The mission: travel to New York with a 6 month pregnant wife for a ‘last chance’ holiday.
With Chuck and Mrs Longs first spawn looming merely 3 months away, it was decided that a trip away was in order. After all, this will be the last time the group performs as a duo before forming a 3-piece with a new member who will no doubt be the centre of attention and require significant amounts of coddling – much like Bono really.
While on paper travelling for 20 hours to reach a holiday destination seems like a walk in the park, things quickly solidify in one’s head once seated in cattle class and the realisation sets in that you’re no longer travelling with the hardy woman who sprang out of bed each morning after 4 hours sleep with a mobilised game plan for the day ahead. No, on this holiday Chuck would be travelling with a walking baby incubator who needs time to stretch, time to rest and who could no longer move at a breakneck pace.
The trip from Sydney to Los Angeles (12.5 hours) got off to a good start when the check-in clerk kindly provided an entire row to Chuck and Mrs Long. Chuck was undaunted at the thought of his legs being used as a pillow for the vast majority of the trip and as a matter of full disclosure did scheme for about the first 30 seconds of the flight at the possibility of ‘air –head’ before Mrs Long shot the thought out of the sky. The flight ended up being delayed for one and a half hours which enabled Chuck to spend the remainder of his Australian dollars on essential items such as mobile phone screen protectors and neck pillows. Interestingly enough, the airline assured the passengers that they could make up time in the air which begs the question; “why not make up time in the air on every flight?”
The flight was unspectacular which is exactly what you want really since spectacular would normally imply things like crashing, mid flight medical emergencies or Ralph Fiennes chopping up an ex prostitute flight attendant in the toilet. The 13 hour flight did provide Chuck with the opportunity to shatter the all time Long record of 8 movies in one sitting however. Starting with the Tom Ford’s written and directed “Single Man” Chuck settled in for the long haul. Chuck’s no movie critic but after sitting through Ford’s first foray into movies, Chuck would suggest that Tom sticks to fashion and being uber cool.
Chuck managed to continue dodging Avatar, making him one of 500 people in the world to be able to say that and deftly skipped Paranormal Activity citing the tried and tested excuse that the screen was too small to do it justice (when in reality, Chuck had no interest in scaring himself witless). Other movies that didn’t overly impress – The Informant & the Art of Lying. In fact, the movie situation got so dire that Chuck found himself turning to flicks such as Iron Man, the Hangover and Juno to get him through.
Mrs Long battled through like the utmost trooper she is, taking regular breaks to stave off Deep Vein Thrombosis and using the bathroom so frequently that Delta Airlines are now considering naming it after her. Airline food can a bowel blocking experience at the best of times but having to consider what you eat so as not to contract listeria is doubly challenging. Mrs Long worked the airline menu like a heavy weight champion working a speed bad – deftly.
Touching down in LA generated a sense of relief and excitement. The wait at Sydney airport only resulted in 45 minute delay in arrival time which meant 2 hours remained until the flight to New York. The Long family cleared customs with no cavity searches required and after thanking the Gods of International travel that both bags arrived, headed for the departure lounge. After stepping out of the elevator and taking a right, all sense of calm was shattered by a winding line that stretched outside the terminal. Chuck posed the question to an airline employee “what’s the queue?” and was told “oh, that’s the security line”. Now Chuck is a somewhat frequent business traveller and perhaps has been spoiled by Australia’s “30 minutes prior to arrival” check in policy but this was ridiculous. With an hour and a half until the flight, the end of the line didn’t make for optimism.
After standing in line for 20 minutes without moving, Chuck decided that it was time to get radical (in other words, plead for assistance). Informing the airline staff that Chuck’s flight was leaving in 40 minutes or so seemed to work as Chuck and Mrs Long were moved to another line. This one moved somewhat faster but still resulted in slowly shuffling to a check point where our passport and ticket was inspected with an infrared light and signed buy a friendly yet slow attendant. This checkpoint didn’t get you on the plane however – no, this check point allowed you to move onto the x-ray line, where once again Chuck slowly shuffled along, removing laptops, wallets and shoes in order to get through. By now it was 8.39 with the flight departing at 8.40 so needless to say, tensions were mounting as passengers were staring down the barrel of missing their plane.
Mrs Long made a mad pregnant ladies dash to for the jet while Chuck looked around for his favourite US magazine (no it wasn’t Hustler). Mrs Long managed to wedge her non swollen ankle (a feat that she proudly bragged “look, i still have my skinny ankles!”) into the plane’s door and Chuck ambled to his seat.
Now, this is where the grind really set in. The thought of another 5 hours in the air generated that all-over body heat that makes you itch and uncomfortable. On top of this, Chuck was operating on about 15 minutes sleep over the last 24 hours. What made things tougher (and caused Chuck and Mrs Long to question their choice to reproduce) was the Japanese infant 1 row behind that grizzled for 5 continuous hours. It wasn’t a cry, it was a nonstop, eardrum-grating whine that penetrated the core of Chuck’s soul. It is times like those when you either despise the parents or feel for them. Imagine how embarrassing it would be knowing that an entire aircraft hated your 6 month old child?
Chuck did manage to get in 2 hours of zombie sleep (when you’re half asleep but wake up every 45 minutes with your mouth wide open and your head resting on the person next to you – usually not the person you’re travelling with). The announcement that the plane was preparing to land brought with it a surge of adrenalin – New York.
The cab ride into Manhattan reaches the point of awesome the moment you see the skyline. Chuck and Mrs Long were staying in an upscale establishment in the heart of the city so after a brief stop to freshen up, it was time to take one of our last strolls as a couple (until the child is sent off to boarding school in Switzerland). It was a brisk evening with rain in the air, but the cold was the refresher that we need to kick start the holiday. Mrs Long showed the heart of a lion throughout the travel period, which is a good thing since her stamina will be tested again tomorrow when the shopping takes place – stay tuned.