So I finally had time to catch-up on writing my Qantas adventure over to Australia. Whoohoo!
Yes, I know I am obscenely late in posting this. I was kind of hoping the cuddly koalas would distract you from realizing I completely glossed over that section of my trip. But don’t worry; the post is extra witty so hopefully you will find that reason enough to forgive me. And if it’s not, remember all the kangaroo cuteness. Studies show that looking at fuzzy animals makes you happier. So if you’re still angry after you finish reading, just go back a post. Psychology says you’ll feel better. =)
I had never seen a vehicle so massive.
If airplanes were the large birds of the sky, the A380 was a pterodactyl. A no-nonsense lean, mean, four-engined machine. A flock of Canadian geese couldn’t take this bad boy down (too soon?). I drank in the view of its profile through the airport window. I decided it could probably even deflect a small meteor. It was just that massive.
Ever felt intimidated by a piece of machinery? Yeah, that was a new one for me, too.
It was ten o’clock at night and I waited to board the world’s largest commercial airliner. It was an exciting moment for all sorts of reasons:
1) I’d never been on a double-decker plane. And a chance to ride on the largest in the world for the same price as your everyday boeing flight? No-duh, I was excited. Not only was it a cool thing to say you’ve done, but it was more for the same. And I’m all about monopolizing those choice moments.
2) This was the vessel that would transport my happy butt from the States to Australia to begin my Southern Hemisphere adventure.
3) I had somehow managed to convince Qantas to give me a tour of the plane once we were in flight. (I can’t tell you how I did this. I really have no idea how I managed to pull this one off, but I was feeling the Aussie love already.)
My mind started running wild with fantasies of what that would entail. Maybe they’d bump me to business or first class so I could write about that experience? Or perhaps they’d let me wear a name tag and serve some passengers peanuts?
A guy carrying a briefcase knocked me out as he shoved his way to the front of the line. My daydream abruptly ended. I struggled to regain my balance (which is not easy when hauling a thirty pound backpack), smiled, and shook my head in his direction. I guess the fantasy would have to wait. In the meantime, I waited to board with the hundreds of other passengers.
There were two gates. One boarded the business class passengers to the upper deck. At the other the first class, premium economy, and economy passengers waited in said order. I made my way slowly to the very back of the line (is there any other way when you’re carrying your world on your shoulders?) I peeled off my shell and laid it on the ground. I sat on it, resting my chin in my hands.
I observed my fellow travelers with interest, passing the time by passing judgement on their choice in travel clothes. It was a 14 hour flight after all, so I felt fully justified making mental fun of the girl wearing stripper boots.
And we waited.
And after what seemed like an eternity (times dog years) we started boarding. The ants went marching one-by-one, handing their boarding passes over to one of the five Qantas employees manning the gates.
There have been very few times in my life where I’ve felt so insignificant, so tiny, so surrounded by others that I felt vulnerable to sheep-herd mentality. This was one of those moments. There were just so many of us.
My mind was easily overwhelmed by this situation and finding my seat didn’t help. What flight have you been on where you were given a dinner menu for economy? Where you could watch thousands of movies and television episodes without handing over your credit card? Where you had access to every genre of music (literally) and could create your own playlist to listen to throughout the flight? My point exactly.
There was even a SkyCam attached to the tail of the plane so you could watch the take-off and landing and pretend you were piloting the mammoth. Even without dropping the ten grand for a first class ticket, I felt like a bad-ass. And we hadn’t even taken off yet.
Flight attendants in Pan Am style dresses and heels flitted back and forth, working hard to get all the passengers in their correct locales. They handed out itineraries to those seated, detailing when all the meals would be served, when we would receive our customs paperwork, and when we could expect to have cabin lights turned back on.
And I thought Virgin Atlantic had their shit together. Huh. I placed the itinerary in the back-seat compartment.
A woman with a sing-song Australian voice rang out over the intercom. She asked us to buckle up and turn on our SkyCam monitors if we wanted to watch take-off. We were officially on our way. I watched the wind flow in visible streams over the wing as we ascended into the air.
As we gained ground (air?) I perused the flight path map with fascination. We sure had a lot of ocean to cover. It looked like nearly three times the distance I’d covered on my trip to Europe. The screen said we were cruising along at almost 600 miles per hour and would be flying at a steady 30,000 feet.
We would spend the next fourteen hours chasing the night to Sydney, spending most of the time in darkness. And in an effort to blow my mind even more, we’d be Quantum Leaping in time, missing Wednesday completely. Did this mean I could read a Sydney paper and prevent something from happening in the States? Would I be the real life star of Early Edition? The thought made my head hurt.
A flight attendant came by to take drink orders. My head spun with all the choices. Did I want juice, hot chocolate, peppermint tea, water or wine? I gave the woman a dubious look, “Since when does economy get free wine?” She stared back at me, equally confused by my question. I shook my head and accepted a water. I turned on The Big Bang Theory, hoping to bring some normalcy to the moment.
Around one in the morning, a flight attendant leaned over the sleeping couple next to me and tapped my shoulder. I jumped and took off my headphones. “No, I’m sorry,” I said in response to her apology, “Penny just kissed Leonard and I was totally wrapped up in the moment.” The curvy blonde cocked her head to the side and blinked at me. I hemmed and hawed, “I really like this show. Can I help you?”
“Are you Hilary?”
I thought for a moment. Was I? (Yes, I was indeed that tired). I nodded after a seven second delay.
She smiled. “My name’s Emma. We’ll take you on a little tour of the airbus now.”
“Oh! Oh, okay,” I said, my body suddenly bubbling with energy. My mind went blank. What was I going to need for this? Oh yes, a pen. And my notebook. Where the heck was my camera?
She watched me in amusement as I fumbled to find everything I needed out of my black hole of a purse. I scooched past the sleeping couple out into the aisle. I mouthed apologies to their glares and then stood tall to shake Emma’s hand.
“Follow me, please.” She turned on her heels and walked briskly ahead of me, her eyes surveying the sleeping passengers. She slipped behind a red fabric partition and into the galley.
I took a deep breath and gained my composure. Then I followed. It was time to see what lay beyond the Qantas curtain.
To be continued…