The Brisbane of My Existence

This blog entry about the events of Tuesday, July 09, 2013 was originally posted on July 12, 2013.

PART 6 (DAYS 12-14): “Put your bag on the scale,” the nice Virgin Australia employee requested of me in Los Angeles International Airport. While my luggage’s width and height were within carry-on boundaries, its long depth made it look (and weigh) suspiciously heavy. “You’ll have to check it in.”

“Okay,” I accepted. “I’m told that if I have to check it in, it has to be tagged all the way to Port Moresby [in Papua New Guinea].” This was the advice of Ally, the organizer of the press junket to PNG I was about to embark on. I’d have a small window of time to transfer from the Virgin Australia flight to the PNG-bound Qantas one, and any bit of time saving would help, if possible. The woman did her thing on the computer while I changed shoes; I figured if I had to check in a bag, I might as well put my heavier hiking boots in the bag instead of wearing them to reduce bulk.

“[We don’t have a partner with the other airline,]” said the woman. “[You have to get your bag, clear customs, and then recheck it.]” Ally had told me this was protocol, so it wasn’t unexpected. But I explained the small window of time to see what the airline could do. It’s all just luggage redirection, right? She did some magic on her computer and made an exception for me — and even made some calls to approve of this. I heard my last name several times as the guy who’ll be allowed to carry-on a bag that was too heavy. “It’s okay, you can carry it on,” she informed me.


“Yes, don’t worry. We’ll handle it.”

“Thanks,” I said, but I was still skeptical. “Are you sure, it’s okay?”

“Yes, don’t worry.” She smiled.

CALGARY > PHOENIX > LOS ANGELES > BRISBANE > PORT MORESBY > TUFI. That was the plan of my 38-hour transit time to get from Canada to Papua New Guinea, which wasn’t too bad considering four of those hours were spent drinking 2-for-1 margaritas with my friend Robin on the Hermosa Beach pier during my LAyover. Boarding the Brisbane-bound flight from LAX was an easy affair — easier than I thought since I didn’t have to check in my bag, and could simply have it with me to carry-on with me to PNG. Until…

“Your bag is too heavy,” the Virgin Australia attendant told me at the LAX gate.

“It’s okay, I’m ‘Trinidad.’ I’m the guy that got permission to carry this on.”

“Who told you that?”

“Uh,” I stammered. “Man, I should have gotten her name.”

Our arguments went back and forth, but it was no use.

“Well, you have to check this in. Look at it, it won’t even stand on its own.”

Damn those hiking boots tipping the balance.

“I’m fine with checking it in,” I told her. “But it has to be tagged all the way to Port Moresby. Can you do that?”

“Yeah, we can do that,” she answered. “What’s the airport code?”

“P.O.M.,” I informed her. I showed her my printed e-ticket details. Qantas Flight 349 to Port Moresby. Without the use of a computer, she put a hastily handwritten tag on it with “POM” and “QF 349,” slapped on a barcode sticker, and took it from me.

Fourteen hours later, I found myself in the Land Down Under, in Brisbane, the departure point for many flights going to Papua New Guinea’s capital, Port Moresby. I followed the herd to the immigration line, where I was led to the slowest international-passport-holder line ever; it was one of those situations where every other line is clearing five more people faster than yours, so fast that the line attendant lets you in the slower line switch lanes — but with the people behind you. Entire 40-person Chinese tour groups were clearing ahead of me, while I just stood there, wasting 45 minutes I wouldn’t get back. I finally entered the country of Australia, as a visitor for “0 days,” since I’d be in transit. The immigration officer stamped me in with that understanding.

I went over the designated carousel to confirm that my bag was not there, which made me believe it had actually transferred planes through the inner workings of the airport. I walked around the carousel to make sure no bags were left — it was practically empty — but my confusing look caught the attention of some women at the baggage services desk. They paged a Chinese sounding name, and stared at me like I might be him.

“That’s not me,” I went over as a joke, revealing my American accent.

They laughed at their ignorance. “OH! You speak English!”

“Let me ask you something while I’m here,” I told them. “I don’t see my bag here, so can I assume that it will be on the plane to Port Moresby? I’m just transferring.”

“Oh, you shouldn’t be here at all,” one woman told me. “You have to go back there, get this [customs card] canceled, and go back to the transit desk.”

The first run around. I went back to immigration, and a friendly Aussie officer named Tomas helped me out. He canceled my customs card number via telephone, and had my entry visa officially crossed out. I was no longer in the country of Australia again, technically speaking. Tomas escorted me back beyond the maze of ropes where I had just wasted close to an hour of my transit time already.

“I just followed the crowd into here,” I told him.

“No worries,” he said. “Certainly, you’re not the first person that’s done this.” He explained the common confusion: to go to the transit desk, you have to actually enter a duty free shop and exit on the other side.

A quick X-ray and explosive swab test later, and I was in the airport with all the departure gates and boutiques easily walking distance away. I still had two hours to kill, which I spent at the cafe across from Gate 80, the upcoming gate for the POM-bound flight. I figured I’d just work on my blog and suck down coffee until after the current Hong Kong boarding was done, walk over and get my boarding pass. It wasn’t until another hour later that I realized the gate had been switch to 82, and that the agents at 82 couldn’t print me a boarding pass, so I’d have to go back near where I came from at another transit desk.

“You haven’t cleared customs yet,” another agent told me. “I can’t give you a boarding pass. You have to go back down, get your bag, clear customs, then check it back in.” She explained the whole ordeal about the airlines, Virgin Australia and Qantas, not playing well with each other when it came to baggage transfer.

“I was down there and my bag wasn’t there. I figured it made it on the plane.”

“No, there’s no way that could happen,” she told me. “I see here your three friends checked in already?”

“They arrived yesterday.” Ally the organizer, plus the two other journalists heading to POM, had arrived in Brisbane a day early to recuperate, and they were already checked in, and in the airport, somewhere.

I sent a frantic text to Ally: Totally lost my bag. Can’t get a boarding pass. Scrambling. Time was running out; they were already at the gate, waiting for me.

No time to argue. I ran back downstairs, only to be faced with an immigration line with an army of Chinese tourists already entering the maze.

“Do I have to go through this? I was just here and I wasted an hour,” I explained to the officer with all the hastily-spewed details.

“Wait here,” she said, before ignoring me to attend to the Chinese. Fortunately Tomas who helped me before, recognized me.

“They sent you back here?”


He saved the day again, expediting me through immigration, cutting all the Chinese. I officially entered Australia again with a new stamp and ran to the baggage services desk where the two women I spoke to before were occupied with a Chinese tour group. A friendly woman named Iggy came to my rescue.

“What flight were you on?”

“The one from LA.”

“Oh, you should have been here hours ago.”

“I was. The bag wasn’t here.” I explained what had happened and showed her the ghetto-looking handwritten tag receipt I had. It was so makeshift, she chuckled a little.

“That doesn’t look good,” she smirked. “Wait here.”

She went off to two desks, and made calls on her CB radio and I was in good hands, I thought. I had only thirty minutes before gate closure to find my bag, clear customs, go upstairs, check in, exit immigration, and run to the gate. Which seemed slightly possible if there was a miracle factor. But then, I felt a rumbling in my bowels.

Oh shit oh God oh no. Not now. Holy shit.

Suddenly, the laxative properties of the coffee I’d had near the gate was taking its toll. Sphincter muscles were suddenly at DEFCON 1.

Iggy came back with a positive look on her face. She found the bag, and assured me it’d make it to Port Moresby, albeit not necessarily on my flight. In the meantime, I had to do whatever I could to get myself on the plane. “Go here and clear customs. We’re on Level 2. Take the lift to Level 4, and then check into the flight.”

I ran. But then there was another line with another Chinese tour group. “Can I just expedite through this line?” I asked the custom agent, explaining the siutation.

“No, you have to do this.”

I stood in single file, tensing my butt muscles, hoping for the best.

Keep your shit together, Trinidad, I thought. Literally.

There were twenty people ahead of me, and only twenty minutes to do this, run upstairs, find the counter, get a boarding pass, exit the country again, etc. Fortunately a dog came arond to sniff our stuff in one big group, although I was wary it might smell the pending effects of coffee inside me.

“Go ahead,” the woman with the dog finally cleared me.

Level 2, check. Lift to Level 4, check. Run, run. Qantas. Qantas. Where’s Qantas? Find Qantas.

“Excuse me, where’s the Qantas desk?”

“Over there.”

That’s totally not Qantas. That’s Etihad you bitch. Ugh, holy shit I gotta shit. Qantas Qantas. Let me ask these people.

“Mr. Trinidad?”


The counter was for Air Niugini, the codeshare partner for my Qantas flight. They were expecting me. A boarding pass was already being printed and they were still making calls to get my bag on the plane. Two people manned a computer and a phone, while I concentrated on my internal situation. Then my phone rang from an American number.

“Hello? Hello?” I replied, calmly, trying to find reception. It was Tina, of the other journalists on the other end, checking up on me. From their point of view, it was also stressful. They were at the gate, doing everything they could to hold the plane.

Ten minutes until gate closure. “Can you have someone escort you through the gates?” she asked.

“I’ll try.”

It was already understood that that was the plan. Air Niugini (New Guinea) attendant walked me over with confidence. “We found your bag, it’s going on the plane.” We briskly walked over to immigration. “Don’t worry, it’s raining in Brisbane. You’re not missing anything,” he said to make light of the situation.

A stamp in my passport declared me out of Australia again, and I cut another line at security by the power invested by his authority. With five minutes to spare, I was back by the gate, where Ally, Tina, and Emily were waiting, excited to see me.

“Well that was fun, wasn’t it?” I smiled to them, transfering the light of the situation.

In the end, the plane was delayed an hour anyway due to runway traffic and rain, which was good because it gave me time to explode in the bathroom.

WHEN WE FINALLY ARRIVED IN PORT MORESBY THREE HOURS LATER, I was reunited with my bag, which I’d not seen since L.A. One instance of the ongoing drama of airline travel and been resolved, but that was soon replaced with a new one.

“The plane to Tufi left already,” Ally informed us. Which was weird because it was a private charter flight to a resort that didn’t necessarily have to fly on an exact schedule, and could have totally waited for us if they had bothered to look up flight stats of our delayed arriving flight. But they didn’t — an indicator of how things worked in the uber-relaxed country of Papua New Guinea, and how anything could happen. The missed flight wouldn’t leave again for another two days, which meant we were now forced to figure out a Plan B — accommodations and things to spend our time constructively — while being stranded in the gritty, industrial capital city of Port Moresby and its environs.

Next entry: #AnythingCanHappen

Previous entry: The Rodeo Within A Rodeo

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Comments for “The Brisbane of My Existence”

  • dude… your sphincter is still good… mine is not… holding is getting harder!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  07/12  at  06:35 AM

  • More poo stories!  yes!!

    Posted by Sara  on  07/13  at  04:03 PM

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This blog post is one of fifteen travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip: Cowboys, Duk-Duks, and Kiwis," which chronicled a five-week trip through the Canadian Rockies, followed by Calgary's Stampede rodeo festival, an assignment through different regions of Papua New Guinea, and a wintery jaunt to New Zealand's South island.

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The Rodeo Within A Rodeo


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