It happened to me. I had heard horror stories from time and time again but somehow in my arrogant travel-god mindset I thought I could escape it.
It’s 6.55 am. I’m rinsing my morning breath out with tap water from an airport hotel sink. My underwear have been put back on inside out and I just sniffed the armpits of the shirt I wore yesterday and then slept in, to see how bad the damage really is before putting it back on.
On my way to Melbourne Airport I was tense, fearing that I would miss the first leg of my long haul flight. So tense in fact, I was gripping my knee with one hand while the other was balled in a fist; giving my cab driving glaring glances anytime he slowed down or didn’t take the plunge and make a life-threatening pass by another car. But I made it.
Even worse, I was the second to the last person to board the plane on my second leg outbound to Tokyo. I didn’t even get a chance to make it through to duty free. It was exhausting. Little did I know I’d be sitting on the runway for 2.5 hours while a horrific lightening storm engulfed Sydney. Now I feared being struck by lightening. The plane never took off that evening.
I spent the next hour or so going through immigration in reverse, then wondering why my luggage never appeared on the carrousel. There were 6 of us from Melbourne, none of our luggage made the transfer. It was the lightening’s fault.
We bound together in line to request our airport hotel voucher, along with the passengers of the other 6 flights cancelled that evening. Luckily a lovely Japanese lady bit the bullet and requested we get ours immediately, we didn’t have any luggage after all. Relieved to get a room, we then stood in line for another hour waiting for a taxi. At least I made some new friends out of it.
So here’s the funny thing. I didn’t follow the rules. You know, the standard international traveler rules. I had no clean clothes, no toothbrush or deodorant and by luck managed to sneak my phone charger in last minute otherwise would have been worse off. How could I ignore my own rules?
Flying is such an important part of my life. I have packing down to a science. I own different suitcases and travel bags for every different purpose: overnight duffle, weekend duffle, weekend wheely, work wheely, summer trip wheely backpack, long trip wheely backpack, long trip wheely duffle…I can go on. Ensuring I only pack what I can physically carry, at the same time guaranteeing I have enough outfits to not have to duplicate when possible.
When going through security my eyes scan the lines like a hawk seeing prey. I squirm at children, dodge baby strollers and avoid the elderly at all costs. I can predict the Qantas Lounge’s meals by time of day and day of the week. I know when to eat, sleep, drink, watch, and read to maximize my sleep time.
I have memorized two different frequent flyer numbers by heart. My phone apps are synced to weather in multiple cities, airline check in, currency converters, and offline maps. My favorite day to fly is the first of the month; it’s when a new inflight magazine becomes available. I want to chat with pilots as often as I’m given the chance.
But at the end of the day I will pay for loyalty. I must admit one of my biggest bucket list items is to become Gold on Qantas. I’m envious of those who board the plane first and those that get to use the special line when going through security.
Despite my pride as the almighty entitled traveler, the tables had turned that day boarding my flight to Japan a few weeks ago. I was lucky that in the end it worked out and I arrived at a similar time to my old college roommate Holly. It made the 1.5-hour journey on the Narita Express to Tokyo, then navigating from Shinjuku Station, the busiest train station in the world, to our hotel a few blocks away a major relief.
As I logged into my Qantas Frequent Flyer account today I was overjoyed at what I saw. As of my hassle-free flight back to Australia on November 30, 2013 I am now officially Gold status!
More on Japan coming soon!