Arriving at home

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So, over a month ago now – scary – I flew into the U.S. on a one-way ticket. That’s supposed to be very unnerving, but mostly it was just a crap flight and I was so glad to finally get off the plane.

It wasn’t a good start, from the moment I got on the plane. And even before that – when I checked in, the only seats available were aisles. Now, it’s claimed that experience travellers always favour the aisle, for various reasons which I find to be completely B.S. – like, for particular instance, having more room. You do not have more room in the aisle – you have less, but you think you have more, because you can see all that empty space to one side of you. But stick so much as your pinky finger into that space, and you can be guaranteed within 30 seconds an air hostess will be along with one of those nice heavy trolleys to bash the crap out of you.

I prefer a window seat – I’ve travelled a fair bit now, I guess, but I never tire of looking out the window. I hope I never do. Similarly, I still get a small kick out of the take off and landing.

So, that sucked. But anyway. When I arrived at my seat, boarding amongst the last people – I was happy listening to my iPod in the boarding lounge, which I could do just as well sitting down as standing in a queue – the two people next to me were already there. They were a youngish couple, older than me, but not gigantic, which was all I was hoping for at that point. Unfortunately, when I arrived at my seat it, and the blanket & headphones on it – were visibly wet. Hmmm. I convinced myself it could only be water and sat down anyway, but that was not helping my rapidly deteriorating mood.

The couple next to me claimed – unprompted – that they had no idea what it was and it was like that when they got there, yet as they said it I noticed the girl putting away a water bottle that was coincidentally missing just about as much water as was spilt. Yeah, no idea indeed.

Anyway – I’m getting a headache again just think about it. That and because iPod Access is running in the background and being a #%@! retard bringing iTunes forward repeatedly.

I think I could have done without the last two days, really.

Anyway, I wasn’t in a good mood for the flight, and was counting the seconds ’till it was over. I started listening to my iPod for a bit, but that could only last so long. I think the battery ran out, actually, or something like that… anyway, with nothing to do – they still don’t have 3.5mm stereo plugs in the chairs, so I couldn’t have sound with my movie – I decided to write in my New Zealand journal. I did that for a bit, which was good.

Oh, I forgot to mention, I couldn’t use my laptop because Apple & Sony laptops are banned from operation on Qantas flights. Nice of them to tell me that before I boarded. Now, to be fair, I did at the time have a groovy Sony exploding battery (well, a potential one, anyway), so I wasn’t entirely contrary to that notion… but still. If they actually provided a power socket in the seats, like they should have had twenty years ago, I wouldn’t need the battery and it wouldn’t be an issue.

I digress.

So I did that for a while, until at some point I was adjusting my chair – pulling up the headrest a bit so it actually lined up with my head, rather than my back – and the whole headrest came off. It had been dodgy, I’d noticed, the whole time, but this time it came completely off and I couldn’t figure out how to get it back on. And of course behind the portion of the headrest that came off, there is only sharp metal.

So I ditched that seat and went walkies to find another one. Most people were asleep by that point though, and while the plane was at best 75% full, everyone who could was spreading out to take up spare seats. So there were only a handful on the entire plane not occupied thusly, and of those just two were aisle seats – I didn’t want to annoy people by clambering over them to a seat that wasn’t mine anyway.

I found one eventually, and sat down and wrote in my New Zealand journal for quite a while. The girl next to me had given me permission to sit there when I’d asked, but I got the distinct impression, the longer I sat there, that she wasn’t happy about it.

So after I got bored of writing in my journal, I wanted to try to sleep…. I figured I’d overstayed my welcome good and proper there, so I went off in search of another seat. As it happened, I ended up in the exact same row, but three seats over. I had just put the chair back and was getting ready to fall into blissful unconsciousness, when the girl next to me asked me to bugger off. [well, I can’t remember her wording, and she wasn’t particularly mean about it, but..]

This wasn’t the same girl as before, but her friend, sitting next to her. Anyway, at this point they claimed they’d booked the entire row, so I had to leave. Riiight. Yes, I believe you, you’re so rich that you can afford to book empty seats beside you, just so you can put your spare pillow there. I mean, why fly business class – which isn’t twice the price of one seat – when you can pay extra for less.

*sigh*

Anyway, I wandered around for a bit more, and eventually ended up back at my seat, where, miraculously, the headrest had been reattached. I stayed there, I think, for the rest of the flight… or maybe I found another seat… I don’t know; I can’t remember. It was a shit of a flight, anyway. Still, I only put it at second, overall, on my list of worst flights – the crap I went through with Hawaiian Air was worse, albeit only slightly.

I was very very disappointed with the whole affair, given I’d specifically chosen Qantas based on my previous experience with them – the Qantas flights to and from the U.S. with dad had been fantastic. If I fly again, it won’t be with them. It’s not that I know of a better alternative – all airlines I’ve tried suck, thus far – but there’s plenty I haven’t tried yet. So I can still pretend to hope.

On the upside, when I did arrive at San Francisco International Airport, I had a rental car already booked on my behalf. That meant no tedious, uncomfortable Caltrain ride / insanely expensive taxi. However, I was very tired – more than I should have been, due to the crap flight – and was a bit nervous about driving on the opposite side of the road. Nonetheless, I set out. I made a few minor mistakes, and it took a while to get used to the car – hypersensitive pedals, which I don’t like – but it became comfortable pretty quickly.

I was pretty thrilled when I got into the car. I didn’t know what I’d be getting, ahead of time – I suspected some little beep-beep thing, cheap and nasty. So when I was presented with a rather stylish Mazda 6, it was a bit of a kid-in-a-candy-store moment. 😀

This car had everything – power windows, remote entry, central locking, air conditioning, fun “tiptronic” or whatever transmission… – all the bells and whistles. Well, excepting a decent stereo. All it had was a CD player. Just a CD player, not even a line-in socket. What the? Here’s a car worth more than US$30k, and you put in a vanilla CD player? Who the hell came up with that?

But anyway… the drive from SFO into the valley is pretty cruisy – 101 all the way down, turn off onto the 85 or 280, and then to my little apartment place. It took me a little while to find the apartment, because of the layout of the complex and the lack of visible signage – a chronic problem here, although if I think about it I suspect inner Melbourne’s at least as bad – but I did.

The thing that I found actually difficult about driving here was just getting used to the car being on the other side of you. When it comes to low-speed manoeuvres like parking or turns in tight spaces, you really have to actually think about what you’re doing. The driving on the opposite side of the road part is easy – you just pay attention, and within an hour or two it’s natural.

But it was, although I was poking myself mentally the entire way, looking for any signs of dangerous levels of exhaustion. There were none.

When I got my apartment, I found my way in, unloaded all my stuff, and hooked up to the cable modem. Hey, I’m a computer geek, get over it. 😛

It was late morning when I arrived in SFO – 10:30 or 11:30am or something like that. So it was about lunchtime by the time I got to the apartment. So, I messaged a few people who were online at the time and – now! 😀 – in my local area, and Francisco liked the lunch idea. I met him at P.F. Chang’s up in Sunnyvale, which is a pretty nice Chinese restaurant, and we caught up a bit. He was actually on his way into work, sadly, but had been out in S.F. the night before and thus had slept in a bit. 😀

After that, well… I can’t remember exactly what I did… I guess I unpacked all my junk, did my usual pottering around on the net… I went shopping, I believe, to get all the usual necessities. The shopping bill was about US$150, from memory… it’s amazing how it adds up when you have to buy all these long-term things; all your bathroom stuff, laundry powder, kitchen stuff, etc. Luckily I’d converted several hundred dollars to monopoly money (U.S. money) at Melbourne airport, so I could afford all this. 🙂

And then I slept, I think… slept a lot.

Then Sunday I think it was I went to Myke’s place for Easter lunch. It was good to see him – and his family – again, and get formally welcome and all that. There was food and whatnot, of course – ’twas all good.

Although I’d not experienced Easter here before then, so I didn’t realise there was marked differences. For example, there’s very little in the way of chocolate here at Easter. Sure, you can get chocolate eggs and bunnies, but it’s nothing like Australia – when I went shopping on Saturday, I did not see a single one in the whole store. I haven’t seen any since, either, to speak of, but of course Easter’s gone now.

So there wasn’t the big chocolate pig-fest like in Australia, but that didn’t bother me all that much because most of the chocolate here is Hershey’s, which I find quite detestable. There is Ghirardelli, which is quite nice – similar to Cadbury – but insanely expensive.

What they do have here, though, is a ritual of painting eggs. It’s a kids thing, I think – we didn’t do it at Myke’s – but I get the impression it’s pretty popular.

Some people did say they’d had Easter-egg hunts the day before, though, so it’s not entirely alien.

Still… it was a bit odd, in a way. I left some good old fashioned Cadbury chocolate at Myke’s for them to try… I’ve never asked since though what they thought of it. I’ll try to remember for Monday.

Anyway, after that I went off and had dinner with Ashley & Tom. I’d arranged that earlier, I think… anyway, we went to good old B.J.’s, so that I could have a Pizookie again. 😀

‘course, I’d eaten a lot already that day, so didn’t actually make it to a Pizookie. D’oh. Still. It was good to catch up with Ashley, and meet Tom properly – I think we’d met before, possibly at WWDC or at the AUC conference in Hobart – so we knew each other’s faces, but hadn’t really talked that I recall.

And that was my first weekend here, more or less.

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