What did I say about checking in earlier? Forget that. Travelling with my new friend Lisa is a good thing. She rung up Qantas the night before we were to depart, and they said they’d reserve exit row seats and put a note on the account.
Naturally, when we finally made it to the front of the line, there was no record of the promised saved seats. No problem for Lisa. She explained to me that airlines have a “duty of care” in their charters to take care of the vertically gifted such as myself. So as soon as we were aboard, she grabbed an attendant and said I could not be made to sit in a regular row.
I didn’t say a word, but a few minutes later she and I were seated in the bulkhead, with enough room for me to comfortably cross my legs. Since we were in the row just beyond business class, it also meant that we were damn near first off the plane.
I was actually the first person to pass through Customs, which the Australians have always been serious about. In the month and a half since I arrived from LAX, they’ve redoubled their efforts. At quarantine, all bags are now X-rayed — something they didn’t do when I first came to Oz. This fact is announced with huge signs that say “DECLARE OR BEWARE.” (It’s quite a full-on X-ray machine, as well. The examiner showed me the very high-resolution screen, pointing out my belongings.)
After gliding through Nothing to Declare, I managed to catch a train to Sydney, where I chilled out in the city, reading some birthday cards and getting re-acclimated to the city. I was barely back for an hour before I got a text inviting me to go out, and that I did, enjoying a round of belated birthday v&o’s courtesy of Rey, Phil, Keith and Simon — this after some Chinese and a hideous approximation of a Bloody Mary with another birthday boy, Michael, and his cousin Matt, whom I met at the latest hostel.
On the way back from the pub, I reset my voicemail to say I was back in Sydney. (This is an important fact when we get to what happened next.)