Road Trippin’ Down Under: To Board and Not Be Too Bored

If you were hoping that this post will be the one where you finally get to read about Australia, I have bad news for you. We’re not even halfway there yet.

But don’t despair. As a wise if somewhat aimless individual once put it: Life is supposed to be a journey, not a detonation.

If you are chuckling to yourself, I thank you. I am deeply grateful to you for embracing the whimsy. If you’re irked rather than amused by the reference to explosive devices, please accept my condolences on your flagging sense of humor. If you have no idea what this section of the post is about, you should probably take a nap and read it again when you’ve had some rest.

Interestingly enough, I wasn’t the least bit worried about detonations before, during, or after this trip. Despite the 96% chance that Homeland Security had failed to detect a bomb or gun on the person of one of our fellow travelers (as discussed in Travelers’ Advisory on March 4 of 2016) I was less concerned about someone hijacking and/or blowing up the plane than literally any other travel hazard you could name. Same goes for mechanical failure and operator error. None of that even entered my mind either before or after we’d made it through security.

No. Boredom was going to be my real enemy that day, I knew. Followed closely by discomfort. Which is why I arrived armed to the teeth with reading material—six magazines, one paperback and a Kindle loaded with multiple novels and an electronic Scrabble game—and pain reliever, eye drops, facial wipes and chewing gum. If I was going to survive this trip, I was going to need plenty to do, and I would need to do it without a throbbing head, dry eyes, oily skin, and furry teeth.

The Jarhead had suggested that I lie lay down and try to sleep. According to him, I would handle the heat, the crowds, and the lack of a shower during our 11-hour layover in Abu Dhabi better if I were well rested. Of course, we both knew that what he meant was that I would be a much better travel companion if I was well rested. But we both also knew that sleep for me was not an option. I find it hard enough to sleep at my usual time in my own bed and in an empty room, so there was zero chance I was going to fall asleep in a cabin room full of strangers at five o’clock in the evening.

And so, I kept to my own game plan and spent just over 12 hours reading, eating, drinking, playing Scrabble, and trying not to watch the clock. Aside from trying not to obsess about the time part, it reminded me a lot of my babysitting days when I would stay up all night doing whatever I wanted—only better, because it involved champagne, French Cheese and fine chocolates instead of soda, Cheez Whiz, and frosting, and because these things they were delivered to me personally by well-dressed people with great hair and exotic accents. I felt like an extra on the set of a Bond movie, or a passenger on the Orient Express. It was fabulous.

And the fun continued for several hours AFTER we landed in Abu Dhabi. For those who are unfamiliar with the city—as I was until I looked it up on Wikipedia—it is one of seven emirates that comprise the United Arab Emirates. It is the largest of the seven emirates, and sits on an island in the Persian Gulf.  According to Lonely Planet ( it boasts “The world’s largest hand-loomed carpet, the fastest roller coaster, the highest high tea, the tower with the greatest lean, the largest cluster of cultural buildings of the 21st century” and “isn’t afraid to challenge world records.”

Now I don’t know about any of that, since we never left the terminal. Although it might have been cool to take a tour of the city, we would have had to find a driver to take us around since, as I understand it, the traffic there is about as bad as it is in Naples. On top of that, we would have had worry about getting back to the terminal and through security in time to make our connection to Australia. So it just made sense to enjoy it from within the confines of the business class lounge.

I know. Poor us.

Seriously, though. Walking into that place was like stepping into the most elegant hotel room on the universe’s most elegant space station, or wandering into the most elegant secret lair of the world’s most elegant evil overlord. Decked out from top to bottom in ultramodern architecture, furnishings and artwork it felt more like we had landed on another planet instead of another country, or walked onto the set of some futuristic film instead of an airport, and I kept expecting the cast of Gattaca or Oblivion to come walking in and sit down to at one of the extravagantly appointed dining areas.

But no luck. In fact, besides the impressively neat and efficient staff (who kept whisking away our used dishes, napkins and tableware almost the second we set them down) the only other folks we saw, were other tourists (although, for all I knew, they were famous tourists but just not famous in America.) Which was probably a good thing since I was wearing rumpled traveling clothes, no makeup, and nearly two-day old hair by that point. Not exactly how one imagines oneself when running into famous actors—from any country.

So instead of chatting with celebs and becoming the next Hollywood It couple, the Jarhead and I lounged around and sampled the food and drink on offer at each of the three—yes, three—international dinner buffets. Avid fans of ethnic cuisine of all descriptions, we happily devoured all the familiar Greek, Indian, Middle Eastern, European and Asian food we could find, and eagerly—if gingerly—sampled several of the unfamiliar ones—and found not one bad bite in the bunch.

The only down side to enjoying a lavish meal in a lavish setting with lavish seating, is that it puts the Jarhead in a state of lavish sleepiness. Consequently, it wasn’t long before he was struggling to hold his eyes open and I was struggling to hold his attention and maintain my sanity.

And so, with a headful of flat hair and nothing else to do but use the ladies’ room (which turned out NOT to be the relaxing experience one would expect to have in such an gloriously outfitted facility, owing to the presence of an irritatingly fastidious attendant, who kept walking up and down the room and furiously sweeping, wiping, and scrubbing the stalls almost the second they were vacated, making it very difficult for some folks—not saying whom—to do their business) I approached the salon and spa, to see what fun there might be to have there.

The options included manicures, pedicures, facials, massages, and hair care. Since I needed my hair washed more than I needed my nails painted, my skin resurfaced, or my body manipulated by someone who hadn’t at least bought me dinner, I decided to go for a wash and blow out.

I almost didn’t go through with it, to tell the truth. Even though it was only going to cost me about $35, the thought of waltzing into a salon and paying someone to shampoo and style my hair sounded downright decadent to me. So, hoping he would talk me out of it, I walked back over to the semi-conscious Jarhead (semi-conscious only because the news was on and he was half-listening for the weather before allowing himself to drift off to sleep) and laid out my plan. To my dismay, he said that sounded like a good idea if it would make me more comfortable.

Damn him, I remember thinking. I had hoped he would have forgotten how much I hate the feeling of flat hair. Now I had no reason not to take the plunge. Oh well, I said with a shrug as I headed back to the salon. At least I would look lovely and refreshed when we landed in Perth.

I’m not sure what went wrong during the conversation between me and the gorgeous Syrian man who stood behind me at the stylist’s station, but SOMETHING sure did because I definitely did NOT look lovely and refreshed when he finished doing my hair. In fact, although I hadn’t thought it was possible, my hair looked even flatter than it had when I first entered the salon. I literally looked like Janice from the Muppet Show: all face, no hair.

I kid you not. All I would have needed were a pair of false eyelashes, some lipstick, and a couple of wires to attach to my wrists, and people would have been clamoring for my puppet autograph. It was that bad. So bad, in fact, that I almost went to the bathroom to wash my hair. And I probably would have it I hadn’t been worried that the stylist would walk through the lounge later and have his feelings hurt upon seeing my freshly washed and wavy hair.

So, instead I walked back over to where the Jarhead was dozing and waited for him to open his eyes and start laughing.

If I didn’t die of boredom waiting for him to wake up, that is. Which was a distinct possibility. But his reaction will be totally worth it, I told myself as the minutes ticked by. Just hang in there.

An hour later I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I bumped his foot with my purse and pretended it was an accident. He opened his eyes and I said I’m sorry. And when his fog cleared, he opened his eyes even wider. “Have you already had your hair done?” he asked, looking at his watch and then back at me.

Although I didn’t get the shock and horror I was hoping for, at least he was awake.

“Yep,” I admitted with laugh. “It’s awful, isn’t it?”

“I wouldn’t say it’s awful. It’s just…not…you.”

Aww. He was so sweet and considerate, I almost felt bad for disturbing him.



My Sci Fi Fantasy

It’s interesting—to me anyway—just how many elements from the science fiction realm have managed to make their way into popular culture and become part of everyday life. For example, many of the ‘space age’ vehicles we saw in the movies and on television back in the sixties and seventies looked quite bizarre next to the boxy, boat-like cars we drove back then, but—apart from their antennae and rotating mini-radar receptors—they would look almost contemporary next to today’s sleeker, more aerodynamic sedans, coups, wagons, and SUVs.

Likewise, I find it fascinating to consider how science fiction movies and television programs have been influenced—and dare I say limited?—by social and cultural elements in place at the time of their production. For example, were a version of My Favorite Martian or Lost in Space to make its way to the big screen today no doubt the clothing and hair styles worn by the cast would look vastly different than they did in the sixties—or even in 1998 when Gary Oldman, William Hurt, and Friends alum Matt LeBlanc starred in the movie version of Lost in Space. Moreover, thanks to computers and modern materials, their tools, technology and weapons would be a far cry from those of their predecessors, and largely influenced by what can be made or conceived of now.

Which brings me to my point—yes, I do have one—which is: Of all the things made ‘possible’ thanks to science fiction, there are five that, given the opportunity and resources, I would acquire in a nanosecond. Or, if I had access to a time machine, yesterday.

Let me be clear. I’m not interested in a time machine. Although I love the idea of rewinding the clock to buy myself more time, the fear that I will goof things up even more the next time around keeps me from willing this option into existence. In fact, unless I could go back to my younger days with all the wisdom and character that experience has given me up to this point, I wouldn’t go back to my teens, twenties, or thirties for all the polyester in China. In short, if I can’t do it better, I don’t want to do it again.

Nor am I interested in cloaking devices, photon torpedoes, or personal robot valets. I’ll leave the weapons and missile defense systems to the military and the self-styled criminal masterminds to conjure, and let the Jetsons and the Skywalkers have Rosie and C-3PO. Meanwhile, although Captain Picard’s beverage making computer is pretty sexy as household gadgets go, I’m happy enough to make my own tea—at least until such time as I’m as busy as a bald Star Fleet captain and no longer have time to locate a packet of Earl Grey and stand at the counter waiting for the kettle to boil. And while the Roomba seems like a handy thing to have, I suspect my family would appreciate one more for its cat harassing potential than as a floor cleaning implement.

There is one tool in Picard’s arsenal that I would love to have, and that would be the Holodeck. Used for training and recreational purposes, the Holodeck involves technology that can simulate reality. This beats the concept of a time machine hands down because I’d rather experience alternate versions of my life virtually than actually go back and do them again.

Another tool of the sci fi trade I wouldn’t mind having is the Star Trek Communicator. Better than a cell phone, this device is a hands free mode of communication that would allow me to talk to the Jarhead—or anyone for that matter—without having to stop doing whatever I happen to be doing with my Smartphone to take his call. Plus, it would come with a universal translator—in its most recent incarnation, anyway—which would allow me not only to understand every language and dialect spoken by members of the human race; it might also allow me to understand what my cat is trying to convey as he wanders through the house yowling with the toy mouse in his mouth before dropping it at my feet.

Even more interesting to me than a personal communication device and a simulated reality chamber, however, would be a teleportation device. Known as a Transporter on Star Trek and featured heavily in science fiction in general, teleportation is something I am more than ready for. Especially since the Wisconsin DOT started swapping out stop lights in favor of roundabouts, I would do just about anything to avoid travel by car. Provided it wouldn’t cost more than gasoline (if that’s even possible) I would rather teleport myself to the grocery store than have to stop and wait for yet another confused person to work their way the wrong way through a roundabout.

And yet—of even greater interest to me than the Communicator, the Holodeck, or the Transporter, is the Neuralizer from Men in Black. With the ability to erase memories, the Neuralizer would be ten times more valuable to me than a teleportation device. I say this not because I’m prone to crimes to which there are often witnesses whose memories I would need to alter in order to escape punishment. Nor do I say it because I tend to do things of which the Jarhead does not approve and whose memories I’d like to erase in order to remain in his good graces. In fact, my interest in the Neuralizer is even more selfish than either of those things: I simply want to be able to sleep at night. Don’t get me wrong: Most of the time, I sleep fine. But sometimes I’ll get into a memory loop from 1981 or whatever, and suddenly nothing—not even heavy narcotics or a sharp blow to the head—will render me unconscious and allow me to escape it. On nights like these, I’d be happy to reach into the nightstand, stare at that beautiful blue-white light—and wipe the files.

But of all the things I’ve seen or heard of thanks to my exposure to science fiction, the one I want more than any other isn’t a gadget that allows me to go anywhere or do anything faster or more efficiently. Rather, what I really want is whatever it was that Dr. McCoy gave the elderly woman as he passed by her in the hospital in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. I don’t know what it was called, but it baffled and amazed doctors by restoring her kidney function and eliminating the woman’s need for dialysis. If I could have just one dose of this to give my Auntie—plus one for every other person who suffers from kidney disease—it would be worth all the other science fiction inventions combined—no matter what it cost.

And if I can’t have that, then I guess I’ll settle for a time machine. At least then I could travel to some point in the future when they’ve found a cure for kidney disease, and smuggle what she needs back with me. And just in case there are witnesses, I suppose I’d better hang on to that Neuralizer.