03 December 2011

Just Getting to Being On My Way | NZ iii

Wednesday, 30 November 2011 (still)

The same winds that made our flight to LA only 45 minutes made for the scariest landing I can remember. There was the choppiness we were told to expect on the descent. But I felt relaxed as the runway appeared beneath us. I looked absent-mindedly at all the other planes waiting to come down. We were literally feet from the ground when my stomach told me we were actually not on an aircraft, but rather on a roller coaster. We were up higher, then suddenly down. We landed with a plop and some skidding and my half the plane felt a little fishtailish. There was no yelling or screaming, just a stunned silence while we passengers waited to stop. We exhaled in unison. And I officially gave up thinking I had any idea what was to come in my attempt to get to New Zealand. Turns out that was the first time all day I'd made the right decision. For example, I had 2+ hours to make my Air New Zealand connection. I arrived at the gate 20 minutes before scheduled departure. Allow me to guide you through the process.

The first bit of irksome info was that I would have to change terminals. I would have to do so by bus. I would have to do so by leaving the terminal, going out to the passenger pick up area and waiting for a bus as if I had not already been a TSA Approved (and TSA Touched!) passenger. It very much must be noted that not all buses stop at all bus stops at the Los Angeles International Airport. One is left to discern the color coded system, because that's totally considerate to travelers. 

So there I was, fresh off a terrifying landing, outside in the middle of a wind storm (with LA dirt blowing into my mouth, my MOUTH), accepting I was going to have to re-assemble my 3-1-1 baggie, and looking for the bus going to the proper terminal. No, not the toughest thing in the world, but still more than I wanted to have to do on my way (to being on my way) to taking a vacation. Yes the bus stop was located. The bus was a supposed three minutes away when the power went out. 

The power went out

The power at one of the busiest airports in the country went out

The power at one of the busiest airports in the country went out because of  wind.  
In his younger, more hostile, (yet somehow more accepting) days, my brother Derek would have said "kill yourself LAX, just kill yourself." While I do not condone suicide, I cannot deny that was one of the first thoughts I had whilst standing in that loading area, waiting for a lighted blue chariot to just get me to the flight that would get me to my friend. 

My chariot arrived. I was whisked taken to the proper terminal, where there was still too little electricity to actually get us to the gate. We passengers waited to go through security. On the other side of the stretchy rope, TSA agents waited, probably dreading the back up that was sure to mess up their typically smooth Wednesday night. You, dear reader, might think this the moment when I allowed myself grumpiness, when I gave in and became pessimistic, despite being on my way to the start of summer in the southern hemisphere. That might have indeed been the case, if not for the absolutely miserable cuss of a woman in line behind me. 

You have to first understand my position. Not my philosophical stance, my physical position. I was behind a wedding party. This party had boarded in San Francisco with me. The group had about ten people. The dad was in charge of carrying the dress. The bride was in New Zealand and the party was en route to meet her. The wedding party had been before me at every turn, even in getting on the blue chariot. No one in the wedding party had any interest in being friendly co-passengers. I was just there to them, not at all worth their time. Behind me was an older couple who had been on our flight as well. This couple had two daughters. One lives in New Zealand with her Kiwi boyfriend. He doesn't believe in marriage. The mother of the non-bride was heading to Wellington to sew curtains for the home currently draped only in sin. Between these two sets of people I learned a lot about myself. Mainly that I really am more optimistic than life has conditioned me to be. 

Negative Nelly behind me was sure we would be spending the night at the airport, missing our flight and not getting to New Zealand for another day. The parents of the NZ bride to be made the mistake of having a conversation with her (so intent were they on ignoring the existence of a Danie planted firmly between them) and I watched that implode. Nelly told them they would never see their daughter again, that instead of coming home as promised, their daughter would try to get residency and health care for them (which is a bad thing) and herself become a full Kiwi. Nelly herself had already vowed this was to be her last trip to New Zealand, where the politicians are not lying scum like they are in the United States. Nelly was a Godsend. 

I might have dismissed her had it not been for her complaining about going to New Zealand so many times. In visiting her daughter, she found gripes. In being able to afford taking the trip repeatedly, she was unhappy. She was the begrudged mother of an American who chose to live abroad and keep ties to family. Nelly was perplexing in a way that had me asking how to not end up like her. She was a hateful bag of bones, outraged that her services were forced upon requested by her own daughter living out of wedlock with a man who loves her in a country where they have jobs and health care. I furrowed my brow and used Twitter to document my observations.
"Whack em. All little kids need to be whacked."
"Did you see the size of the guy with the baby? And did you see the size of the heads of the two little boys? Holy!"
No, I did not exactly learn her ways, but I took a realistic look at my life at that moment. I was on my way to see my oldest friend, in a country amazing enough to woo her from all that she knew and loved. I was taking my first, adult vacation sans XBFJ and I was excited where a year prior I would have been terrified. I was taking an adventure and learning lessons along the way. I could have listed complaints, but the enormity of their insignificance was blatant. I was super close to being on my way to New Zealand.