Long Time Sitting

I’m pretty sure that I’ve never willingly signed up for this long a trip before. I think it’s about 21 hours, gate-to-gate. I did get delayed by snow once, and had to sleep in the Denver airport. I think that was what happened, but I could be mistaken.

19:14, Monday

I’m in the San Francisco Airport, my shoes are still untied. My bags are checked through to Christchurch, New Zealand. I have my passport and a credit card, so I’m all good. I bought a magazine, and I have a couple of cryptic crossword puzzles. And Ambien.

Ambien and I do not have a great history. I went through a hellish six months or so of sleeping about 3 hours a night several years ago. I would fall asleep no problem, and wake up at 1 or 2 am and maybe have some sleep after, but not any real rest. 

Now I can look back on it and tell funny stories, but really I feel like I lost about 30 IQ points, and I’m pretty sure I was psychotic at times. I tried various sleeping meds, and nothing worked very well. And I tried a lot of different things, and mixed them with whiskey, which was also probably a bad idea.

Ambien didn’t seem to do anything in particular, but it worked for so many friends of mine that I kept trying, changing the dose, breaking open the time-release coating, taking it at 5 am and fearing it would work and kick in for eight hours. And fear it wouldn’t work. And fear I’d be dependent. Like I said, psychotic; fearing it would work, fearing it wouldn’t.

I plan on getting to LAX, finding this scientist [“beaker”, in pole-speak] I got connected to by email, having a drink before we board, and having an Ambien when we lift for Oz, around midnight.


Sorry, no Tuesday. Thanks, date line.

No, not really. We left LAX about 11:50 pm on Monday, so had plenty of Tuesday to go around. Less than about an hour out the bursar asked if I’d mind switching to a an Economy Plus seat. A person in my row was traveling with her husband, and while he got an upgrade, she did not. In the interest of marital bliss, I agreed to move. Or perhaps the fates are shining on me. I had considered buying an upgrade, as a “last comfort” before Antarctica, but that would be about $2000. That was a very nice gift.

Somewhere along the way we crossed the dateline; I had probably nodded off, and happy to do so. Ambien was indeed my friend. And I don’t think I got any visits form the Ambien walrus, or in any case, I didn’t wake up handcuffed to a sky marshall, so let’s just assume I slept for about six hours. I managed to doze through American Beauty, and after breakfast watched Godfather III. The selection of movies on long-haul flights seems to have really improved.

The food was .. food. I tend not to need much food when I’m spending a lot of the day just sitting down. And flying with a service dog is good training; I don’t want to be getting up a lot, since that makes the dog want to get up. Most cross-country flight with the dog, we both just stay seated the whole way. And to be clear, there’s no dog with me this time, it’s just part of the story.

We landed in Sydney about 9:00, I think it was, but I’m getting pretty vague about the whole “time” thing, as are they. The summer-time clock change just happened, and some of the folks at the airport seemed a bit muddled by it. I had enough time to buy some liquid trade goods in Duty Free, get to one of the wrong lines and be redirected back to the right line. Very near the front of the right line, in fact. Struggles to find The Most Important Piece of Paper, my letter from US Polar Services that indeed I am one of the Elect. [When I said previously that if I got the the airport with my passport and nothing else, I’d probably be fine, this is the item I suspect would cause the most trouble if absent. I will never know. Well, actually, I have a chance to not find it when I try to go through customs in New Zealand. It gets me the one-year visa rather than the 4-month visa.]

In Christchurch it’s 13:11 and I’m pretty sure it’s Wednesday, and I’m my last commercial leg, Emirates from Sydney to Christchurch. I look around the plane and play Mason, and think I’ve spotted a few other Antarctic-bound people. When I got my booking and mentioned it to some other folks who have done this kind of thing before, the reaction was “ohhhhh, Emerates.” It’s considered the de luxe way to fly to CHC, I think. It’s nice enough. My next flight, as I understand it, will be from Christchurch to McMurdo, and .. spartan.

Ohhhh, Emerates. Very nice for “economy”. Enjoyable flight, or at least incident-free, and the TV monitors at each seat have a channel for forward- and downward-facing cameras. Exciting watching down on take-off.

My bags arrived, and the agriculture inspection beagle found my chocolate. But they got a bit nervous when I wanted to take a picture of the “embargo” tag on my bag. The nice people also washed my hiking boots, which I think is very kind of them. 

I’m now in the Elms Hotel. Comfy enough, and it will be quiet, I expect. A smart person would have remembered where he packed the New Zealand power converter. Whoops. Mostly there for these couple of days, and the trip back. It’s here somewhere. Off for some eating and perhaps drinking with some f the McMurdo firefighters.

Thursday 8:30 am

The Elms is not in a hopping part of town. Last night I went out walking and pubbing with two firefighters going to MCM. I didn’t want to wander far, in anticipation that my jet lag would sneak up and knock me down, which it did at the respectable hour of 10. Up at 6 am and a breakfast or coffee hunt, ending up at a cafe inside an art school across the street. What self-respecting cafe opens as late at 8:30? But then, what self-respecting art student is up before 9:00? 

WiFi does not flow like water. I think of the US as backwards in much of its infrastructure, but free SiFi seems to be the norm there, but not here. I may go get some McDonald’s fries just to get on the net. Or I’ll pay the $5 per hour at the hotel, and not like it. 

My next — and only scheduled — thing today is getting fitted for my Extreme Weather Gear at the Antarctic Center, bus leaving in about a half-hour. Best not to miss the bus, I think.

I lied; lunch at the Christchurch airport food court is decent, and back for four hours of briefing.

Sorry, but I haven’t really figured out how to put pictures in from right here at the airport.

Blessings are raining down on me; I’m one of the luckiest people I know.



3 responses to “Long Time Sitting

  1. Yay- on your way! Nice to be upgraded:-) so what happened to your choco? Dogs found it but did they give it to handlers? Glad your bags arrived- a stint at the s p without a mystery spot sticker and a pink flamingo would be less amusing:-) I hope your journey continues to be safe!

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