Thursday, 31 March 2016

Jetlag La-La Land

After a surprisingly smooth trip back to the UK via Madrid, I spent a hectic half day and night at my friends’ house, getting blissfully distracted by their two sweet, affectionate daughters, just at that age when they simply love their “auntie” unconditionally and generously. Lavished with sticky crayon paintings and glittery knickknacks, I then started the first leg of the journey, London to Los Angeles. Here I had my first ever taste of jetlag - It was a more than a little strange, arriving at 2pm, being midnight in the UK, which made me feel exhausted and trapped in a surreal alternate reality.

However, with seven hours to kill till my flight to Sydney, I thought the thing to do was make my way into town, and look around LA, maybe do one of the those cheesy bus tours, sit sleepily on the top deck and take the occasional peek around... as it transpired, I never even made it out of the airport.

It took a while to find a way out of the labyrinthine terminal – rumour had it there were shuttle buses going from various exit points by the arrivals area, which I tracked down after a disorienting hike. These buses took an inordinate amount of time to arrive, then dropped you off at a dilapidated and seemingly abandoned bus terminal, roughly the size of a tundra. Here, you were to fathom which bus shelter shaped black hole will take you into LA itself, using the power of telepathy, due to the absence of any timetables or maps. Ridiculous. All propaganda, I’d decided, pushing the agenda of private vehicle ownership in the US.

Caught up in this sanctimonious inner rant, I suddenly stopped in my tracks. I had wisely not brought any American currency, which obviously rendered the entire endeavour futile, as I wouldn't be able to get the bus into town! By now it was about 1 in the morning by my internal clock, yet still broad daylight, and making me feel very odd... If this peculiarity wasn't enough, an elderly man suddenly accosted me - ‘suddenly’ being a generous overstatement, as he could barely walk at all, just shuffle, several inches at a time  - and asked for my help getting to the bus stop, about 50 meters away. He was deaf, which turned our conversation into a celebration of ineptitude: me – badly disorientated and jetlagged, and him – in a shuffling-mumbling world of his own.

Our communication was thus somewhat stifled, yet he managed to reveal he was due to have surgery in a few days, which he’d hoped would give him the ability to walk again, lost, as far as I could decipher, by some kind of a muscular degenerative illness. I could only hope that his current speed would allow him to arrive at his appointment in good time. On discovering I lived in London he brightened up, saying he often visits there on business. This both confused and impressed me. Him even making it out of an airport terminal must have been the work of fantastical forces, let alone international travel. This was clearly a determined and resourceful individual.

By now, our short excursion had taken approximately half an hour, by which time I had to admit defeat, and knew I would never make it to downtown LA in time to have a decent scout. I shall return to the terminal - tail between legs - get some food and try to sleep curled up in a corner somewhere, as I was clearly at risk of collapsing right there on the tarmac in an exhausted heap. And so, having safely deposited my new friend at a bus stop of his choice, I laboriously embarked on my trippy merry way back to the terminal.

Chili’s, one of the many chain restaurants dotted in service stations throughout the US, seemed a comfortable yet affordable pit stop for my needs. Here I consumed a large bowl of much required spicy fried chicken strips, an even larger margarita, then selected an alluring slice of floor and fell soundly asleep, oblivious to the bright halogens and footfall for the next five hours.

My flight to Sydney was extremely comfortable, lovingly accommodating to the long-haul passenger, with a variety of media choices on my personal screen, why - even the food was not intolerable! My seat was next to an American gal from Spokane and her newly wed husband - both around 19 years old - on their way to their honeymoon in Australia and New Zealand, along with an entourage of their extended family, romantically enough. She was very sweet, although, as with many Americans over the course of my trip, the conversation quickly shifted to religion. She hoped, she revealed to me, to become an art therapist, but had to put that plan on hold until she completed her course in Christian studies. She seemed sad, but resigned to her fate, which made me wonder about choices in general and how often we believe we are restricted, when I fact, we willingly succumb to those restrictions ourselves. Did that couple want a honeymoon alone? Did this woman want to pursue her dream vocation? I would tend to believe they did, yet felt they had no choice but put their own desires on hold to placate assumed expectations. To me, though, this no-choice was in itself a choice they were perhaps unaware they were making.

After our chat, I thankfully managed to get quite a bit of sleep and woke up in time for an incredible sunrise over the Australian coast line.

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