Born in the USA

"Welcome home," the customs officer said, stamping my passport and ushering me through without so much as a second glance.  

Yes.  Welcome home.  

Despite being one of the country's busiest airports, my corner of LAX is deserted right now. I am hiding out at gate 55, surrounded by empty seats and solo travelers.  The exhaustion from my 14-hour flight is just starting to seep in, as I realize that I have another flight ahead of me.  Thankfully, this one will only be 4 hours long.  

My inaugural flight with V Australia was a pleasant enough experience.  Adequate leg room, seat back TVs, good selection of music and movies ("How to Train Your Dragon" and "I Love You, Too" were both well-received in seat 36C).  I was disconcerted by the safety video – it opened with a red paper airplane flying across the V Australia logo.  I get it, paper airplanes are cute, but when I'm in an airborne tube of hulking metal, I don't want to be reminded that I am kept afloat by the same laws of physics that keep that paper airplane cruising through the air.  

I also made the critical mistake of packing my toothbrush in my carryon luggage.  Rule #1 of long-haul flights (not forgetting your passport being a given) is to pack a toothbrush.  I was lulled into a false sense of security by all of the flights I've had recently, where I've been given a pair of socks and a tiny travel toothbrush.  Not so today.  I have the furry teeth to prove it.  

Or was that yesterday?  It is currently 7:49PM in Los Angeles, a full forty-one minutes before I departed from Sydney.  I can't think about it too much.  It hurts my brain. 

The first thing I heard when walking through the tunnel from the airplane was not a booming American voice telling me about homeland security.  It was an announcement in Korean.  I knew this because I recognized the Korean for 'thank you' at the end of the message.  

Immigration and customs were surprisingly easy – perhaps because, for once, I am in my country of origin and was not banished to wait in the long line of foreigners.  

Check-in for my domestic flight was also easy, but I had a rude awakening when I followed the instructions of the self-service terminal.  When you fly Delta, you have to pay for your checked bags.  This initially came as a shock.  It can't be true, I thought. What is this, EasyJet?

Well, it is true.  I now vaguely remember something about American-based airlines breaking down their charges, but it never occurred to me at the time of booking.  No wonder it was the cheapest direct flight from LA to Indianapolis.  I won't be overlooking that detail again.  Not for an extra sixty dollars.  

I have also forgotten about sales tax.  What the hell?  My extortionately overpriced water & pizza from the California Pizza Kitchen came to $13.81, which was not the price listed.  Then I remembered.  Luckily, I was paying by card, which the bored teenager at the register swiped and handed back to me.  No selecting an account, no entering a PIN, not even a signature!  I could have picked that thing up from the ground. 

No doubt there will be more surprises in store for me as this month unfolds.  I look forward to seeing what they are.  Already I see a man in a ten-gallon hat and a boy wearing mouse ears walking through the airport.  Earlier, a woman approached me to ask what kind of phone I had, hoping she could borrow my charger.  Earlier still, an elderly woman stopped me while I was eating my pizza and said, "I hope you're going to tell me that pizza is good, right?"  People sure are open and friendly here.  It's kind of nice.  I hope it rubs off on me.  

One Response to “Born in the USA”

  1. If you had booked with the same airline/share code from Aus to your final destination, you wouldn’t have had to pay to re-check your luggage.
    The thing that I was most shocked about in coming home was getting carded again! When I first was overseas, I was insulted that no one carded me, but got used to it because I was insulted the other way!

Leave a Reply