Oz Report – Part 1 – Pre-Flight

I’m blogging this, rather incongruously, from an Aboriginal Cultural centre a little way south of Narooma in NSW. Here’s what I’ve prepared earlier while staying the hotel in Sydney for a few days:


Taxi 30 minutes late. But we are determined not to get stressed. Check in is a breeze, and security fine. But we discover at the gate that we need to be in a specific row(s) to use our car seat. This should have been handled at the checkin desk, but wasn’t, and leads to a trying conversation. Actually, it’s not a conversation, because “conversation” implies exchange of thought, and it’s clear to me that thought is only occurring on one side.

The gate agent seems helpful, but is incapable of formulating any steps in the solution to the problem. “Yeah… you can’t use the car seat in that row” he offers, with a sorry-about-that note of finality. I look at him expectantly. Nothing more. “Could we move to a row where we can use the seat?” I suggest. He punches some keys. “You could use it in rows 41 or 56.” “Can we move to one of those rows?” More keys. We wait. “They’re taken.”

An idea occurs to him: unfortunately not the right idea. “Let me get the something-or-other manager.” Before I can reply, he’s off. Mini-Elbeno passes the time by twisting and writhing in my arms and yelling good-naturedly in my ear. The something-or-other manager returns and fixes me with a steely glare that suggests that I will use the car seat in an unapproved row over her dead body, or (more likely) over my habeas-corpus-free-zone incarcerated body. I ignore her and return my attention to the gate agent, who is apparently re-checking that the approved rows are still taken.

I know he can solve this problem, so I ask, “Can we move to row 41?” But he is still unable to infer the final step of the solution, and merely notes, “It’s taken.” With an inward sigh I have known in many an interview, I suggest, “Perhaps we could swap seats with the people sitting in row 41?” The something-or-other manager says “You could absolutely do that.” Like I care about her opinion. She could sit down and start singing about gold for all I care.

But with her “approval” the gate agent is finally getting up to speed. He pages 41B & C who turn out to be a young couple who are happy to move to two otherwise identical seats in our current row. 41A has not yet checked in, and after a phone call she is bounced from her seat. The s-o-o manager disappears, frustrated by my calm persistence, and I walk down the jetway with family in tow. The flight attendant who helps me fix up mini-Elbeno’s seat has no idea of our recent tribulations, and in fact turns out not to care which row the seat’s in, or at least can offer no explanation why some rows are designated for seats. As in so many similar situations, once you’re inside the beehive, the bees allow you a lot more latitude. As we taxi on to the runway, I relax with cathartic thoughts of writing this blog post.

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