Saturday, November 6, 2010

Lift Off


Day Before Take-Off

I am on my knees in the kitchen, hindquarters in the air, front trotters and head stuffed into the oven. It is 1:30am, and our flight—contrary to popular belief—does not leave at 5pm tomorrow, but 10:50am. It has been about 3 hours since this interesting discovery was made, which means that we have lost half a day especially put aside to plan, pack, organise… and essentially spring clean the living daylights out of our apartment, which is being handed over to our friend to sublet. Hence, the midnight oven shenanigans. To give you some perspective on the nature of this task, this oven has not been cleaned in 4 years. Add to that the layers of grease and neglect we inherited from previous tenants… I have taken on this mammoth task in part because I really pissed Panda off, and I think self-flagellation via really disgusting domestic duties is beneficial both spiritually and for one’s relationship. However, I did not foresee that, having packed and shipped off any clothing I was not planning on taking overseas, I was left to perform this gruesome, sticky and toxic task wearing a red t-shirt and a pair of bright turquoise underpants. Adding to this indignity, the fumes of oven cleaner, being toxic as well as noxious, demand certain safety precautions, so I capped off this marvellous outfit by wearing long white and pink rubber gloves, blue swimming goggles and a make-shift gas mask created by wrapping a tea towel around my face and holding it in place with a clothes peg. Granted, this did go some ways to making amends with Panda, because really, how could you stay angry at someone scrubbing out your oven while dressed like that? Honestly, I looked like a really bizarre sex offender.

The tea towel had Labrador puppies all over it, too.

Looking back now (from the warmth of hostel in Brooklyn), it seems a fitting beginning to our travel tales: disorganised, chaotic, sleep-deprived, ridiculous and with interesting fashion choices (not to mention those eternal themes of love, conflict and redemption). 

Little Tales On the Road / In the Air

Squished into economy class with the rest of the plebs, Panda and I set off, having had very little sleep on Wednesday night due to our farewell drinks and zero sleep Thursday night due to that itinerary mix-up which was in no way Piggy’s fault at all not even a little bit. It’s not a bad idea to travel without sleep, assuming you will be able to crash out on the plane, but on the first leg of our 24-odd-hours journey, we don’t really sleep at all. At one point I was seriously drifting off, finally, when all of a sudden a flight attendant spilled hot chocolate all over the tray table of the woman sitting next to me. Fortunately, I only get a mild dose of splashback. Unfortunately, it is all over my thigh and heading around to my arse. Half asleep and in some shock, I interrupt the woman next to me as she attempts to mop up her table, “Do I smell chocolate?! Is this chocolate all over my arse?” Oddly, it seems very important to clarify exactly what is scalding my bits (On a brighter note, the flight attendant gives me $150 to spend on in-flight duty free. Noice one. I get a waterproof camera and travel speakers. Panda plans to throw me in front of hot coffee on the way home so we can get some vodka).

Meanwhile, Panda has taken it upon himself to passionately hate every other passenger on our flight (not on their own merits per se, but for ‘controlling his space’ – ie. being in it).

So a rather grumpy Panda and Piggy arrive at their stopover in LA and proceed to the next leg, LAX to JFK (check me out with my airport lingo). At this point, we have not slept in about 48 hours and have gotten a wee bit…snappish with each other, but thus far no storming off or throwing things. The next flight is only 5 hours, and finally we both drift off. The only activity is dragging sluggish bodies to the bathroom, and spending some time discussing why the people in first class insist on directing their pinched, constipated faces in our direction whenever we deign to walk down their aisles. Panda is wandering back from the bathroom, trying to negotiate the dark aisles while half asleep and not wearing his glasses. He has an aisle seat, and remembers that he left his hat on his seat so reaches down to move it. Reaching down his hand closes on the hat, whose eyes pop open in shock. Panda is one row off, and has just clamped his hand on the face of the woman behind us, who has spread out across two seats. Her eyes stare up in shock at the claw clamped around her head. Panda says nothing, and gracefully moves into his seat in front of her.

“Um… did you see what I just did?”

“Oh god. No, what did you do?”

“I just grabbed that woman’s head.”

“What? Why?!”

“I thought she was my hat.”

Panda and I spend much of the rest of flight bursting into hysterical, sleep deprived laughter and debating what the proper flight etiquette is for grabbing someone’s face while they’re asleep. We end up saying nothing to the woman, who we hope has written the incident off as a strange dream.


When we arrive it is night, and the taxi queue is massive and unmoving. Panda, having just arrived in a strange city, decides that it would be best to catch the airport train and catch a cab at the next stop: “My pigeoning instincts are telling me to go that way.” (Panda does have an excellent sense of direction—or ‘homing instinct’—which he calls his ‘pigeoning’, but whether this applies to foreign cities and as yet unseen hostels, we shall have to see. It’s possible his ‘instincts’ are just heading towards the inner west of Sydney, no matter where we are in the world.)

Naturally, there is nowhere else to get a taxi on the train’s circuit, and we end up on the city’s subway, laden down with overweight luggage, tired, slightly lost and getting progressively more hungry. We decide to leave the subway at Broadway Junction, where we would have to change trains anyway, and try to get a cab. After heaving our cases over the turnstiles (I have now named my suitcase ‘Cunt Face’), we head outside to wait for a taxi. Two minutes later we head back inside the station. It is clear that, like some suburbs in Sydney, there are places in Brooklyn where cabs do not go. We did get to set an arrest though, that was nice.
Back in the subway, someone pushes open the emergency exit gate, and Panda, wanting to avoid the hassle of getting our luggage back over the turnstiles, slides through the open gate, with Piggy following. It is as this point that we get pulled up by two undercover police for fare evasion.

Fortunately, we play the naive tourist role incredibly well.

“We’re trying to get to Brooklyn.”

“You’re in Brooklyn.”


The police very kindly let us go with a warning, as they can see that we are jet lagged and quite possibly actually stupid, not just tourist-stupid. So we get clear directions from the nice detectives  and get back on the subway. I am not going to get into how difficult and trying it is to get luggage up and down (and back up and down) subway stairs, but I will say how much I appreciate the emotional honesty of American people. While most people in Sydney surely feel like telling off the slow-moving tourists heaving enormous bags around public transport, the people of the New York City subway have no qualms about telling you that you are, in fact, a fucktard (or regional similar). My English politeness was at first affronted by this, but I think I am envious that they feel comfortable enough to express their consternation, whereas I hold everything inside, and my irrational frustrations at slow-walkers, couples, prams and old people bubble and boil away in my stomach, unexpressed and untended. Perhaps they get less stomach ulcers here.

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