You may be wondering why, after a week in Fiji and a week in New Zealand, I am writing about America. Prior to this trip, I took easy/free internet access in the United States for granted. After landing at LAX, we took a bus to Santa Monica to kill time before our next flight. I expected that I would need to patronize a café to get on a network. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could sit in Palisades Park and use the city’s free internet! But on Likuri Island (our first stop in Fiji, where we used generator electricity during the day and none at night) there was no broadband internet, but you could pay per hour to sit in their office and use antique computers.
In Fiji and New Zealand, I have discovered that there is no such thing as unlimited internet. They limit you by the hour or megabyte, and sometimes both, meaning that if you reach your megabyte limit before your time is up, you get booted. Plus, the connections have been painfully slow, especially when every minute is counted. These constraints add a lot of stress for a half empty perfectionist!
On top of the internet limitations, I know my half empty mind won’t be able to move on until I get these thoughts off of my mental to-do list. But no worries (as the Kiwis often say), I have lists of observations and tons of images to write about. But for today, I present you my final thoughts while leaving America for 10 weeks.
Before embarking on my 30/40 World Tour, I hadn’t been to an airport since Thanksgiving and hadn’t been to Dulles airport in much longer, so it was interesting to see all the changes. The first thing that caught my eye was TSA employees in tuxedo-like uniforms. At first, I thought this might be a classy new concierge service. But alas, no. The tuxedo guys don’t check your tickets or bags; they just stare at you. I guess they are profilers looking for odd behavior. I can tell you what’s odd — wearing a tuxedo at the airport!
The second new thing for me was the naked full body scanners. I felt very uncomfortable since I was not sporting metallic ink underwear. Mr. HalfFull told me later that he sucked in his gut and wanted to yell, “Shrinkage!” as they scanned his junk. Fortunately, he kept this thought to himself.
The third new airport feature was awesome! Dulles International Airport now has underground trams called AeroTrain. A lot of airports have these, but we have used people movers driving across the runways for years at Dulles. I was impressed – very efficient and sleek. Perhaps some Scandinavian efficiency engineer from IKEA created the system of tram doors on both sides. One side opens about 5-10 seconds before the other. So people on the tram exit on the side with open doors, while people waiting to board are outside the set of closed doors on the opposite side. We noticed a Dulles employee avoid the stampede off the tram, exit off the delayed side, and then scoot right up the escalator by himself. This guy didn’t fall prey to the herd mentality.
Since we were not checking bags and had already printed our boarding passes at home, we didn’t have to visit the ticket counter at all. With time to spare, Mr. HalfFull visited a tech gadget store in search of a single electrical adapter for all seven of our 30/40 World Tour countries. Lo and behold, they had one! Plus it also has a USB charger and surge protection, all in a neat little package priced at $40. Great success!
While sitting on a bench with our luggage waiting for Mr. HalfFull, I noticed a store subtly called “America!” They had t-shirts and souvenirs, plus a video playing above the checkout counter that was visible from my vantage point. I couldn’t hear any sound, but I could clearly see a reenactment of a group of terrorists with red cloths tied around their heads hijacking an airplane. Are you kidding me? They should have called the store “Tea Party!” This seemed like an odd video choice in a terminal full of potential customers moments before boarding airplanes.
As you know from my incessant mentions of coffee, I suppose I’m a bit of an addict. With the new charger in hand, Mr. HalfFull set off to acquire small skim lattes with Splenda from Capitol Grounds. (I haven’t found Splenda since leaving the US! Hmm…) As soon as he returned, our boarding group was called. Perfect timing!
Guess who was on our flight? NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, sporting a Milwaukee Bucks shirt! I wonder if he travels under the name Lew Alcindor to avoid hassles with the tuxedo dudes.
- Did internet availability overseas affect your travel?
- What do you think of the tuxedo TSA guys?
- Have you experienced the naked full body scanner? How did you feel?
- Do you have metallic ink underwear?
- Have you ever seen a terrorist reenactment video at an airport?
- Have you flown with celebrities?