Escape from Australia

I flew down from Brisbane to Sydney earlier this week as the Brisbane casino was closed for renovations and the next decent flight I could get out of Australia was from Sydney to Manila. (note: going to Australia or the southern parts of South America are always a pain… it is near impossible to get a decent flight under 9 hours to ANYWHERE and even if you do the cost is usually really expensive).

I spent a few days just playing at the casino in Sydney (and cleaned up yet again). I have decided that I am now turning pro or semi-pro as a poker player. I don’t know what that means exactly… but what it means to me is that a fair amount of my travel schedule will revolve around major tournaments around the world. I used to think of poker as a fun pastime which was a great way to enter into a new city as a poker table can be quite a social event… I’d normally go to a city, head to the casino, play some poker and have a few drinks before heading out to pester the local women. But now I am thinking of making the poker part of my travels a main reason for the traveling itself. I also aim to find more places where I can surf also… if I find places where the poker action is good and has good surfing, I may stay there for a long time.

Anyway, that’s my new plan for this week.

In the meantime, I HAD to get out of Australia. Australia, and Surfer’s Paradise in particular, actually meets my criteria of having decent poker action and surfing. But the casinos in Australia are painfully frustrating. They are so over regulated by the government that it is painful. I guarantee you from the time you enter into an Australian casino until the end of your evening, you will be told not to do something at least 5-10 times. No cell phones sir… No headphones… no eating here sir… sir, no talking during the hand… etc…etc….etc!!!

This, combined with the horrendous nightlife had me pining to get out. I made it to the airport 2 hours early, planning to have a relaxing lunch before my 8 hour flight to Manila. But Australia had one last jab at me on my way out.

I rarely ever show up early for flights. In fact, whenever I show up 1.5-2 hours early for a flight all I ever find are really long line-ups as that is when all the sheeple show up as they are told. But, I had nothing to do and I dreaded the thought of missing my flight so I went nice and early.

I walked up to the Qantas aisle to more than 300 people all standing in one of the longest airline line-ups I’ve ever seen. There appeared to be 3 Qantas staff working to check in these 300 people! I just shrugged and thought… well, I’ll be out of here soon… no more Australian rules, regulations, police, bad attitudes and bad service.

I waited in line for an hour and a half… by then they started to call into the line, “Anyone for Manila please exit the queue and go to Aisle 24�. I went there and it was the business class check in, which also had a line-up and had only 3 people working (note: I think I’ve realized part of the reason why service in Asia is so good… most places have 3 times more staff than needed just because staff are so cheap… it is quite the opposite in unionized Soviet Canuckistan and Aushwiztralia).

I waited another 10 minutes in that line and now my flight was leaving in less than 15 minutes. I began to panic… another day in Australia?? I was so close to being back in idyllic Asia!!! Then one of the old, haggy attendants closed her little station… I looked around… there were lots of people waiting in the business class line-up. I shouted out to her, “hello?�… she heard me but tried to ignore me. I did it again… and again. Finally she looked up angrily and snapped, “I’m closing!�. Great business class service, eh! I replied, “Oh ok, no problem. Don’t worry about these people who’ve been waiting hours. Enjoy your union mandated coffee break.�

After another five minutes I got helped… “Where are you going today sir?�. I replied, “Manila.�. We don’t fly to Manila you must be mistaken. Err, what’s the emoticon for being perplexed? Well… anyway, I just stood there dumbfounded. “Well, I have a ticket on your airline to Manila, so someone here is incorrect.� She then asked, “What country?�.. again, perplexed… “Manila….. Philippines!�.

“No, sorry… are you sure you are looking for Qantas?�… this went on for a bit as she walked around asking random people. Finally she came back and she said, “Oh, flight 157, why didn’t you say so�… I just stood there dumbfounded.

Then she said, “Ok, you are on standby�.

Ok, now I am just getting angry… it is hard enough for me to put up with Camerican style service to begin with but this was getting ridiculous.

I informed her I had a ticket and was not on standby. She told me that I was late and they gave away my seat. I informed her that I had been standing in the cattle train behind me for an hour and a half.

I went off on her… she then said, “You are from Canada, surely you must be used to the practice of overselling flights.�… I told her that yes, unfortunately, I was from Canada but I never got used to the communism, no matter whether it was in Canada or Australia.

It took another 5 minutes and a lot of walkie talkie’ing (is this the best technology they have in this backward country?)… finally they got me a seat.

Then she asked me if I had an onward ticket. I never have an onward ticket because I never even know where I am going next, but it has become standard in post-9/11 (read: post fascist global police state controls) to always have an onward ticket if isn’t your country of residence… sometimes I know it will be an issue and I print up a fake ticket, but I didn’t see my visiting the Philippines as being a potential problem… after all, what were they worried about, that I was leaving the comforts of the welfare-state of Canada to live off the system in the Philippines? Highly unlikely.

But this old hag demanded I have an onward ticket. I told her it was an e-ticket. She said she needed to see it printed on a piece of paper. I told her to give me a printer and I’ll print one out… she told me she couldn’t let me on the flight without an onward ticket and began reading all the exact rules. She basically told me I was out of luck! I asked for her supervisor. She told me I couldn’t talk to her.

I then said, “Listen, look at my passport… I travel EVERYWHERE, on a weekly basis… if the reason for this rule is to make sure people don’t get stuck in a country without the means to get home and end up being a drain on the state, I hardly think this is an issue here…� I then pulled out $5,000 in cash I had in my pocket (poker winnings from the last few days) and said, “That will last me 5 years in the Philippines!�

She still denied me and now was treating me really badly. She told me she was going to take me off the flight if I kept acting like this. I now was yelling at all the staff, demanding the supervisor. Her supervisor finally came over and actually had a brain and within 10 seconds I was on my way. The old lady seemed visibly angry that I had gotten on the flight!!! Unbelievable.

So, I cleared the 1st hurdle, but not in the clear yet!

First came customs. I am not exaggerating here… 100 people in line, ONE customs official checking you out of the country! I went to the front of the line and explained my flight was leaving in 5 minutes and some nice people let me in.

I then got through that and it was on to security. The line-up wasn’t too bad as the bottleneck was at the Customs section. I had to take all the liquids and aerosols out of my bag… my laptop… then they ran that through.

But apparently they missed my toothpaste container on the first run through… they ran my bag through 2 more times… the total time it took to get me through security, and throw away my toothpaste, was about 10 minutes.

I then grabbed all my stuff and ran for the gate, convinced I had missed the flight. I get there and they hadn’t even begun to board yet (something that would have been nice of the check-in person to tell me so I didn’t run the whole way). Of course, I should have expected this as most flights in socialist states are constantly delayed or cancelled completely.

So, after one hour of waiting, I FINALLY escaped!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am on the plane to Manila right now and besides exhaustion, my only other emotion is relief… It’s like escaping from jail getting out of Aus!

I’ll spend 2 days in Manila and then it’s on to Boracay… after that, no idea. For now I’ll just enjoy my new found freedom!

–Note: I am in Manila now and within my first 5 hours have already had a better time than I had my entire two weeks in Australia!!! Ahh, it’s good to be back into a land of freedom!