Two Yanks Downunder

A blog about the experiences of two Americans on their first visit to the fabulous continent of Australia

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Longest Day Ends … In MN!

All right, so the title is a giveaway, but I could be practicing lies, deceptions (… things we are only just beginning to learn about… cf Galaxy Quest).

As far as readers are concerned, the suspense intensifies as Don disembarks in Los Angeles with multiple hurdles to cross before he can even contemplate catching his last connecting flight to MN. Do not worry about the mule, just load the wagon. These words serve him well in this situation. Go to baggage claim, wait, wait, wait, pick up checked luggage. Stand in customs line, hand over passport and declaration form to the agent, after a brief wait, get waived forward and he is free to leave the international terminal. What happened to the promised thorough security check? Do not say anything, just keep walking. Do not look back, do not stop, do not pass go!

The distance between the international and domestic terminal was a pleasant walk in the evening air five weeks earlier. Now it is a brutal shuffle in the summer desert heat with an extremely heavy bag that is difficult to balance. Nonetheless, Don arrives at the correct terminal and then plunges into the chaos of the NWA e-ticket line! A woman who asked him if her teenage children (who mistakenly stood in the wrong line for who knows how long) could cut in front of him met with the response that he had a 12:15 to catch, after which she disappeared. Thankfully, when he got to the front of the line, he had his NWA ID number handy and that quickly produced a boarding pass.

Afterwards was when he began to quickly learn more about the new world of security. He went to check one bag and the employees that were previously so helpful placing tags around his bag did not take that same supposedly NOW checked bag

and place it on the conveyor behind them. Rather, they made Don lug it over to yet another area and stand in a new line. There was so little room in this terminal between the doors to the outside and the ticket counter, that all the people inside who were going from one gate entry to another cut across perpendicularly through security lines and this was the situation here.

The employees who were to take our checked baggage and run an electronic scan while we waited had to reach across the flow of people passing by to take our bags and then we had to find a way to cross over to them to see if our bag passed or if they would make us open it up. Such was the crush and the speed of those passing by who had other business that a person could try to cross through them only to be caught up in the pedestrian contra-flow and wind up at the security check for another airlines! Somehow I managed to avoid this and my bag passed the scan and I was waved on to the gate.

However, at the gate entry ways we all discovered that everyone was converged into a single line for a ID and boarding pass check. Moreover, there were about 200 Japanese teenagers in line in front of us! Once through this check, we all were split into two lines for a carry on luggage scan security check. Of course practically all the Japanese teenagers needed three or four grey plastic bins to hold all of there various and sundry small carry on items and all of the things in their pockets! This fact really slowed things down and then we were able to observe that there were very few security personnel present. There was one at each of the two scanning machines and then one at each of two metal detecting doorway frames that passengers walk through. So there were four security employees to cover hundreds and hundreds of people and their luggage being checked and scanned. Every so often one of them would have to collect all of the plastic grey bins from the far end of the scanners and bring them around for waiting passenger!

I stuck with a couple about my age and I mentioned that us over 21 year olds needed to stick together. They were amused by that and then when I added that security was so much more efficient at Sydney I found out that they too had been in Australia. They went to Queensland to briefly join their growth daughter who was doing a summer long tour of the entire OZ continent.

Shortly thereafter, I managed to make a small contribution to slowing things down. As I was finally able to place my things in the grey bins and then move them over to the conveyor belt, one of my shoes fell out of the bin and over the other side of the conveyor and onto the floor. I looked over to the agent at the scanner and she made eye contact with me. I could tell that she did not want to get up so I shrugged my shoulders, leaned over onto the conveyor belt and my feet left the floor and my hands touched the floor on the other side of the conveyor. I grabbed the shoe and pushed off of the floor with my hands and righted myself on my feel and placed the errant shoe securely into the bin. The security worker looked at me again and mouthed Thank You.

So, I got through security, quickly arrived at my NWA flight gate with 10 minutes to spare before boarding. I slept most of the 3 1/2 hours of this flight and woke up in the Twin Cities. I got to ride the little shuttle train from my gate to the MSP baggage claim area where we all found that the luggage from five different NWA flights would be sent to one and only one whatever they call them that go round and round. Nicole, who had been house sitting for us for five weeks appeared and then after some time so did my one piece of checked luggage. We got out to her car and drove to Avon, which took quite a bit longer than usual as I-94 was down to one lane on both sides just east of Monticello, and this will be the case on weekdays until some time in October or November. So, at about 9:00 p.m. on August 17, 2006 I arrived home in Collegeville Township after about 30 hours of traveling.

All was well with the home and our two cats and large canine. I settled our bill with Nicole for her excellent house sitting and animal care services and thanked her profusely. Her earnings will help fuel her own study abroad semester in Greece and Italy beginning next month.

I wish to thank my wonderful spouse Wendy, director of the fall 2006 CSB SJU study abroad program at UNDA in Fremantle, West Australia, for encouraging me to accompany her for part of this grand adventure and giving me such an opportunity. I am filled with appreciation for her and all that she has done for me and for us. I will miss being away from her but I know that she will help create an outstanding overseas experience for our excellent group of young men and woman who have the courage to travel so far in search of knowledge and adventure.


At 3:00 AM, Anonymous min said...

Welcome home. Now, get back to work!


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