Four days and I'm not yet home. At least, I think its been four days. Having crossed too many time zones to bother counting, as well as the International Dateline, I have to rely on counting segments of travel as days, in order to have something for my internal clock to refer to. Before disembarking from my ship, I worked a full shift-12 hours that seemed to stretch for days as I waited for news of the approaching ferry and the telltale whine of the hydraulics as both our small boats were lowered from their davits. We use the jet-powered, fast rescue craft to transfer between ships, while the other stands post astern to assist in an emergency. Crossing the angry Southern Ocean with eyes burning from a long shift, I turned and gave the remaining crew the finger, defiant in my departure and fired up to face the upcoming gauntlet of travel.
Once the crew was loaded on the Ferry, we made the hour and a half transit back to shore. From there, we boarded a bus and made our way to Invercargill, where we hung out for the afternoon at its small airport, drinking beer and eating mutton pies, waiting to catch a 2 hour flight up to Christchurch-the largest city on New Zealand's South Island. We ended day one of the mass exodus across the world at a small hotel across from the airport, spending about four hours mixing beer, wine, gin and tonics and a huge steak dinner. Fully sated, most of us crawled off to bed after a very long 24 hour day one.
The next morning, I sat a good, long breakfast, saying my farewells to the odd crew member as they arrived for a meal, or stumbled past, on their way over to the airport to catch an all to early flight. Myself and another crewmember leisurely made our way over around noon and began the hassle of trying to obtain tickets home for incorrectly booked flights. It constantly amazes me that somebody who purchases airline tickets for a living cannot actually manage to purchase one without completely fucking it up. The worst part is that when in transit, I cannot call them. I have to call my ship, who then has to call London, then the agent deals with the airline and neither call me back. I have to guess when, or if the tickets have been corrected and get back in line for another stab at getting home. The other alternatives are to puff up, red-faced and angry, or cry like a baby. A grown man crying carries a lot of weight at the ticket counter, surprisingly.
Ticketed to LA, I finally boarded, of all things a 777 200A, I think it was. Normally, I fly a 747, but this smaller and I think, brand-new, jet was the way to go, with a 2-4-2 layout, wide, comfortable seats and I swear, at least an extra foot of leg-room (pun intended). Overseas carriers flat out destroy their US peers in comfort, service and everything else that counts when your rear end has to spend 12 hours in the same place. Still, it was a long, agonizing 12 hours despite the delightful Kiwi service. I suppose I should count day 2 as ending with flying over the International Dateline in darkness, nearly prompted to physical violence by the guy alternating between snoring and farting while drooling on my shoulder, dreaming about somebody named "Sugar", whom he frequently called out for in his sleep, loudly. "Sugar...Oh, Sugar!"... Oddly enough, the next day began with more of the same as he continued his trans-pacific tryst with Sugar until somewhere over Hawaii, I gave him a great, big fuck-off elbow in the kidneys.
LA. Of all the possibilities, places and things to do, I did the only thing I could do. I checked into my hotel and hit the bar, downstairs, after calling PW to tell her I'm in-country. My associate and I-a southern gentleman from Alabama, met in the pub, devoured great big fucking American cheeseburgers and a massive plate of fries, washed down with pints of Murphy's stout. After that, we walked around the block to help things settle, then it was time for a short nap before catching the red-eye out of LA. My eyes were burning from lack of sleep and spending the last 44 days in air-conditioned environments and I ended day 3 talking to PW, sprawled out on crisp sheets in the Sheraton. Waking up with the phone still in my hand, I suspect I fell asleep talking to her, but I can't be sure until I talk to her this morning.
I managed a four-hour power-nap then hit the ticket counter to once again do battle, hoping to score the two domestic flights I needed to get home. This time I ran into a new problem (or bullshit story, depending on whether or not you choose to believe the Gods behind the ticket counter). Seems I was booked, seated and paid for but not "ticketed". Now I thought that was the job of the "ticket agent" standing before me, but evidently not. Somehow, you can have a flight reserved, paid for, seats confirmed, check-in online and still not be "ticketed", as in some mystical right of passage that allows you to then stand before a ticket agent and have them, uh "ticket" you in some other manner than you previously were. Well, the woman behind the counter made me swipe my passport at the kiosk no less than NINE times, before relenting that it really did say, "Your e-ticket requires assistance from the ticketing agent" and then telling me I wasn't "ticketed" and that she couldn't help me. Cue the tears. I'm too close to home not to break down and cry for a ride. It's already been 3 days for fuck's sake. So, I get a nice, comfy first-class seat on the red-eye out of LA and head cross-country. Immediately, it seems everyone around me has dropped off to sleep, snoring, even the very stunning woman dressed as if she's catching a limo to the opera instead of the read-eye. She's felling redwoods with the best of the other lumberjacks. Thank Christ for noise-cancellation headphones and the wiz-kids at Bose Corp.
So, here I am in Minneapolis airport, sitting in the same seat I occupied on the way to New Zealand, 44 days ago. I've put away a double latte, chocolate muffin and a sausage, egg and cheese stromboli. It's 8am and I've still got 3 more long hours until my final flight leaves for the Copper Country. I feel like dogshit and probably look and smell worse. I've got a good book, but I'm too tired to read. I suppose a long walk is order. I need to work off the muffin and stromboli and my ass hurts, anyway. Six more hours and I'll be home, hopefully, and then I can put day four and my job, behind me for another five weeks.
I had hoped the next time I pulled out my laptop and looked this post, it would be from the safe and cozy confines of my living room, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. I’m only about a half-mile away-terminal B: gate 6; foiled by a bird strike. A fucking bird! So, I’ve got an extra couple hours to spend waiti…………
HOLY FUCK! Son of a disease-ridden, pock-marked, camp whore, my ex fucking wife just showed up. Ram a stick up my ass, coat me in dogshit and call me a fudgesickle, I can’t fucking believe it. Well, I damn-well need to cut this short and grab a fucking drink, or six. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
UPDATE: The double vodka was a good idea, I made it home without further incident despite my ex-wife sitting right behind me on the flight home. PW, LP and my oldest boy met me at the airport, my luggage made it (yeah!) and I got the hell out of there. I'm home, drinking wine in my pj's:)