56 hours from door to door
I was just reminded of this story when chatting to a work colleague, and as it's slow this afternoon, I'll use my last hour to tell you why it's no fun to live on the other side of the world from most other land masses (Australia to the uninitiated).
So, it was Christmas/New Year 1993/94 and I'd travelled to London to spend the holidays with my best friend Sharon, who was on that obligatory work/travel thing that so many Aussies do (but I never did, having travelled a LOT in my tender youth). Anyhoo, we'd laughed, we'd cried, we'd been on many an all-night bender, and it was all over. Sharon accompanied me to Heathrow where I plonked myself in a queue and waited for the whole luggage-and-a-boarding-pass experience. And waitied. And waited. And was getting kind of worried when at last it was my turn, only to be told that my flight had just closed!
The next available seat was to Melbourne (not Sydney) and it was 12 hours away. Whatever, I had to take it and so I called Kevin, the friend who was going to pick me up in Sydney and told him not to bother. I then told Sharon to go home, there was no sense in her waiting with me. But she didn't which I'm now grateful for, because that was a boooooooring wait. It was the end of my holiday so I had no money. It was Sharon's payday at the pub so she had no money yet. We bought a newspaper and read it all, discussed all the articles, did the crosswords, bought a roll and shared it. In my search for a pen in my handbag I discovered a US$20 that my mum had given me "for emergencies". This was it, and a swift money-change got us a seat in the bar, sharing a bottle of not-too-bad Spanish wine. Finally my flight was called, and Sharon went home.
As I got on to the plane, I looked out of the window for the first time in 12 hours (Heathrow doesn't have many). It had started to snow, for the first time in my whole 3 week stay. "Aaah" I thought "how pretty!"
We spent four hours on the runway waiting to be de-iced. No free drinks till we're airborne says Qantas! We got one tiny glass of orange juice and some peanuts (I'm allergic). Some Eastern European man decided to smoke in the toilets and set off the smoke alarm and sprinklers, so there was water all over the floor.
Finally after we took off, the announcement: the crew has been working too long and we'll have to land in Dubai for a layover. "Not too bad," I thought as I walked out onto the runway, "I'm warm for the first time in three weeks and the sky is really blue, not that pale duck-egg stuff they have in the UK." We were taken to a hotel and all crowded the desk asking for a room. They announced they were allocating rooms for couples first - so this guy (not bad looking either) asked if I wanted to pretend we were a couple. Good deal, we got a key and while he went for a walk I showered, changed and lay down. Turned on CNN. Saw Sydney burning.
Panicked and called my mum, who told me everything was fine and did I want her to tell Kevin what time I'd be arriving in Sydney. I said no, I'd get a cab, but she wanted to know what flight I was booked on. I gave her the number and got some sleep.
Back on the plane we had an uneventful flight to Melbourne and a lovely Qantas man got me on an earlier flight back to Sydney. As I walked into the terminal I could smell the fires and see the smoke haze. I fell into a cab and walked back in my door at home, 56 hours after leaving Sharon's. After unpacking the duty-free I gave her a call, to share the story. And then a knock at my door - my mum had called Kevin who'd decided to meet me anyway, missed me, then tried to call me at home but the line was busy, and finally arrived on my doorstep to take me out for lunch.
And after all that time on the plane with airconditioning I caught a MONSTER cold and spent the last week of my holiday not on a sunny Sydney beach as I'd planned but sneezing in bed feeling dreadful.
I've heard many other travel horror stories - but for a simple London/Bangkok/Sydney flight mine ended up the flight from hell.