Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A flight to Canberra

This morning I got up at 4am to catch a morning flight to Canberra to visit the CSIRO Black Mountain Lab (I think my comment to Christine after her 5th "honey you need to get up" was "WHY DON'T YOU DIE IN A FIRE" but that's what she says, I don't remember it). Our group in Melbourne is actually a small outpost of the larger main group in the capital and I was just going to spend the day there. It was my first domestic travel on a plane here!

I described it as "un-insane". It seems that in America they don't just make it harder for the terrorists to get on planes, they make it harder for everyone to get on a plane. Check this...

Nobody looked at my ID at anytime during the day. I printed out my boarding pass and went right to the gate.

There was no line at security going or coming and there were only two guards in trim fitting uniforms, not seven guards either running around or sitting chatting drinking 64-ounce big-gulps. I didn't have to take my shoes off.

I even pulled out my drink and asked the guard if it was "ok"? To which he replied "I dunno, I've never tried it" then let me through drink in hand. I suspect he thought I was asking more about taste than safety.

Then there was this number:

A machine in the bathroom "the air blade" that will dry your hands in 10 seconds, blowing sterilized air on your hands. Christine said we'd never have them because they don't meet ADA standards.

This was the clincher though:

PINBALL! PIN-FRICKIN-BALL! Not in some side room. But right in the terminal next to the gate. Granted it was $2aud ($1.25usd)/game which is more than I've ever paid in my life. But I got a replay on my first ball. That made my day right there.

I got second highest score... which probably doesn't say much if it doesn't see much action, but still. And this wasn't the only one. On the way home I did really badly at Simpsons pinball.

Maybe the only downside was that on the flight there, literally the back 80% of the plane was pre-teen girls in matching orange tracksuits. The giddiness was contagious, when one would squeal they would get excited and squeal more and get more excited and then squeal and then... I nodded off while we were going down the runway. But when we lifted off the ground with a little jolt, you'd think that we just went over the top of a roller coaster, it just turned into near pandemonium, like there was a sudden discount on shrieks.

On the taxi ride in Canberra I only understood about 40% of what the taxi driver was saying, his accent was thick, but he still enjoyed talking. Later that day I met another American and it was novel to hear someone talk without an accent, it permeates everything so that you don't notice it anymore until its gone.

One interesting conversation today was with someone who was talking about how it's easy to be taken advantage of in India... but it's downright dangerous in the US. His relatives were in a car park in LA and someone came up and pointed a gun at them and took their money, wallet, credit cards, phone, jewelery, etc, all in front of their infant and 5 year old child (who reportedly couldn't sleep for a couple days afterwards... I still have troubles sleeping after getting mugged by that taxi driver in india but I digress).

It does make you wonder though... With air travel so un-insane here (dare I say enjoyable?), will going back to the US just seem... oppressive? Fearful? I dunno, hard to say. It'll be strange to see. I expect there'll be a whole range of emotions that'll cycle through quickly in the first 2-3 days or so, some of which may just be based on expectations. I guess we'll have to see when it happens. Totally don't want to become one of those expat snobs but, I guess life is different here...

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