• Nick Elsey

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Updated: Nov 13, 2018

27 Jan 2002 - Portland 

A couple of months into my year long sabbatical from work, and the day has finally come for us to take leave of this dreary state. Lynn has been solidly web-surfing for weeks now and has lots of ideas and plans for this month long trip to Aus. The day has finally come to execute!


Nick and Lynn snowed in

The past few weeks here in Oregon have been mightily depressing – cold, wet, gray weather, enough to put the happiest of soles into a S.A.D. funk. Lynn and I have always been the sun worshiping type, so winters in Oregon always get us down.


Perversely, we’re given a winter-wonderland send off. After days and days of gray and drizzle, we wake up on Sunday morning to 6 inches of crisp snow. Beautiful! The world (or at least our back yard) seems so much quieter and serene for this white blanket.


However, we’ve booked a shuttle to take us to the airport, and the only way to get to our house is either a) go up some steep hills; b) go down some steep hills; c) do both. Knowing that Oregonians take to driving in snow like my cat takes to quantum physics, we begin to worry that we may be serene and stranded. We need to reconnoiter and check our the road conditions….a man’s job!

Nick On airport security...: What the hell is up with airport security these days? I’m for safer airline travel as much as the next guy, but the airport and airlines sure have a strange interpretation of the word ‘secure’. Some of the more blatantly stupid aspects of airline travel, post Sept 11:

  • Airport security is reactionary, rather than proactive. Some nutter tries to detonate the Nike explosives, and they now have every other person taking off their shoes and X-raying them. God help us when some terrorist smuggles a bomb on board in a body cavity!

  • There is no concept profiling. Worse, airport screeners are explicitly told not to subject travelers to extra attention based on their race, religion or ethnicity [see the DOT web site for screening guidelines]. Sorry, but in my book the Ayatollah look alike need to get at least as much attention as grandma or you average business traveler.

  • The obsession with photo ID! You are asked to show this at least three times before your can make it on the plan. What, terrorists don’t have driving licenses?

  • Metal detectors with their sensitivity turned up so high you’d have to be a naked anemic to get through it without setting it off. And even though they have 6 metal detector lines, anyone who sets one off (i.e. everyone) gets funneled into another line for some real personal attention, so holding up everyone else.

  • The bloody chaos of the whole thing. It’s bad enough that most of the security measures are pointless and poorly implemented. The worst part of it is that every time you travel, it looks like all these new measures were implemented just a few hours ago and came as a complete shock to everyone who had to implement them. The people working the X-rays machines and metal detectors are clueless, poorly trained, dumb, or all of the above.


I take Lynn’s car. The nominal excuse is that it’s an Audi (all wheel drive), but in reality, in the highly unlikely event that I do have an anticipated connection with an immovable object, better that it doesn’t happen in my car! Disappointingly however, they’ve already ploughed most of the roads, so I have little opportunity to exercise my extreme-conditions driving prowess.


We have a 3 PM flight to Los Angeles and the trip to Portland airport turns out to be disappointingly uneventful. We spend 10 minutes queuing to check in to the Alaska counter and then 30 minutes queuing to get through the ‘security check point’.

We loiter by the baggage carousel in Los Angeles for ½ hour or so before our bags arrive, and then saunter over to the International Terminal. Check in at the Qantas desk is actually quite painless for a change, so we now have a few hours to burn before our flight leaves.

I head for the bar.


A couple of cold ones later, and I’m ready to face the world and another security check point. Just when I’m getting ready to go, Lynn returns from her tour of the LAX emporia with a stricken look on her face – the queue for the security check point is so long it actually goes out the front door! Lynn takes of to get in line. I have another beer.

About an hour later we are finally through to the gate. Rather than rant ‘n rave some more, let’s just say I now know where the Portland airport employees go for their security-screening techniques refresher course.


Interesting, our Qantas flight has managed to connect up with a gate that’s literally marooned in the middle of the airport, so we have to get there by bus. The bus unloads, we all troupe indoors, upstairs and onto the plane. Go figure. Who the hell designs these airports anyway?


28 Jan 2002 - Oblivion

Due to the wonders of airline travel and the international dateline, Monday is currently MIA. Those lost 24 hours will be retrieved a month from now.


29 Jan 2002 - Arriving in Sydney

Amazingly, for a 14+ hour flight, time goes very quickly. Qantas does a movie marathon throughout the night flight, but I ignore them all. Spend some time reading and writing these pages, but I actually manage to sleep for what I think is a couple of minutes, but which turns out to be about 8 hours.


We land in Sydney...


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