Getting ready for a big K&L trip is always a little nerve-racking because you have to be in top form if you expect to make it out alive. You can’t go in with so much as a sniffle. I always try to dry out for a few days and exercise a bit before I embark on a ten day bender, but I’ll admit I rested more than usual before leaving for Australia because of the circumstances. First off, I’ve never been a fan of red-eye flights because I’ve never been able to sleep on them. I end up arriving at my destination in rugged shape, often with little energy, and I have to play make-up right off the bat. Having suffered from several crippling cases of jet lag in my life—to the point that I’ve fallen asleep at a dinner table during a business appointment—I wasn’t looking forward to this journey: an 11:30 PM Wednesday night flight out of SFO to Sydney that would last fourteen hours and get me into Australia on Friday morning. The problem with long international flights when it comes to the booze business is knowing the task ahead of you. From the moment you step off the plane you’re going to be tasting, swirling, and drinking serious amounts of alcohol. Even when you’re 100% fresh in the morning, a long and detailed wine or spirits tasting can quickly take the wind out of your sails. But how fresh could I possibly be after working all day in the Redwood City store, waiting all night for my flight, spending fourteen hours on a plane, then connecting to Melbourne, and spending another hour and a half in the car out to the Yarra? I had a premium economy seat at least, and I had heard that Qantas’s cabin was quite spacious, so I was slightly optimistic. When we finally boarded at around quarter-to-eleven, and I saw my window seat, however; I was overjoyed. Tons of leg room, comfortable chairs, and a big fluffy pillow to rest my head. “I can do this,” I thought to myself; “I’m a veteran traveller at this point. I need to learn how to sleep in the air.”
While I’m not normally a fan of sleep aids because I don’t like being drowsy, I decided to get on the Tylenol PM train everyone keeps telling me about. There’s an idealistic part of me that wants to try and fall asleep naturally, but in this situation I decided to go with the pragmatic advice. It was just a matter of when to apply it. About ten minutes before we were scheduled to take off, I swallowed two pills, handed my water glass to the attendant, then put my head back, closed my eyes, and started to meditate a bit. I knew something had to be amiss, however, when another twenty minutes went by we were still at the gate. That’s when the captain came on the PA and said: “Well, ladies and gentlemen, we’ve got a bit of an issue here, and it’s one I’ve never experienced in my career.” We were all intrigued. He continued: “Due to the weather here today a number of connecting flights didn’t make it in time to board our flight to Sydney, so we’re missing over fifty passengers.” Problem? That’s not a problem. Judging from the smiles on the faces around me, I think all of us were pretty excited about having a little extra room for the next fourteen hours. But then he added: “The plane is unfortunately now out of balance and we can’t take off until we correct it. We have too many people sitting in the front and not enough weight in the back. Therefore, we’re going to need another twenty minutes to rearrange all the luggage and then we’re going to ask about thirty of you to move to the back of the plane just for takeoff. Once we’re in the air and the seatbelt sign has been switched off, you can move back to your seat. Sorry for the inconvenience.”
I already knew I was going to be one of those thirty people. I could sense it. Sure enough, my row was called for voluntary Qantas equilibrium service. To be honest, I wouldn’t have had an issue with temporarily moving had the drugs not begun to kick in. I was already nodding off in my chair when they first made the announcement, and now just minutes later I was being snatched from imminent slumber and moved to the very last row in the fuselage, smashed into a middle seat between two large gentlemen with very little elbow room. There are two tips I can give you thus far when flying to Australia: 1) the Quantas premium economy upgrade is worth every penny, and 2) Tylenol PM isn’t just a sleep aid, it’s a mood-altering and necessary narcotic. Despite the late departure, being forced to leave my seat for a good forty-five minutes, and the uncomfortable nature of my new position, I really didn’t care one bit. Even when I thought about how annoyed I was to have to leave my comfy seat, I couldn’t muster one bit of frustration. I just sat there in a trance-like state, emotionless and calm. It was incredibly peaceful. After we took off and I finally got back to my seat, it was like moving from a twin to a king mattress. Back in Modesto during the nineties, we’d go hot-tubbing quite often, and one thing you’d do to refresh yourself and intensify the heat every now and again was climb out of the spa, then jump into the cold swimming pool for a body shock. When you finally got back into the spa to warm yourself up again, the heat would feel twice as relaxing as before. That’s what moving from premium economy, to the worst row in economy, and then back to premium economy felt like for me. In fact, I was so comfortable getting back in my original seat that I immediately conked out for eight straight hours. Poof!
When I finally came to and checked my watch, I was completely confounded. It had been almost nine hours since our departure?! What had I been doing the whole time? Sleeping? I couldn’t believe it. I feel like a million bucks now sitting in the Sydney terminal, despite the fact I still have another flight and drive ahead of me. Modern science is a wondrous thing. I definitely should have boarded the PM train earlier on in my career. I definitely won’t fly without it in the future.