Lemons and Lemonade

I have a story to tell, mostly about the guy me. I figure you might enjoy it–and there are a few pictures too. This is about my arrival in Australia in January.

My wife is Australian and since 2015 we’ve been coming here in January for a couple months (longer for my wife). The last several years we’ve had an apartment in a Melbourne suburb, which gives me opportunities to get dressed and go out down under, several of which I’ve written about.

Back in November my wife and I booked tickets to fly to Australia. The country was beginning to open up and we appeared to qualify for entry, my wife as a citizen and myself being a close relative (married) to my spouse. We read the rules, did what we thought we needed to do (enter our vaccination status on a web app, get a visa, a Covid test 72 hours before leaving, etc). Finally we were on our way, flying St. Louis/Denver/Los Angeles for the LA/Melbourne flight.

Arrive at the Qantas desk at LAX, and there’s a problem for me. It turns out I needed to submit in advance proof of my relationship with my wife (like a marriage certificate).

Nowhere in everything we read was it clear it was required (there were others in the same boat). I plead my case with the Australian government representative (Daniel, who was an extremely decent bloke) and the Qantas staff. Their hands are tied. I tell my wife to fly and I will get a hotel and file the application and hope for the best.

Get a hotel room near the airport, and file the application on the web. I don’t have a copy of our marriage certificate, but I can access online documents such as joint bank accounts with both our names on them (three in total, two in Australia). I don’t need to show we are married, because Australia accepts long term domestic partners. I figure that’s the best I can do, and try to sleep.

I also figure I have my girl clothes, so why not kill my extra day with a day out? There is a car rental place next door to my hotel, so I reserve a car, and figure out a couple of destinations.

Can’t sleep, so I get out of bed, run a bath, and begin shaving everything, at around 3 in the morning (which was 5 AM my normal time). Finally get some sleep.

Get up, get some breakfast, then do my makeup and dress. Put boy clothes over my girl stuff to get the car, plus wearing a mask to hide the makeup. The car rental place is backed up, and it takes 45 minutes in line. The staff announces they are short cars, but I get a big SUV when I only wanted a compact. But I had a car and headed to a Westfield Mall with a Macy’s and Nordstrom Rack. My two luggage bags are pretty full already, so I don’t have much room to stuff anything more in them, but fun to try on anyway. I did my final touches in the parking lot at Westfield.

I wore my Princess Highway Llama dress with a sweater I also bought in Australia. I found a few fun things to try on, and was tempted, but didn’t buy.

I walked through Nordstrom Rack, tried on a few pairs of shoes, but passed on everything there to. I had one more destination.

Venice Beach was a few miles away and I had a new pair of overall shorts and my crop-top to don for a walk along the beach. It was mid-60’s so I put on my other Aussie sweater, and chose the Pride fannypack my GG friend Michelle gave me for Christmas. I walked the paths bordering the beach, with the beach on one side and shops and houses on the other. I stopped at a Cafe and had lunch and a beer. I enjoyed the sunshine and the meal and actually got a compliment on my outfit from a young woman who said she liked my outfit.

My wife, who had arrived, called me via a video call while I was at the Cafe. I answered, although she didn’t want to see me dressed, she assumed I would do it. We talked briefly and said I would do my best to get on that night’s flight, scheduled for a 9:10 PM departure.

I turned in the car around 5, and took the shuttle to the airport, arriving around 5:30. I went to the Qantas desk so I could talk with Daniel, the Aussie guy, and plead my case.
The Australian government rejected my initial support of the bank statements, asking for a birth certificate. I called my son in Georgia and he texted copies of his American passport, his birth certificate (yeah!), and an old pdf of his expired Australian passport. One other category for approval is being the parent of an Australian citizen, and both sons are Australian citizens, so I had a second out. I posted those on the website and waited some more. Daniel promised a 7 PM phone call.

No news at 7. Daniel said he would call again at 8. Flight time was 9:10 PM, so I was running out of time. 8 o’clock came, no Daniel. Tick, tick, tick. I’m checking my application on the website and refreshing my emails regularly. Nothing.

Finally, just before 8:30 I refresh the government website and it says my case is closed. I then got an email saying I had been approved (there was an English gentleman with an Aussie son in the same predicament as me). I walk to the Qantas desk–they are closing for the night–and the Qantas guy starts working on my boarding pass. Only they have to call Australia to get an approval number, and he’s put on hold. Finally, around 8:40 he is off hold and I get my boarding pass, and so does the English gentleman. The other good news was someone canceled from business class, so I did get my business class seat (as originally there weren’t any available, my seat was going to be premium economy). The bad news is my flight is now 30 minutes away and I need to clear security, and the gate is the farthest in the international terminal.

The Qantas manager, who I dealt with a fair amount, assigned one of his staff to escort me and the English gent to the gate. The line at security isn’t too bad–except my laptop gets diverted, and there are about 5 others ahead of me having their stuff tested. More delays. My laptop gets to the front, gets put through the x-ray machine again–and diverts again! They finally hand it to me and tell the bin they put the laptop in was faulty. It’s now almost 9, but the Qantas guy is still there, so I figure I’m still good.

I get my stuff organized, and begin walking briskly to the gate. Then I started running. I made the plane at 9:04, and it didn’t leave much past the 9:10 planned time.

The flight was decent. Business class is a definite upgrade for a 14 hour flight, and I was just happy to be on the plane. Slept some, got into Melbourne without immigration issues.
Waiting for my baggage, got one, missing one. I hear the public address system calling my name. My second bag–the larger one–didn’t make the flight. Find the claim area, give them my details, and they will deliver the following afternoon. Not a big deal, as I have clothes here at our apartment. One day became two and Qantas finally delivered my second bag two days after I arrived.

So that’s my story, but it has a happy ending. I did have two good months down under, swapping two months of winter for two months of Australian summer. My return trip was uneventful, but I had some extra luggage (besides all the Dee clothes I bought, which filled one of my two suitcases). 

I had bought two boxes of Tim Tams, a yummy Aussie cookie, at Costco, one for Daniel of the Australian government, and one for Alexander, the Qantas agent who looked after me. I bought thank you cards and wrote notes thanking each of them. Upon my arrival in Los Angeles, after retrieving my luggage and clearing customs, I walked to the Qantas check in desk and found Alexander. I gave him the box, and thanked him in person. He was touched, and clearly remembered me. I asked about Daniel, and Alexander said he had returned to Australia, but he would make sure that he would receive the other box and note. I wanted them to know I appreciated everything both of them had done for me two months before.

It never hurts to say thank you.

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