First Two Legs of an Extra Long. Austin, Texas to Melbourne, Australia Flight

The first leg: Blow by Blow, Austin to LAX

I was riding in the car with my daughter to the airport.  I’d been watching the weather in Sydney, worrying about the rain, worrying about catching my flight from Sydney to Melbourne.  My daughter said, “Don’t worry Mom, if the rain stops your flight, you can just stay overnight in LA, they have nice hotels near the airport. Then you’ll have something exciting to write about.”

She dropped me off at the door to Delta at the Austin airport. It wasn’t crowded, but I thought I’d be up-to-date and see if I could check myself in. The sign said scan here to upload international flight data.  I took out my phone and photographed the bar code. Then I went up to a screen to sign in. I went through a few steps, then it said, go talk to a Delta representative I walked up to the desk and gave them my name.  

“Do you have your Covid test?” I handed them my printed-out test results.

“Do you have proof of vaccination.”  I handed them my vaccination card.

“Do you have your ETA documentation? I handed them my printed-out visa.

“Do you want my permit to enter Victoria?” I asked.

“No,” the representative said, shaking her head.

“They will probably want that in Sydney,” I said.

She handed me boarding passes for Austin to LAX and LAX to Sydney. 

“What about Sydney to Melbourne?” I asked. 

“You will have to get that at the gate.  

“What is the flight?”

It took two tries at the computer but she handed me a sheet with the flight number on it: Virgin Airlines 834.  

I went through security with only a little hiccup. They lady had to come and pat my back under my braid. She said, “Your braid is too thick for the machine.”

I laughed, put on my shoes, and got my stuff off the conveyor belt. My flight was at gate 7. I walked a little way and saw that the Delta sky lounge was in the same direction. I had extra time, so I went up to check it out. I’d flown so much that Delta upgraded me to Sky Club status, plus I did have a Delta 1 suite ticket to Sydney. They’d offered an upgrade for an almost reasonable price. Because I was traveling alone, I decided to go the extra mile for a bed. 

I walked past gate 7 to the sign that said Delta Sky Club. There was a fancy curving staircase up, but I didn’t want to haul my carry on up the stairs. Just past the stairs was an elevator. I pushed the button and rolled into it. I was up, almost in the sky with high ceilings and smooth expanding lines. Three blue lights illuminated a glass door

Through the door I saw a pretty white vase, on a white pedestal against a black and blue wall. It was welcoming in a cool smooth blue way. I walked in and handed the girl my boarding pass. She said, “Welcome, they will be boarding at 7, enjoy yourself. Are you heading to Sydney?”

“No, Melbourne, I said pointing to my Melbourne shirt. I’m wearing this so I won’t get lost.” 

My first job was to find the restroom. It was beautiful, clean with private stalls and real paper towels. After that I walked around, the bar, don’t care for that, the buffet, too nervous to eat. Signs said their internet was team-usa -Team USA, they are the official airline for the USA Olympic team. I poured a glass of citrus water into a tall stemmed glass from a clear pitcher with graceful lines and sat down to connect my phone to the internet. 

I reached in the side pocket of my purse. It wasn’t there. I took everything out of my purse. Nothing. I looked in my carry-on. No, not there. My heart started beating fast; I was panicking. Maybe I left it in the car, I’d made a phone call in the car.

I got out my ipad and sent a message to my daughter, but I wasn’t connected to the internet. It didn’t go. I connect the ipad to the internet and it went.

I took out my tile to see if it could find it. It dinged but didn’t connect to anything. Then I remember. The kiosk, I set it down when I tried to check in with the screen. But that was the other side of security. How was I going to do this? I went to the check-in ladies who’d been so welcoming when I’d arrived at the Sky Club.

In a state of panic, I said, “I, I lost my phone, I think I left it at check in.”

“Where do you think you left it?” they asked.

“By the kiosk, at the Delta check in.”

“What kind of phone?”

I told them. They called and asked if anyone had turned in a phone. They had one there.

“But we need to check that it is your phone. Does it have plants on the screen?”

Yes, yes, I’m sure that’s it.” Just beginning to let my panic ease.

They even found someone who would bring it to the Sky Club in a little while. I found my water, and texted my daughter that it had been found. 

“I’ve had my excitement for this trip,” I said.

“So now you don’t need to be nervous about the weather in Sydney.”

“Yup,” I said.  

Sky Club heroes that found my phone

After about 15 minutes the Sky Club angel showed up with my phone. I had to go and take a picture of the receptionists, who were my superheroes.

Leg two of my trip:

Now I went to gate 7 and in a short while I was on the plane. We started to taxi towards the runway, when the captain said, “Sorry folks we need to return to the gate, the computer isn’t working correctly. Maybe I can just reboot it”

He rebooted it. It still didn’t work. He called service. I sat in my seat on pins and needles. My stomach turning, checking the time on my phone. I only had an hour and a half at LAX to catch my flight to Sydney. Finally, after an hour and a half, they said it was repaired. I couldn’t see how I was going to make my connection. 

I looked out my window and took a picture of the Austin City lights. 

Austin Lights, not too many

When we were up and away, I got up to go to the restroom and asked the flight attendant. He looked at my ticket and said, “Oh you’re the one going to Sydney.” He checked the times. 

“You should have 35 minutes. We’ll show you how to get the shuttle. You should have plenty of time. “

I breathed a sigh of relief; my daymare of running to see the plane take off without me receded into the background. I walked to my seat. Got out my computer and wrote this blow-by-blow account. Like my t-shirt from Door County Write On says, “Keep Calm Write on.” I probably should have worn that shirt instead of the Melbourne one, but what if I forgot my destination? 

I relaxed in my seat for 2½ hours. Millions of lights appeared out my window. The plane slowed LA glittered below.

Many lights of LA

I checked the time. I should make it. They announced those with connecting international flights go to gate 21B and get on the shuttle to gate 133 for Sydney or gate 137 for Korea.

Oh good, that other gate is close, so I’ll have someone else hurrying with me in the same direction.

As I walked out of the ramp another attendant pointed the way to gate 21B, but it wasn’t easy to see. People careened in mass, while I raced past, rolling my heavy carry-on behind me.  I read the numbers above, and counted down, there it was: 21B. I still wasn’t sure where to go, a girl pointed to a ramp. As I went down, a girl asked, “What gate?” 

I said, “133.”

The girl pointed straight ahead, out the door. The other passengers heading to Korea went the same way.

I bumped my carry-on down the stairs around a corner and down the hall. I stepped onto a bus and sat down.  

I waited, looking at my phone to check the time. The bus wasn’t moving, just sitting, I almost got up to ask when it started.  The bus was long and wiggled in the middle. It wove around and around like I was riding a tilt a whirl an amusement park, taking forever, time ticked away. My gut twisted. I didn’t want to miss my international flight. Finally, it stopped. Everyone hurried off the bus, a girl pointed up an escalator. The sign said gates 200-234, nothing about 133. The passengers I’d gotten off my plane with and myself turned back towards the girls. Where to gates 133? Where to gate 137? They again pointed up the escalator. 

“No, that’s not what it says.”

Then they said, “Go downstairs.”

I hesitated; there wasn’t a sign for gate 133. The girl walked over and pointed again. 

I raced after the other two passengers, but these signs just said, Baggage, and Exit. I followed them down the stairs around into a hall into the bowels of the airport. It was like I was racing down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. The hall seemed to go on forever, I raced as fast as possible wheeling my heavy suitcase behind me. 

We came across some people going the other way on a small tram, I asked, where is gate 133? They said, ‘Huh?” seeming confused as to why we’d ask.

“Gate 133?” I asked again desperate. 

They pointed ahead the way I was going. I continued racing forward. My heart pounding and my breath condensing in my facemask.

Finally, a very long escalator appeared. A sign said gates 100-199. It was moving very slowly. I lugged my heavy carry-on suitcase up on to it and sped my motion up by lugging it up a couple of steps, but stopped. I was out of breath. As I slowly ascended I only saw white lights at the top.

At the top there were crowds and gate signs. I hurried along looking for 133. I thought I saw it, but the door said Korean Air. I asked, “Where is Delta airline?”

They looked at my ticket, they shook their head. They went to the screen, but it was just showing advertisements. 

They looked at my ticket again. I repeated. “They said gate 133”

They pointed across the hall. The gate was closed. Do not enter, authorized personnel only. I stared out the window. There was my plane, Delta. Then I saw them out in the dark loading luggage on the plane. I knocked on the window, desperate.  I knocked at the door.

I wanted to run through the Do not enter, and yell, “stop, let me on. I’ve run all the way here.”

I walked in circles wringing my hands, tears welled up in the corners of my eyes.

I didn’t see anyone, to ask. I didn’t know where to go.

A man in an official uniform walked up behind me. 

“What’s the matter?” he said in a calm voice.

“My plane, it’s there, taking off without me. I ran from my flight from Austin, it was late. I took a shuttle bus, I followed directions, I ran, I ran..,” I repeated out of beath, wanting to emphasise, I didn’t loiter, I tried.

“Oh, we were looking for you. Were you 7C?”

“Yes.”

“Can’t they bring it back to the gate?”

“No, we’ll get you a room and a ticket for tomorrow. We can’t open the gate once it’s closed.”

I was visibly shaking.

 The man said, “Why don’t you sit down here.”

Gratefully I sat down, taking a deep breath.

We’ll get someone to take you to Terminal 2, to get a voucher and to change your tickets.

My breathing slowed as I listened. He got someone on the phone. Someone is coming to take you to Terminal 2.

About 15 minutes later a small Ethiopian man showed up with a wheelchair. I asked him his name and he told me, repeating it, and showing me his badge, but the badge was old and smeared, I couldn’t read it. I sat down gratefully in the chair, and he put my carryon under the chair, wheeled me back around and around, through tunnels and halls for about 30 minutes. 

When we arrived at Terminal 2 it was crowded, passengers sitting on the floor. They moved, as he moved the wheelchair through, saying, “Excuse us, please.”

The Delta representative gave me tickets for tomorrow, and a voucher to stay at the Sonesta Los Angeles Airport Hotel until 6pm tomorrow. 

I felt too tired, to find the shuttle to the hotel, but my Ethiopian angel pushed the chair through the crowd and waited with me for the shuttle. I was the first passenger on this shuttle, but it filled up on subsequent stops around the airport. At Sonesta, I gave them the voucher, and asked about food.

“I don’t know, maybe they’re open for a few more minutes.”

I’d been too nervous to eat. It was almost midnight their time, 2:00am body time from Austin. 

I took my luggage to my room, and quickly returned looking for food. 

A girl was still working. I got yogurt and drinks and returned to my room.

I put on the news. War in Ukraine. My problems are few. I went to sleep thankful; no bombs were falling.

My bed the next morning

To be continued…

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