adventures abroad, travel, ups and downs

The part I hate

The part of any given trip that I hate most of all is the final hours to departure (and then the transit connections, all of which to me are part of the “just before vacation starts” experience).

This latest trip is no exception.

I have last minute guilt for leaving the office. I worry about logistics, particularly with the tight connection in LA.

I shouldn’t worry so much, but I do.

When I’m unable to print my boarding passes the day before, Air New Zealand assures me that when I get to my home (departing) airport, they’ll issue me the boarding passes for all three flights, despite being different carriers.

This proves untrue. I call again, and they assure me that the 2 hours I have in LA will still be fine, even with the need to get my passes issued, because there’s an area for Intl transfers that’s going to allow me to move between terminals without going through security again.

This is true at many airports. Not at LA. I need to leave my terminal and catch a shuttle bus, go to next terminal, go to ticketing and then reclear security.

The flight to LA leaves late, but they make up most of our lost time in the air. Just under 6 hours later, we land LA. (I already cannot fathom doing another flight, twice as long. To me, the East Coast-West Coast trip always feels 6 hours long at the 3-4 hour mark.)

I go to catch the shuttle bus between LAX terminals, which typically run (say locals waiting with me) every 3 minutes or so.

25 minutes later, just as I’m debating a taxi or walking, the bus arrives.

It takes 4 stops to get to my terminal

There are absolutely no user friendly signs for where I need to be. (I learn later that it’s because the shuttles move between terminals at the Arrivals level – hence the frequent Do Not Enter blockades along the path – and it’s just unfortunate that there aren’t any clear signs directing the uninitiated to how to get to Departures instead.)

Mercifully, an employee straggles by just as I am about to completely lose it, to direct me to the correct floor and the elevator that will get me there.

Fiji Air is as far away as it can be and still be in this terminal.

They make me check my carefully and tightly-packed carry-on due to weight, not size, restrictions. She tells me that I should just make it because they’re about to start boarding. She directs me to security, mercifully just around the corner.

Uh huh.

There’s a thing about Disney World, if you’ve never been there… my sister and I called it “the land of hidden lines.” This is because you think you’re entering the ride, but really, you invariably race down a long hall, far into the belly of the attraction, and realize at last that you’re entering … a room with a massive winding bank line in it. And then you finally get to the “front” of the line, turn a corner to where you think will be the ride itself, but really it’s another room full of massive lines. And so on.

This is kind of like that, but without the interesting distractions Disney builds in to keep you and your kids from completely losing your minds while you wait.  (Disney is very good at this; TSA is not. Another major difference: it’s a TSA screening where a ride should be, which instead of happiness and smiles and family fun, includes a lot more stress (time/schedule pressure) and unpacking/repacking of elements of your luggage (liquids, electronics), partial undressing (shoes, jackets), and the ever-present risk of being the unlucky “extra screening” person. Much less fun all the way around than a trip to Disney World, for the trouble.)


Plus, it’s the most inefficient pokey slow arrangement I’ve seen since… well since I flew from Philly to Mexico in the wake of a blizzard. I regularly fly out of Newark and I would like to officially recall any remarks I’ve made previously about TSA inefficiency there. (Or at least most of them.)

Oh, and now that I have my paperwork in hand I can see that the seat selection I had changed to a window far ahead of time so I could sleep as much as possible on the 12 hour stretch, instead of the middle seat in the far back they originally assigned? Let’s just say that change must have been lost since then, because I am in the original, middle, non-reclining crap seat after all.  And I’ll be lucky to even get to it through this line.

It is well past midnight to me, I am very likely going to miss my connection, and I want to cry (not helpful) and rant (not helpful AND not pretty). I am trying to remember that I am in His hands. That this is not really a calamity. That He is trustworthy and to rest in that. That if I miss this flight, there will be another, and it will almost certainly work out as well, if not better, than I planned.

And oh yes, I do know… that whether or not He helps me make this flight or any other thing “I want” is not the measure of His goodness. His goodness is innate, absolute and unfathomable. And so I breathe through as best I can.

They’re already boarding my flight. I have just cleared security when they announce that all ticketed passengers for my flight need to get to the gate to board. I have to run the whole way (or as far as my body will sustain).

I just make it. Thank God.

It’s not the most comfortable flight – even a sleeping pill can’t offset sitting bolt upright and shoulder to shoulder – but I am on the plane. I am on my way.

We land Fiji on time. They operate on island time, so it’s not a quick process to get through the arrivals process. But this time I have long, boring, luxuriously unhurried hours until my next flight to Auckland. And I am thankful for them.

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