Monthly Archives: February 2014

Plane People

We arrived in Canada yesterday, flying Sydney-Auckland-Vancouver with Air New Zealand. Even with 2 kids in tow, 15 hours on a plane gives you a lot of mental blog-writing time. I was pondering how flying has changed since my first long-haul flight at the tender age of 12, good old QF002 LHR-SYD. It seemed to go on FOREVER and back then, waiting for “the movie” to be shown, hoping it’d be something decent and then getting a wry neck in the process of trying to watch it from behind the 6ft 6 giant in the seat in front of you was about the highlight of the flight. The next most exciting moments were having the meals delivered and waiting to see (between movies) how far the plane had progressed on the world map. I do recall, making the trip back again 4 years later, we flew Virgin Atlantic for one leg (we went the cheaper route via the US) and their newest planes had individual entertainment systems which was an absolute innovation then- I got to watch Single White Female which was actually rated 18+ and I was only 16… I felt like it was such a big deal!

Back then, being unable to sleep on a flight seemed like a real hardship, then once I started working I remember being so proud of myself as a shift worker for being able to get over jet lag within 24 hours (night shift is pretty good practice for that actually). Now, I don’t expect to sleep at all and to be honest I don’t really care that much, I’m just so desperate for Master and Miss L to be settled (ideally asleep!)

Anyway, more and more often now that I’m turning into a grumpy old woman, when I fly I am astounded at how stupid people can be. Sometimes I laugh at them, other times they just really get on my nerves. And so I’ve compiled a list of the 5 most irritating people to fly with:

The bogan– we are travel snobs, I readily admit it. We’re lucky enough to be able to travel fairly often and (admittedly entirely due to work perks), since we’ve known each other, either Mr L or myself has been a Gold Frequent Flyer and/or lounge member. (The benefits of lounge membership become all the more evident when travelling with children, but that’s another post). However, occasionally we choose an itinerary where we are unfortunate enough to be unable to justify paying extra or going to great lengths to fly with one of our preferred airlines and we “choose” to fly with the hoi polloi. The bogan traveller abounds on these trips and is easily recognisable by:

  • their destination- often Bali- no offence to any non-bogans who go there, or Balinese people (in fact, you have my sympathies for having to put up with the bogan Australian tourist invading your country)
  • their suitcases- usually gaudy, voluminous and quite often matching- not just matching bags but, as was the case with one leopard-print-clad traveller we queued up behind at check-in once,  clothes to match the suitcases: leopard-print leggings, scarf AND luggage!
  • their Bintang singlet-tops
  • their tattoos

The carry-on muppet– the last flight I took (prior to yesterday’s) was Sydney-Melbourne (well, technically the last flight was the return flight Melbourne-Sydney but that’d be splitting hairs). Ok, I was only going for the day so perhaps my intolerance of people with inappropriate carry-on luggage was exacerbated by the fact that I had none. But after watching 3 vertically challenged women struggling to put their 3 obviously oversized bags in the overhead lockers, it occurred to me that carry-on luggage should not be size or weight-restricted, it should be time-limited. You get 30 seconds to put it in the locker. If it takes you longer than that, you check it in. This thereby eliminates bags which are too heavy or too large but also discriminates against people who are too short to get it up there themselves. However, short people are compensated by the fact that they get sufficient leg-room once they actually sit down, so I have no sympathy for them, really.

The seat dyslexic– there’s always one… person in the wrong seat, that is. Every time I fly, someone near me is asked to get up and move by the person who has actually been allocated the seat in which the dyslexic has settled themselves. The offender always look puzzled and perplexed, but rarely embarrassed. I can forgive people for occasionally getting the wrong row: sometimes the number isn’t directly over the seat, it’s slightly in front or behind and coupled with the parallax error generated by reading it at an angle on approach… ok, maybe… But the whole window-aisle fiasco? Maybe some people fly so infrequently they don’t realise A is always window. But there’s a little diagram above every row to explain it! Perhaps it’s just wishful thinking on their part- like the lady I once had to ask to move because she was in my seat and she said “Oh but I requested an aisle seat, I always do!” Yeah well sorry, “request” doesn’t necessarily mean “get”, so move!

The baggage carousel hogs– these people wait for their luggage right up against the carousel. They drive me crazy. The bags come out in a steady stream. They do a circuit which takes between 3 & 5 mins, I’d say. Then they come round again if they aren’t picked up the first time, so it’s not like you’re going to lose your bag forever if you don’t grab it in the first 2 seconds after it comes through. These people usually have a trolley right beside them (preventing even more people from accessing the carousel) and frequently have at least 1 smallish child with them (not so small they shouldn’t be able to follow the simple instruction “stay here at a sensible distance, with the trolley, wait for me and DON’T MOVE” though, which was standard issue to us as kids at busy, highly stressful places like airports) but definitely small enough (and hyperactive and disobedient enough) to be nothing but an impediment to the luggage-retrieving process, of which they generally seem to consider themselves a crucial part.

The eager beavers– finally, those people who jump up from their seats the moment the plane has reached the terminal. I know I’m a bit of a goody two-shoes at times, but they clearly tell you, every time you fly, to wait until the captain has turned off the seat-belt sign to get up. Leaping up doesn’t get you off the plane any sooner, as people always seem to do that very organised row-by-row exit, and even if it does get you off the plane a bit quicker, you still have to wait for your bags (although I often suspect these people are carousel-hogs too….)

I have neglected to mention the DVT-phobic, mainly because they generally don’t annoy me too much, unless they are standing next to me, stretching and pacing, when I’m in an aisle seat, although I marvel at their fear of getting a DVT on a 2 hour flight when they sit still for longer than that in a movie, and probably every night at home in front of the TV. I also hate the conversation-maker (groan- “You on your way home? Travelling for work? Oh, what do you do?”…) and the person with children. I know they have a right too fly too, I have my own children, which is why, even if you fit none of the above 5 categories, I recommend you still don’t sit next to me on a plane.

Work-life balance

I’m back at work now. The “change” has come about and we are in a new phase. Along with my return to work, Master L has started preschool, Mr L has had a promotion at work and we have decided to move to New Zealand in June. Instead of the page flipping and finding ourselves in the new 2014 routine, the pages are fluttering in the breeze as we prepare ourselves for an even bigger change.

All this fluttering of pages has been quite stressful and I feel at times like I’m about to lose my place. Last week I really struggled with it all. And then it occurred to me today: it’s not so much the change that bothers me as the uncertainty. There isn’t an abundance of jobs for me in Auckland, so I’ve had to think outside the square and take a bit of a leap of faith that “something” will turn up. I have made a few enquiries and managed to find something that looks potentially promising. I’ve been struck by how much more cheerful I’ve felt each time I’ve made progress with this job opportunity. Not because it’s the perfect job, not because the idea of not working for a while bothers me unduly and certainly not because this job’s all in the bag… but because it reassures me that I can find something and it gives me something more tangible to start planning around.

I’ve always maintained that my job doesn’t define me. I like to think I work to live, not live to work. And that’s true. If I had to choose between my job and my life, my family, the job would be gone in an instant. And yet it is more to me than “just a job”. “Career” isn’t even the word I’m looking for… the job I do has required me to do a lot of study, gain a lot of experience and acquire a fairly extensive (yet specialised) set of skills. What really bothers me about not having a job to go to in NZ, the uncertainty I fear, is that if I don’t work while we’re away, I will lose a lot of the skills and knowledge I have. On the back of 2 lots of maternity leave fairly close together, how on earth would I going to function competently in my job once we get back at the end of 2016?

My job is part of who I am. No, it doesn’t define me, but it is part of me. That is, part of ME. Not “me” the mother or “me” the wife but just “me”. I go to work and leave the rest of my life behind for 10 hours. Not that I don’t think about them, show people pictures of the kids, text Mr L and curse that I forgot to take that night’s dinner out of the freezer but at work I get to talk to people about things that don’t need to involve any of that. And it’s nice.

I’ve worked for my current employer for more than 10 years. I like the people I work with (most of them, anyway) and in that time some have become good friends. But even when I do the odd bit of work somewhere different, where I don’t know people so well, I get the same feeling of “me”-ness. So I can’t even say it’s just about my work friends, it’s obviously more than that.

People talk a lot about work-life balance. But I wondered exactly what they say, so I Googled and ended up on Wikipedia (where I end up a lot). Surprisingly and somewhat reassuringly, it sums up what I’ve been trying to describe, only much more eloquently (but with annoying Americani”z”ation):

“By working in an organization, employees identify, to some extent, with the organization, as part of a collective group… However, employees also identify with their outside roles, or their “true self”… In other words, identity is “fragmented and constructed” through a number of interactions within and out of the organization; employees don’t have just one self. Most employees identify with not only the organization, but also other facets of their life (family, children, religion, etc.). Sometimes these identities align and sometimes they do not. When identities are in conflict, the sense of a healthy work-life balance may be affected.”

I don’t think my identities are in conflict, as such, in fact I think I have a pretty good work-life balance. But if I return, deskilled and unable to function at the level I do now, I know I’ll find that really hard to deal with.

Happy Australia Day!

It looks as though January 26th this year was the last Australia Day we will spend in Australia for a while. We’re moving to New Zealand!

Mr L has, for some time, been looking for a new challenge at work and so when one presented itself he was keen to seize it. I had known of his aspirations to spend a couple of years working overseas ever since I met him and, although “live overseas” was also on my Life List (kind of like a mega to-do list), I still find the prospect of upping and moving (even if it is just across the ditch) somewhat confronting, especially when everything seems to have fallen so nicely into place for 2014.

Funny, because in many ways the thought of stagnating here scares me too. So many people say “It seems like only yesterday my son was in nappies/learning to walk/starting preschool. Last week he turned 18/35/52”. I love our life here at the moment but I don’t want that to be me, saying “Master L turns 21 next month, maybe we should look at moving/renovating/getting a life of our own”.

So I drew up a quick list of pros and cons.

Starting with the pros:

  1. I’ve always wanted to live overseas for a year or two
  2. We love NZ, at least to go to on holidays
  3. Mr L is convinced it’s the right thing for him and is clearly excited about it
  4. It’s really not that far away
  5. It’s exciting!
  6. Now is the best time to do it, before the little Ls are settled in school
  7. It might be the change I need from my job, which I love but I have started to think “what next?” a bit.
  8. It’s a great chance to declutter!
  9. It might be the perfect opportunity to have that 3rd baby

 In fact, the only cons I could come up with were:

  1. Master L is starting preschool and it looks amazing!
  2. I’ve managed to establish a very neat work, preschool & childcare schedule
  3. We love our nanny
  4. We love our house
  5. Mr L has just finished building a cubby house
  6. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get a job

1 & 2 were, literally, the first objections that came to mind. Matters of convenience. When children (and life in general) have a tendency to be inconvenient, it’s tempting to hang onto the bits that work. But there will be other preschools and other serendipitous work-life arrangements. (Hopefully, that is. See con #6)

3, 4 & 5 are really matters of sentiment. Ok, so having a nanny you love is also an issue of convenience but there will be other nannies. And who’s to say our current Mary Poppins won’t get her umbrella out of her bag & fly away soon for her own reasons? The house will still be here when we get back. (I keep trying to tell myself it’s just a house, but it’s not, it’s our home. It’s the first home Mr L and I bought together and it’s the first home for Master and Miss L.) We like our neighbours and our neighbourhood. But I know there will be other amazing houses, nice neighbours and great places to live. And, should Mr L see fit, there will be other cubbies.

6 is slightly more complex. Being a few years older than Mr L, and in a different line of work, I’ve reached a point in my career where the major hurdles are overcome. That’s not to say I’ve gone as far or as high as I can go, but from here on my career path is more of a ramble- I can go to different places and visit things that interest or stimulate me, but as far as money and career-standing go, I’m pretty much there. It’s a fortunate position to be in but it does lend itself to a bit of “what next?”-ing, or else it’ll be this until retirement.

I do, however, have a job that I need to actually do in order to remain up to date and skilled. Finding another job would help me maintain these skills (to varying degrees depending on the job) but the main issue is there doesn’t seem to be any jobs for me where we’re planning to live in Kiwi-land.

So, the options for me would be:

  1. Keep asking around and hope something comes up
  2. Get occasional work either back here in Sydney or out of town in NZ
  3. Study something
  4. Get a job doing something totally different
  5. Have a baby

I should point out that having another baby isn’t meant to be a last resort. We have been talking about having a third anyway. It’s more a question of: if I’m going to be off work anyway, what better time?

I don’t have a lot of experience with uncertainty. I’d say every year since I was born, I (or my parents, before I could talk) would have been able to tell you at any time where they saw me the following year. And we’d have been right, probably to the nearest hectare. So just saying “we’ll see what happens” is a pretty big deal for me. Yes it’s exciting but there is a nagging apprehension at the back of my mind, when I say that this time next year, I don’t know with any certainty what I’ll be doing.

But I’m fairly certain we’ll have wished our friends at home “Happy Australia Day” from afar and that we’ll be gearing up for Waitangi Day instead!