any indicator, our visit there was destined to be one big ol' stinky pile of poo. From the time we checked in at LAX, until we'd been on Australian soil for a good five hours, one unlucky turn of events evolved into another, and another. That old adage - what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger - was one that ran through my head many times that morning.
The first piece of bad luck we had was the downgrading of the plane for our flight. It was supposed to be an Airbus 380, and J had already pre-booked our seats online so that we could all sit together in the same row of four seats. Upon check-in, we were told that the aircraft was no longer an Airbus 380, but a 747 - smaller plane, obviously, so our pre-booked seats were no longer valid. We were assigned new seats.
When it was time to finally board, we walked down the aisle, searching for our row... and kept walking... and walking. Turned out that our row was the very last one at the back. Cramped and squishy? Understatement.
Lucky for me, the girls were in top form for the flight and gave us the least amount of grief possible, so I was willing to forgive Qantas.... until the final hour before landing. This is normally when the landing cards are handed out, but it was announced that the crew had been given the wrong pile of landing cards before departing LAX. Most of the cards were in Spanish only. There weren't enough English landing cards for everyone on the flight, and passengers at the back of the plane would be handed cards in Sydney, after getting off the plane. Translation: anyone sitting towards the back of the plane were royally fucked if they had hopes of a speedy getaway.
Being in the back row, naturally, we were last off the plane. After stepping off, I was handed four landing cards, and we walked along numerous corridors and travelators until finding an available seat where I could fill out all four cards while J helped the girls burn off some steam running around.
I don't know how long it took, but bear in mind it was 6am local time and I'd just stepped off a fourteen-hour flight - with a grand total of maybe fifteen minutes' sleep (I don't sleep well on long-haul flights under the best of circumstances, let alone dealing with a bored toddler). Each landing card required names, birth dates, passport numbers, flight numbers, reasons for visit, citizen status, customs declarations - it was excruciating to do. Four times. This is why they normally give out landing cards during the flight, when there isn't a sense of immediacy to join the queues through Immigration, before they get even longer... and one's brain hasn't completely farted from exhaustion.
Our plan was - once out of the airport - to grab a taxi and head to our friends' place. They didn't live far from the airport and we were going to refresh/recharge, leave the girls with them, jump on a train to Kings Cross (where we were to collect out rental car), drive back, pack up the car, then begin the three-hour drive south to my parents' house.
A long day, already somewhat complicated, and not in need of any further drama.
Despite it being only 7am at this point, the queues through Immigration were already insane. By the time we made it through and over to the luggage carousel, it looked empty of all luggage from our flight.
We needed to collect three suitcases: one black, one purple, and one grey. Then from oversized luggage, we needed to collect an infant car seat, a booster seat, and a stroller. I went ahead and retrieved our oversized luggage while J waited with the girls at the carousel. And waited. And waited.
After about another ten minutes, we realised our bags weren't going to be found there anymore, so we asked around and staff radioed one another to see where our luggage could be. In the end, they'd been pulled off and put on the floor next to the carousel - but right down the other end, where the crowds were milling to join the queues for Customs. People had been standing around our bags on the floor, which is why we didn't see them.
Heaving big sighs of relief, J loaded up the bags onto a trolley, while I attempted to stop Miss Pie from running off, out of sight. Then we reconvened into the queue for Customs... another long line, of course.
Eventually, it was our turn to declare whatever goods needed to be declared. I informed them that I had some American beef jerky (as requested by a friend). The Customs official asked me which bag, I looked at our trolley, and saw that the bag in question wasn't there. J - as sleep deprived as I was - had only put two of our suitcases on the trolley. With all the oversized luggage needing to be rearranged, it was an easy oversight.
I frantically glanced through the glass wall, past the long queues through Customs, and saw our grey suitcase, standing alone on the floor by the carousel.
I wanted to cry...
(to be continued)