First, let me say that I love Qantas Airlines. We're so used to U.S. Airways, where AFTER they charge $15 to check your bag, your only food options on cross-country flights include $6.00 for a "snack box" and $9.00 for a dry "chicken Caesar sandwich" of questionable edibility.
Hmmmm... it's a good thing we had the urine-soaked aroma of the toilets behind us to sap our appetites, since "Folks, we only have limited supplies on board, so we recommend you purchase your desired in-flight refreshments to enjoy early on" REALLY means "Even if you wanted to spend $6.00 for a mint, a 'fun-sized' pack of M & Ms and some macadamia nut cookies, we'll be out before our pointy metal cart makes its way to the back of the plane, you poor honeymooning bastards."
But I digress. Boarding a Qantas 747 is akin to a ride in Doc Brown's Flying DeLorean. You are instantly transported back in time to a world where any bag under 68 pounds can be checked for FREE! It's like 1994 in there. There are two hot airline meals to choose from (shockingly edible AND they smell good) served every four hours! You are given a tiny zippered pouch of headphones, socks and an eye mask for FREE! You can have bottled water and a bag of snacks any time during the flight, with soft drinks and alcohol served before meals, coffee and tea served after.
Don't even get me started on the hot towels they give you an hour before you land OR the free ice cream. I KNOW! Joel was completely unconscious so I have no witnesses to back me up or reassure me that the complimentary Fudgsicles weren't a hallucination. I was beyond punchy 13+ hours into the flight, and I really wanted to bellow "Ice cream! LIEUTENANT DAN!! Ice creeeam!" at Joel. But he was already shooting me the Sleepy Glare of Glarey Death whenever I rummaged around the seat pocket for my travel-sized deodorant (I like to reapply every so often; what can I say?) so I left him alone.
It's probably mostly psychological. They know they can't keep hundreds of people captive in a tin can for 16 hours without risking mutiny. Offering free bottled water and treating you with a modicum of customer service keeps you sane, somehow. Seriously, they brought around fresh fruit and everyone was like, "Holy shit! Is that a bowl of apples? ONE OF THEM IS FOR ME?!? Oh, my!" and we all sat quietly like good little passengers who didn't whine until we were in line for customs. Our fruit and ice-cream bearing angels sprinted away from us in the "flight crew" lane, leaving our smelly herd behind as swiftly as common courtesy allows, albeit with apple cores in our pockets and popsicle sticks stuck to our free gray socks.
I realize that this post is not so much about driving, as of yet. Let's get on that, shall we?
Right, so we land at 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, having lost one day in Santa Monica and one day crossing the International Date Line. By the time we cleared customs, fetched our luggage and got our rental car, Joel had the white knuckle experience of driving into downtown Sydney with the morning commuters.
The thing is, yeah- okay, the steering wheel is on the other side of the car. Aside from overriding your instinct to sit in the passenger seat when you walk up to the car, the hardest part is trying to orient yourself in the lane. Well, that, and ignoring the screaming voice in your head telling you that oncoming traffic is coming right at you. The problem is, when you start to panic, your first instinct is to swerve and revert to defensive driving as you've always known it, which of course would put you in grave danger. Oh! And the turn signal thingy turns on the windshield wipers. It's only funny the first ten times you do it.
Here I am, later in the trip, driving in the Outback with the windshield wipers on, looking distressed. (Note: It hasn't rained where I was driving since January.)
Of course, they post helpful signs like the one above in the touristy areas around Ayers Rock, which wasn't much help that first morning in Sydney.
Joel's job was to navigate carpool lane hours, tunnels, and taxicabs (Hi! It's like we're back in New York!) while my job was to keep up a soothing patter of, "You're doing great... you're doing so great. I think- I think the lanes are different, too. See where it says "overtaking lane?" That's, okay, that's definitely the lane we're in, so this is the passing lane here? The one we're in? and OMG too close TOO CLOSE! A LITTLE TOO CLOSE!"
Joel: What's the ED lane?
Me: It's the lane reserved for people named Ed?
Me: Wait, wait, okay! See where it says "Eastern Distributor" and "Give Way?" I bet ED stands for Eastern Distributor. Give way GIVE WAY OMG GIVE WAY
You get the picture. We lived to tell the tale, obviously. Because we lost a day in Sydney, we checked in to our hotel, showered, took a very quick nap and headed out to the Aquarium and Wildlife World, which was... exactly what it sounds like.