Sunday, November 27, 2011

On to Tahiti

I twisted around to get a look at my back. Ugh. A linear bruise where I'd hit the hotel shuttle door as I dramatically exited it on my ass at Auckland's airport.

"I think your shoes are slippery," offered the driver.

"I think I was stepping over the luggage you just piled in the doorway," I shot back.

Stupid, I thought. Should have waited for him to move the bag, but more interestingly, what was up with all this immediate blame-volley of the last few days? At the Air New Zealand counter yesterday—after the first of two incredibly long hellish waits unlike any I'd seen since they invented online check-in, take the hint Air New Zealand—the check-in clerk had said she couldn't check me in without a paper printout  of my ticket.

"Can't I just show you my receipt number on my phone," I'd asked, perplexed. Clearly, I was in the computer and she had my name up on the screen. I'd been around the whole world without showing paper to the airlines. E-tickets are supposed to stop all that paper.

"It's New Zealand," she'd explained. "You need a paper printout of your ongoing ticket to enter the country."

"But I'm leaving tomorrow on Air New Zealand, won't your tickets show that? I'm checking in now to do this."

"Sorry, you have to nip over there to Customer Service to get a printout."

"You can't print it here?"

"No. You don't have to wait in the line again, just come back."

I wandered around awhile searching for Customer Service until a guy in a uniform showed it to me.

"Here's a printout of your itinerary all the way to Newark," said the Customer Service rep. "I'm suppose to charge you five dollars for this but I'll let you slide this time."

"But I haven't done anything wrong!"

"Well, it's our policy to charge five dollars for printouts and I'm not charging you."

"No, no...that's not right. I didn't DO ANYTHING. You're not letting me slide."

"But I'm supposed to charge you five dollars."

If you've been reading this long, you know that I am non-confrontational on many things, but when I perceive something to be clearly unjust or illogical, I just can't let it go. Like the slow leak in the rental car tire in Perth. I had separate insurance to cover the deductible, but damned if I was going to let them charge me for a slow leak I'd told them about, one that had been there anywhere between a day and a month, even if it wasn't coming out of my pocket.

"I DIDN'T DO ANYTHING. You're not doing me a favor."

"Well, here's your itinerary."


I'd still managed to be polite when I'd returned to the check-in counter, but they hadn't been able to check me all the way through to my destination since I had to stay overnight in Auckland, which was where I'd visited the ever-so-exciting sight known as the "supermarket."

On today's flight—which weirdly started on the 28th of November and finished on the 27th in Tahiti—I'd ended up next to a large Australian man who was really chatty, the gist of which was this:

"Why would you go to Easter Island? Isn't it just a bunch of stone heads?"

"Why would YOU go to Tahiti? Doesn't Australia have beaches?"

"I'm not going for the beach. I'm going to buy a yacht."

Back in Auckland, I was standing in line, a little light-headed from careening out of the shuttle and with my lower back smarting.

"Don't hurt yourself now," I thought. "You only have a month to go." I'd been hurt a month before the end of the trip in 2001, in the Ethiopian truck accident.

I had a long time to think about it in the Air New Zealand check-in line.

But I'd ended up in Papeete, still light-headed and tired from all this doing nothing on airplanes. I checked into the Swiss guesthouse I'd booked into to save money (Tahiti is pricey) and headed over to the food trucks on the waterfront.

Which were cheap and wonderful.

Tahiti Graffiti


  1. Hey Marie,

    Don't let the book in procedures of ANZ make you write off travelling the country.

    New Zealand is one of the most beautiful countries IN THE WORLD so you should take the time to see it. The North Island is beautiful but the South Island is spectacular and all of this packaged up in just 1000 miles. Kiwis are great people, a bit like Aussies but not quite so laid back and with a different accent.

    Hope you make the effort and I look forward to reading what you think of Aotearoa when you go.


    Audrey J Holloway

  2. Thanks, Audrey! I did go to New Zealand. Three times in the past! The longest trip there was about four weeks in January of 2003, when I was living in Australia. The Aussie and I flew over on Pacific Blue and hired a car in Auckland, drove around with our tent, left it at the ferry, and picked up another car in Wellington. This was an amazing trip. Though we did get massively rained on in the Southern Alps and someone broke into our car there while we were asleep next to it in the tent (I was awake because I was getting soaked). But everything else was fantastic. Thanks for writing.