Roddy's Ramblings

Thoughts and tales; some of them may even be true.

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Location: Australia

Hopefully whatever there is to know about me will come through whatever is written below - whatever that may bring...

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A Tale... Tripping to Australia

To start this in the right context - I didn’t expect to get the job. To nudge it further into context, I hadn’t even realised I’d applied for it; ploughing through the 30 - 40 applicable jobs every night on the internet can blend the most unique opportunity with the mundane (similar to a tall glass of chilled Moët after 8 pints of VB). This was, anyway, what I told my girlfriend at the time.

The interview; then there was the wait.

"Can’t possibly happen," I chided myself, then phoned the agency. "No reply as of yet, Mr McNeill." Then finally, "You should receive a reply on Thursday direct from Australia."

Up at 6.00am, Thursday. Cup of tea. 7.00am. Several more. 9.00am. Unlikely they’ll phone - I’ll give it ‘til 12.00pm just to make sure.

4.00pm. Called the agency to get the reply, "blah, blah, tomorrow, blah..."

Tomorrow came, tomorrow went. No call. New box of teabags. The weekend arrived on the doorstep like an unwanted relative and it stayed for a very long time. "Can’t possibly happen…"

Monday. It didn’t happen. Having accepted this I was settled down with my flatmate that evening to watch ‘Cracker’. It was intense, 10.55pm - 5 minutes to go. Will the house blow up? Can he talk the boy into letting the blind girl who has been saturated in petrol go? The phone rang... Expletives... Grumping, thumping steps to the phone.


"Hi, it’s Dania from Eurolink Australia here."

"Oh, hi!" A u-turn quicker than Concorde on ice.

"Sorry to phone so late."

"Oh, that’s no problem."

"Want some good news...?"

And that was when the problems really started.

The Matters of the Heart:
"Bonjour, weh, it’s Roddy here...... Fine. Yourself?..... Want to meet today for lunch?....... Yes, I think there’s something we ought to talk about...... ah, yes I did - hello?"

"Hi, yes - it’s me again, I mean, look, I haven’t accepted it yet or anything...... yes, I know, but........ well, yes, but........ ah, well.... well, okay, but..... look can we meet to talk about this?.... No?......... that hurts....alright, it’s true - I mean I can only say - ah."

The Matters of The Bank:
None, actually. I didn’t tell them I was going.

The Matters of Friendship:
"God, I feel awful - great party; where you going?"

The Matters of Family:
"Right, bye then."

The Matters of Preparation:
Organisation. The word is at home with me as a Taliban on a hen night. There was a list as long as my arm to consider, and the writing was very small. I was thankful to leave the organisation of the travel to the agency; the flight tickets (which were booked as a single, sent by post over Christmas, never arrived, then booked as a return to be collected at the airport), the visa (not applied for correctly, organised by the carrier as a holiday visa - had to pretend to be visiting the country when arriving at immigration), the accommodation upon arrival (no word as to what it might be or if it would be definitely organised).

My first intercontinental flight (and only until recently) was to Milwaukee from London for a 2 week training course. I was left at the airport with no pick-up. After practically hitch-hiking to the hotel on the outside of town I was informed that I was mistaken and there was no room booked for me. I insisted. They were full. I was tired. In the end I was put up in the top floor board room on a pull down sofa.

Putting all this behind me I left the house with optimism and I would have had a skip in my stride had the backpack not been so heavy.

The Check-In:
I collected my tickets at the Air New Zealand desk at Heathrow and proceeded to Check-In. The first thing that hinted at things not being as they should was the expression on the attendant as she read my ticket.

"Are these the only tickets you have?" A simple question that deserved a simple answer - yet my whole body seemed to sag.

"Yes. I just collected them from the Air New Zealand desk."

"Ahh." With that, it passed. The relief of, "Oh, yes - my mistake, on you go," ‘twas not to be.

"These are incomplete. I’ll have to check them, wait here." Once again I found myself waiting; the nagging worry turning to dread as time stretched, breath shallowed and people behind me glared.

"I’m sorry," she said. The worst words I could have heard. My mind was reeling. "I can’t check you in, there is no outbound portion. You should have received it by post."

"I didn’t receive anything." I waited.

"You should have."

"But I didn’t." I waited. "So that’s it, then?"

"I can’t check you in without the correct tickets. Your seat is properly booked, though."

Oh, great. Yippee. It would be preferable if I was in it when it arrived.

"I can’t go then?"

"Not without the right tickets."

"Right, ...." It was if by turning round and leaving it would be finalising the fact. The woman could not brighten up and say, "Only kidding - just having a bit of a laugh - on you go." My insides were churning. I wasn’t a complete bubbling, pitiful wreck; at least on the outside. What now? I couldn’t go back - it would be so embarrassing. I went to the information desk and put a call out for the person I was meant to be travelling with, to no avail. He had his tickets. It was just me. Merde. I went back to the Air New Zealand ticket desk to let them know my plight and as an excuse to have a go at someone.

"Hi. Look. It seems I haven’t received my ticket in the post; I’ve just been to Check-in and ..... whinge, blah, blah, whine."

"Okay, Mr McNeill, fill in this form and here’s a reprint."

"Ah… Well, thanks."

My first thoughts were, Salope! Why hadn’t that bloody woman at the Check-in not just directed me back to the ticket desk? Grosse Salope! I stood in the same queue at check in and gave her my best (yes your drunk and I don’t like you but I’ll still have to serve you) barman smile.

"Hi." Salope.

"Passport, please"

"There you go." Salope.


The main advice I got from everyone about long-haul flights was ‘Don’t drink’. No problem, I generally replied. On the first flight to Los-Angeles I risked a drink with food; plenty of time to sober up, I mean, over a day! After several more with my erst-while colleague and travelling companion; I’ll just not drink anything on the second flight, sleep a lot. The stop over was in a small grey room in LA airport for 3 hours. There was a coke machine and a toilet, a few chairs and a lot of pissed-off people. They did open the Duty-Free cupboard for a while, but it didn’t do anything to ease the aggravation of the constant high-pitched whine of the alarm that was going off.

I couldn’t have anticipated my travelling companion of the second flight, or the amount of Bloody Marys we tried, not to mention the sparkling wines and the complete lack of sleep. None of which was absorbed by the ‘food’ which seems to have been imported from Lilliput. All in all, common sense was noticeable by it’s absence.

I think that immigration sobered me up in an instant. Lots of people. Lots of questions. Of course I’m on holiday, I was thinking in the queue, that’s why I have a couple of recipe books, a business suit and an offer of employment in my hand-luggage. Being taken aside is a scary prospect in any country. I stood in front of the official trying not to look guilty about something as he perused my passport. Questions that my tired mind were not processing, then the motion to go on. Instant religious conversion.

And then I had arrived; into sun, sea and sand from wind, rain and ice. Not bad, really.


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