19 Jan 2005
Drinks on the deck
One hot afternoon at home twelve years ago, I had no idea of the adventure on which I was to embark. No idea.
I returned from the shops and there was a strange car in the driveway, and my sister-in-law Robyn was cracking open a bottle of champagne. All right!
“Many happy returns!” I said in salute, getting down some flutes to pour the bubbly into.
“It’s for Washington,” she replied. Oh well, it was a good guess. I can’t be expected to know the birthdays of everyone in the family, can I?
The Washington reference was for my wife, off to DC for a conference. Business class. At government expense.
Spouses not included.
I was kind of jealous of her previous trip – to Paris, on my bucket list since forever – but I hadn’t given more than a passing fancy to the notion of going along with her to Washington, where she was to spend a week. Of course, I’d love it – being able to tour the Smithsonians at leisure, check out all the famous buildings and monuments that dominate television news and my favourite television series of “West Wing“, and look up a hundred historic places – but where would the money come from?
As it happened, our shares had been doing well, and when Robyn asked “Well, why don’t you go with her this time?” as she raised her glass where we sat in cool green leisure on the balcony in the long summer evening, we looked at each other and I said I’d check.
So I did. I discovered that on Wednesday night I’d left it far too late to book a Friday flight over the Internet. Still, it seemed feasible…
An urgent request
So bright and early on Thursday morning, I was banging on the door of Flight Centre in Civic.
“I want to fly to Washington tomorrow,” I blurted out, and the agent quickly and efficiently worked out the options, showed me the prices, and booked me into economy window seats when I gulped and said, “Yes, please!”
I walked out a little while later with a wallet of travel documents and a list of things to buy before I left. Adaptor plug for the laptop. New toothbrush. Guidebook. Headache tablets. And a big pack of Tim-Tams. You can’t get them overseas, you know.
Turned out that the plug was the wrong sort. My laptop needed an earth socket and prong, and I’d bought the one without an earth. Isn’t it the way that when you have a 50:50 chance, nine times out of ten you pick the wrong one?
After a summer thunderstorm that flooded the carport, I took my best chance and arrived in town only slightly damp. As I waited for a break in the traffic, I saw a streak of lightning flash across the sky and hit Black Mountain Tower fair on the sharp end. Cripes. That’s not something you see every day.
Swapped over the plug. The lady in the travel shop seemed to have heard my story before. Well, why didn’t she sell me the one I didn’t want when I came in earlier? She could have saved me a trip in the rain. Honestly!
Here’s my absolute number one best advice
But there was one more thing to do.
This trip was with Qantas, at that time pretty much my only option for flights out of Canberra. I went online and joined their frequent flyer programme. Over the years to come, the points I earned paid for five round the world trips, a few shorties to Brisbane or New Zealand, and my upcoming First Class trip to Tehran. The status credits took me to Platinum status, where baggage limits are sky-high, the best lounges await, upgrades are a good possibility, and champagne flows freely.
So my absolute number one best advice is to join any frequent flyer programmes going. Waste no chance to earn points. If you travel a lot, it will pay off bigly.
What’s that? Yes, I kept the champagne label in my journal. That evening drink began my travels. And I like champagne.