I am a morning person, but 3am? I sprang out of bed, threw on my clothes, grabbed my bag, said a silent farewell to the Reef Retreat, and met the airport shuttle.
As I wrote at the time, if I hadn’t lost my passport and had to fly back early to Sydney, I wouldn’t have seen the World Wide Wallaby convention on the side of the road. Those little hoppers made it all worth it.
At the airport I ate banana and a protein bar while waiting for to board. It was me and about 50 retirement-age Chinese couples who were wide awake and yammering at full volume. Thankfully the plane was half empty so I was able to lie down in the fetal position across three seats but it was so cold I kept waking up. I flagged a passing flight attendant and said, “It’s freezing in this plane.” She gave me a look that said, “You’re crazy,” and when I very politely asked if the heat could be turned up she replied with barely concealed rage, “Ma’am, it’s a plane,” as if that explained it.
She did bring me a cup of very hot coffee a few minutes later, so maybe she felt bad about being a bitch.
Off the plane, and it was a good thing I had done this routine with Heidi a few weeks previous. I knew where to find the train station, which train to take, and where to get off.
On the street, I consulted the paper map I’d marked with red circles. I found the photo shop and smiled for the camera. “Don’t smile,” said the photog, so I didn’t, and I walked out with two passport-sized photos of me looking like I’d just been booked at the county jail after a night on the town.
On to the consulate, which was in the MCL Building. Hooray, I spotted a tower with MCL in giant letters at the top. But at ground level, there were no unlocked doors. I walked around the building, dragging my suitcase behind me. Finally I spotted a delivery man and asked him.
“Oh, you want the new MCL Building,” he said. He was super friendly and helpful, pointing out not only the new MCL Building but which entrance I should use.
I rode to the 10th floor, where a cheery Australian guard informed me I would have to check my laptop. “There’s a photo shop just down that hall, with rental lockers.”
A photo shop. I paid $10 to check my laptop, then got in the “American Citizens Services” line outside the consulate. I was the only American. The “All Others” line lived up to its name.
There was another elevator ride to the consulate’s floor, with an armed guard. I would have to go through security, fair enough. As I entered the security hall, the Aussie guard at the baggage scanner was barking at a couple in front of me who were flustered and had lost whatever English they had had.
“Who speaks English here!?” he yelled jeeringly. They appeared to originally be from India or Sri Lanka. “Do you speak English? Speak English!”
My blood boiled, and I also felt panic. I knew exactly what was happening. I was being “triggered”—to use an overused word—by this bully. All the feelings associated with being bullied, leered at, and jerked around by prison guards while my son was inside came to the fore.
I was next.
“You can’t bring that suitcase in here!?” he screamed, as though it was the first time anyone had brought a suitcase to an embassy.
“You’re going to have to go leave that somewhere and come back,” he said.
“But I have a 10 o’clock appointment,” I said.
“Well it might fit through the scanner, but if it doesn’t, you can’t enter.”
I knew from eyeballing it that it would fit. He probably did too, but he had to make his point—that he was in charge.
A second Aussie guard, who was manning the scanner yelled, “She’s got electronics in here!” as though he was seeing the outline of a bundle of TNT and a lighted fuse.