Leaving Seattle

Today was the day I’d been dreaming of for years. The house was being taken care of, most of our wordly goods have been sold or donated to Goodwill, and I was flying to Australia.

We started the day by going to the Post Office and shipping my 27″ iMac. It was a pretty large box – too large for all but one shipping option. It ended up costing almost $500 but we had agreed that was our best option. Selling it would mean taking bigger loss, and once it’s in Australia, it should be something that we keep for many years. It was the least bad option.

After that was done, we walked down to La Botana for a few tacos, and our last meal together for three weeks. Two days before (Tuesday), I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. Yesterday, I got a bit nervous, but that was only because a couple of hard working Mexican guys were destroying my porch. Once they finished their destruction, I was OK. Today was a day of sadness.

After lunch we went home and I tried to print out my boarding pass, but it said “We can’t issue you a ticket online unless you have either a return or continuation ticket.” My stomach went to my throat. I called the Australian Consulate, and eventually got in touch with someone who explained that I could still travel, but I just needed to show that I had the means to buy a ticket later (bank statement, credit card, cash, or some mystery way of paying.) Rather than wait until the last minute, we decided to go to the airport many hours (4) early, to make sure I got that boarding pass. I’m not ashamed to admit I shed a tear or two as I walked through my house for the last time, thinking of all the memories and hopes that came from within those walls.

As we were leaving, I saw my neighbors Dean and Ulrike, and said my goodbye’s. They promised to keep an eye on Justine, which meant a lot to me. Dean is a smart, responsible guy (as Doctors should be I suppose), and it gives me a great relief knowing he’s there. But saying goodbye only added to my sadness. They’ve been good neighbors for many years.

As I was getting into Justine’s car, one of the guys working on the porch came after me. Apparently there was a broken board under the front door (which juts out from the house a short bit.) He didn’t speak a lot of english, but I asked him if he could fix it. He said yes, so I said “I trust you. Give it your best shot.” My last memory of my house is going to be one more fucking thing breaking. It’s somewhat appropriate.

We got to the airport, checked in, and had about four hours to kill. We held hands, talked, and hung out. Frankly, it was a bit hard, knowing that I was going to be leaving soon. I walked Justine back to her car so she could beat traffic, and commenced the flight leg of my life changing experience. Not much to say about the flight to LAX. Initially, I was in the very last seat, and then a woman with a 6 month old baby sat down next to me. The stewardess moved me up to a much quieter seat.

Boarding in LAX, you could tell the Aussies from the non-Aussies. They loooked like they had the travel thing down. Many of them were wearing very comfortable clothes, had neck pillows and all had the look of “Another long ass flight home.” From my years on the road, I know that Aussies know how to travel. There’s a reason the Loney Planet guides are from here.

Had I been as savvy as those folks, I would have picked a different seat. I was in a window seat, but the last window seat before the rows went from 11 seats to 8. I had about 4 inches less width than the seat in front of me, and the rows behind me had even more. That wasn’t a big deal. The big deal was the nightmare in the middle seat.

She was a 50 something Syrian woman. She had no concept of personal boundries, and spend a good portion of the flight trying to hack up a lung. Sometimes she’s cover her mouth, and sometimes she wouldn’t. It was disgusting, and very uncomfortable. The guy on the other side tried to get reseated, but there weren’t any open seats. As we were getting ready to land (after our 14 hour flight), she first asked him to fill out her paperwork, but didn’t speak enough English to help, then she asked me, then she asked the guy on the other side of the aisle, and eventually the stewardess, who apparently can’t fill them out.

Despite her shennanigans, I managed to sleep a few hours. After the meal, and a vodka on the rocks, I slept about five hours, and then managed to nap a bit after that. It was airplane sleep – not great, not comfortable, but not too bad, all things considered.

Eventually, we landed. Once we were on the ground, we had to stay seated for Quarentine. Apparently, that meant they wanted to screen Typhoid Fatima. Some official looking guy came and asked her a few questions (she spoke much better English than she admitted to, apparently), he said OK, and we were able to leave the plane. I keep expecting to get sick with some exotic Syrian flu, but it’s been a few days now and I’m still OK.

As an aside, the flight was scheduled to land at 7:10, and it landed at almost exactly 7:10. If it wasn’t 7:10, it was either 7:09 or 7:11, but not more than that. That amazed me that they could be that spot on for a 14 hour flight.

As we were landing, I caught my first view of Sydney. It’s a beautiful city, and I’m glad I’m here. Seattle is going to be hard to top, but I think it should be doable.