1 May 2008


There are many ways in which you can be made to feel tiny, powerless, frustrated, anxious, guilty, and utterly alone and homesick.

My flight was due to leave at 9:45am from LA and arrive in Vancouver at about 12:40. My aim was to check in at 7:45am, so the night before I packed everything neatly into my bags, and made sure everything was in order – passport, e-ticket, address in Vancouver, departure form for the USA, toiletries in a clear plastic bag, sharp stuff in check-in luggage, etc. We went to bed early, but I woke up in the middle of the night and stayed awake for at least an hour. I woke up again just before 6am and turned off the alarm (set for 6:30) before it had a chance to go off. Showered, dressed, ate a bagel. Said goodbye to the hospitable Rohan at about 6:50, and schlepped my bags over to the corner of Rose and Lincoln to catch the bus. The walk took me longer than expected – probably about 25 minutes. I caught the bus at 7:20-ish, and all ran smoothly. Talked a bit to a guy who lives in LA but grew up in Montreal, and was nice in that friendly American way. Hopped off at the LAX shuttle bus, and had the following amusing exchange:

“Hi. Excuse me, does this shuttle go to Terminal 7?”
“Oh no, it goes to New Jersey.”
“. . .”
“It goes first to New Jersey, and then to Terminal 7.”
“. . . Ha! Stop shitting me!”
“Oh, I ain’t shitting you. . . Naw, it goes to all the terminals.”

Got off at Terminal 7 at about 8:10am, to find that it only services United Airlines. My ticket was for Air Canada. Asked one of the few customer service people, and he confirmed that it was Air Canada operated by United, and I could do self check-in with an Australian passport. Got to self check-in, and tried to do so. Couldn’t. Talked to another person on the phone next to the check-in bit, and eventually got a confirmation number from her (it was so loud in the airport I could barely hear myself think, let alone understand someone talking 60 miles an hour on the phone), did all the check-in business, and a guy came over to put my bags through. At which point he looked at my Australian passport with its visa waiver thingy and told me I had to wait for someone higher up on the chain. Waited. Waited. Felt a headache coming on. About 15 minutes later someone came, took a look at my passport, pressed something like 4 keys on the computer and sent me on my way.

At about 8:40, already frustrated at the stupid “Easy check-in” system of ineptitude, I made my way to security. First up someone examined my passport with all manner of little torches – presumably to detect forgery – and asked me how old I was. When I said 26 (which, you know, I am, as it says on my passport) she exclaimed how young I looked “with yo’ baby face!” She was nice, though (and rather amusingly said, “Atta boy”, when I handed her my passport), so I was happy again. Until I got to the scanning section, where I had to take off pretty much all my clothes (OK, shoes, socks, belt, keys, coins, jacket or jumper) and put things in separate trays. So caught up was I with making sure I was OK to get through, I forgot to take my laptop out of my bag. It got put through again after took the laptop out, asked about the camera, put it back on the conveyor belt. Walked through the metal detector and was asked to once again produce my passport and boarding information. Oh, the dreaded words. “I’ll just ask you to step aside here, sir. You’ve been selected by the airline for further security screening.” I waited in the little pen, surrounded by ropes, until yet another security officer took my bag and shoes and other trays of bits and pieces, and asked for my passport and boarding info. Off to the side I went, where I got the pat down from the guy (I wonder if they do like Australian airports tend to do and use female security to pat down women passengers? I did notice that through my entire time at the airport I got ‘Sir’ three or four times, ‘boy’ and ‘Ma’am’ only once). He then proceeded to swab my computer, shoes, and every pocket of my bag, and threw out the bottle of water I had completely forgotten about. The swabs went into a little machine thing, which told me that no traces of explosives were found on any of my things. I was quite happy about that. Once the last one was done, he handed me my belt, said, “Pack your stuff up”, and wandered away, so I was left in the middle of the security section of LAX with my stuff all over the table putting on my shoes and feeling more alone than I have for ages. If I could have wished for one thing right then it would have been for a friend (preferably Dan) to be waiting for me to give me a hug at the other side.

No such luck. Instead I found myself walking several miles to my departure gate and wondering how the hell I was going to be able to get through all this shit when I flew in from Toronto with only an hour and a half between that flight and the flight out to Auckland/Melbourne. After the disgusting coffee the day before I went for a café latte at Starbucks, which was acceptable after I added 2 sugars and a good few shakes of chocolate and cinnamon. I sat down to relax in the departure lounge for the last 10 minuted before boarding, but immediately got paged to come to the desk. Once there I was required once again to produce my passport and boarding info, was asked if I was coming back through the USA within thirty days, got my visa waiver info reattached to my passport, and then removed, watched the three customer service people try to assign me a seat on two different computers, and started stressing again that I was not ever going to be able to leave the hellhole that is LAX.

Seriously, it’s enough to make me paranoid about travelling as a transperson.

But I did. I made it. I’m now on the (overheated) plane to Vancouver with a huge group of middle-aged American couples who are all heading to the same thing in Canada (no idea what). The current temperature in Vancouver is allegedly 8 degrees. Given that I’ve spent the last 4 days sun(burn)ning myself in temperatures between about 25 and 32 degrees, I am not looking forward to the cold. Out the dirty window I can just see the west coast of the USA scribbling its way into the ocean, pressing against lines of hills, looking sleepy and yellow-dry under the haze.

Me on the plane today

I’m looking forward to seeing friends, and I am really excited about the conference, but at the moment I am tired and feel like crying and I want nothing more than to crawl into my own bed with my own Dan and sleep for a year.

ETA: HOLY FUCK! A MOUNTAIN! Um, sorry. It’s just huge and has snow all over it. I wonder what mountain it is. Wow.

ETA2: Oh, and they also cut the lock off my checked through luggage and went through it to check out if that was explosive, too.

ETA3: VANCOUVER. IS. GORGEOUS. And not cold, but refreshingly cool. Holy moly. It’s beautiful. Stunning. Mountains with snow when you look down the street. Clichés of awesome. And our condo is, one might say, premium. Very civilised. Az scored on this one!

ETA4: I’ll try to get my photos up soon. Some are already on flickr.

Planewing at sunrise over the Pacific


  1. Ahaha, on the plane from SF to Seattle I was writing an email and had to interrupt myself with OMG WE ARE FLYING OVER A GIGANTIC MOUNTAIN WITH SNOW!!!!!1111!!!

    I like that you did the same thing in your blog post. That mountain is hella impressive.

  2. If it's any consolation, it's not just the transness - Air Canada is SHIT for check-in procedures. I'm sorry you had such an awful time of it.

  3. i am your own dan, about to go into your own bed, without his own jonathan :( miss you heaps. saving up all the hugs for when you get back - there'll be a giant explosion of hugs!

  4. YOU ARE HEEERE YAAAY! I'm sorry you had such a shitty time getting here. For what it's worth, Anna's right: it's unlikely it was just the transness. Yay? :P "Shitty service for everybody!"

    The huge freakin' mountain was probably Mt. Baker, which amusingly is quite close to where my queer great-aunt lives (as opposed to my rather famous but hush-hushedly queer great aunt on the other side).

  5. hi all! i have a suspicion that the mountain might actually be mount rainier, if it's between sf and seattle. it seemed to appear out of nowhere, and was definitely the highest peak in the area.

    well, it was united air, but it was an air canada booking. i don't know. i'm flying westjet to toronto and american airlines back to la. i'm going to have to try to get a seat really close to the exit on the toronto-la flight so i can run off the plane and get through customs quickly. also i hope i can check my luggage through, so i can actually catch the flight home! and get hugs!

  6. OH. MY. GOD.
    I'm so sorry Jonno. That is terrible.
    That check in system at United LAX is crazy.... Aside from anything, it needs a proofread. Half of the automation doesn't make sense, and there often aren't enough people hanging around to help you. RE: search - I ALWAYS get the search (*make a sniggering remark about looking "frisk worthy" here*). Once, when they searched my wallet, they thought they had found the address of a drug dealer / contact written on a small piece of paper. It was in fact, Barry Crockers address... which was nice because they didn't believe "filmmaker" on my VISA form.
    It was a pleasure having you over.... and I'm glad you made it safe, even if it was stressful.