mayoraasei: There is no such thing as coincidence (Default)
And why this should be a lesson to us all that one can never hope to fight Murphy's Law.

Recently I went to DC (via SF and NYC). We had initially planned on a 2.5 day stay in NYC which would give us ample time to go shopping and whirlwind-sight-seeing before we headed off to the great capital of democracy (or so they called themselves). The east coast was literally melting in the 40+ heat but it was all for a cool change by the time we arrived. Our relatives happened to be in town and dropped us off conveniently at the airport. Everything was going to plan, and whenever that thought pops into one's head, it is time to beware.

Chapter 1: It begins in Sydney
We arrived in good time, 2 hours and 45 minutes before our plane was due to fly out. The line was not long, the queue only coiling around two aisles out of about five. An hour later we had moved about ten metres. Each group at the counter was taking close to 20-30 minutes. That was when the murmuring started: apparently our flight now read "Cancelled" on the screens and on the airport website. It was still open when we first began to line up, and the counter staff showed no inclination to address us regarding this issue. They were still serving passengers, albeit slower than a snail's pace, so perhaps there was a solution.

As we finally arrived second in line to be served, two hours later and about 15 minutes from scheduled departure time, a stern looking woman informed the anxious crowd that the plane was held up in Melbourne with a damaged wing and there was absolutely no way it was going to leave ground that day. Apologies were briskly made regarding the delay in informing us, the reason cited being "the information that came through was changing every minute, they were going to fix it and then they couldn't, and now we know they can't". She suggested that they would try to fit as many people as possible onto the LA flight.

There were a whole crowd of people who were originally booked onto the LA flight stuck in line for two hours because the SF crowd couldn't be sorted. One of the counter staff called them forward and spent the next half hour sorting them out while the two others continued at a snail's pace to process the SF passengers. Then, finally when the LA crowd was gone, the woman stood up and asked "is there anyone else going to LA?" and when no one answered, she walked off, leaving another 50 passengers stranded in the queue. Really fed up at this point (especially standing second in line and there was a chance we could actually get on the LA flight) I went up and asked her if the LA flight was full, and she nodded solemnly as she continued to edge away.

Completley resigned, I returned to the queue and waited until we were served by one of the other staff, who said SHE COULD BOOK US ONTO THE LA FLIGHT. The only issue following that was there were no more connecting services available that day to NYC, the next one being 6am the next morning, which would constitute an 18 hour wait inside the airport. She also said that the airline would not provide a hotel for that stay. Aghast at having to be stranded for 18 sleep-deprived hours inside LAX (of which I have no fond memories), we resigned to rebooking our flight out of Sydney for the next day and asked about a hotel stay for Sydney. She denied they provided it. I reminded her that the woman who made the announcement had reiterated about three times that they did. She did not know how to organise it and sent us blindly to customer service desk, which had another crowd of about fifty. Fortunately we saw the woman who made the announcement wandering around the hall, and she was able to sort it out for us very quickly.

The stay at the Mercure was probably the highlight of our trip to NYC. It's a very nice place with wonderfully soft linen and the staff were courteous and helpful. By the way, UA stipulates that it only provides $10 for breakfast, $15 for lunch, and $20 for dinner. Which is complete bollocks because you can't get any decent meal at the hotel restaurant or pub under $25 for dinner. However, breakfast buffet was an amazing $10 and had a very hearty selection.

Chapter 2: It continues on the plane
I remember a long time ago I used to like UA inflight food. The proportions are heartier than China Airlines (Taiwanese) but they seem to be getting smaller by the year.

But my chief complaint wasn't so much about the inflight service or the food or any of what the staff did, but I had the great misfortune of sitting behind two off-duty flight attendants. The one in front of me had a clearly broken chair that reclined to a luxurious 50 degrees. This made the female FA next to him extremely jealous and she kept rocking the back of her chair to make it recline more, even though it should be blindingly obvious that no one else's chair reclines quite that far and honey, you work for this airline, you should know that economy only reclines 15 degrees and is yet magically capable of crushing the patella of the person behind you. She kept fishing stuff out of overhead bins and on one occasion dropped her gigantic bag that missed me and two other passengers each by about 5cm. Also, the two of them never straightened their seatbacks during meals and the on-duty staff never reminded them until we requested them to. I don't know if it's forgetfulness or bias.

Honestly, though, if you work for any airline, you'd think you'd know to straighten your seatback when people are eating because you make that announcement every flight.

Chapter 3: and crap continues in SF
Now, when we checked in on the 2nd attempt, I made sure to ask the counter staff whether or not there was enough time to make the connecting service. Looking mildly affronted, he said "you have 1 hour 40 minutes, of course you do".

Bullshit. It takes 30 minutes to get off the plane on an average day. Then you need to make it through customs and it has never taken less than 1 hour for US customs in my experience. However, I remembered a time long past when there was a fast-track corridor between international and domestic at SFO, and now I wonder if I might have been flying Qantas that time.

In any case, we took his word for it because the flight number for our connecting service to NYC was exactly the same and on our ticket it said Stopover. Often that would mean the same aircraft, and we thought hopefully that perhaps we would go through customs in NYC.

That was not the case. In fact, when we asked, the crew on our Sydney flight had never heard of the connecting service's existence. We were to go through customs like everyone else. Unsurprisingly, we finally reached the customs desk at 12:25, 15 minutes after our flight started boarding and 25 minutes before it was due to leave. The customs officer optimistically said we might be able to make it.

Then the computer system crashed =_________________=

I know this is not UA's fault, but somehow it's hard not to feel that they added unnecessary stress by booking a connection that was not logistically possible. And we were told the day before that the domestic flights were all very booked, and if the UA staff hadn't said that it was possible to make that connection, we would have asked for a later flight because at least it would ensure we had a confirmed seat.

By the time we got the customer service counter, the only flight free was 10:50pm that night, 10 hours later. We were placed on stand-by for the 2pm and 4pm flights. Not having much hope, we trundled along to the terminal and found out that both of them - by this point no longer surprising - were delayed by 2 hours. I actually got called forward for the 2pm flight, but when I told her we were a party of three, she looked extremely irritated. I asked her to rebook me for standby for 4pm, which she agreed to.

By the time the 4pm flight came around, I discovered that my name was down the bottom of the list and my parents were at the top. Extremely pissed off and extremely emotional at this point, I asked them to rectify the situation, especially since we had seen our luggage go with the 2pm flight. The woman looked pained and said she couldn't change the stand-by list. I pointed out to her, as kindly as I could muster at that point, I had declined my seat on an earlier flight and that there was no logical reason for me to end up on the bottom of the list. She checked my name. And asked again whether I had a confirmed seat. I told her yes, I had one at 10pm. She frowned and tapped at the keyboard. After a long five minutes she told me that she had not only sorted out my stand-by position, she had also fixed up my initial confirmed flight because the chick who had given me the 2pm flight had cancelled my seat without rebooking me in when I opted not to fly. AND she hadn't told me.

I really, really, really wanted to strangle someone at this point. If I hadn't noticed our names on the stand-by list, if I hadn't told her that I had a confirmed ticket at 10pm, I would've been stuck in SFO at 10pm with no confirmed flight, forever.

The feelings were slightly mollified by fortunately making the 4pm flight, and the rest of the journey went without a hitch (including the luggage, which by this time I wouldn't have been surprised if it got lost in transit), but I was so fed up with UA I had vowed never to fly with them again.

Chapter 4: There is more...
The rest of this didn't happen to me, but it happened to two family friends who were booked with us, except that their return journey commenced 2 days before ours.

...But we met them wandering aimlessly around SFO by the time we made it there (after a 3-legged plane trip from east to west coast). Apparently their adventures were far from finished.

On the 16th they left for DC Dulles airport and immediately they hit a glitch. Because they had also been on stand-by for the 4pm flight on their journey to NYC, some clever counter staff had cancelled their booking for the return flight to Sydney. By the time that was sorted, they got their boarding passes and headed for the plane. As soon as the queue got to them for boarding, they were apparently informed that the flight had been swapped to a smaller plane and they could not fit any more passengers even though they were booked and checked in AND their luggage had been ported out.

They had an overnight stay in a DC hotel before trying again the next day. The flight out to SFO was delayed. Not only that, by the time they finally arrived in SFO, they were told that the Sydney flights were fully booked until Friday and they were placed on stand-by. They did not make the flight that night and the counter staff left as soon as the flight did, so they waited around 3 hours to be served at the main customer service desk, who told them that all their partner hotels in San Francisco were booked out. They ended up spending the night in the airport with just a blanket each. They tried 3 times to check where their luggage was, but some helpful counter staff had forgotten to give them the luggage number ticket at DC, and the wonderfully enthusiastic staff at SFO told them that it was too much trouble to look up and they should just do it in Sydney. And when they finally arrived in Sydney...the luggage had not come with them. Nor on any earlier flights. It was still stranded in SFO, like those of about 15 other customers recently arrived from the US.




I think possibly the biggest flaw with a large national airline like UA is it thinks it can always rebook customers onto the next flight, in particular because they have such frequent domestic flights to larger stops. If it begins to see that it is unacceptable to whimsically delay customers 24hrs to 48hrs to more, then perhaps it would make greater effort to facilitate people being flown out. Finding out that a flight is fully booked doesn't frustrate people as much as finding out a flight has open seats but being unable to fly because of administration or logistical inefficiency.

PS: In the scheme of things this is probably insignificant, but there was a strawberry jam on the breakfast tray on UA. This was a tray that otherwise included only a salty scrambled egg, a salty meat patty, a salty cheese pastry, and a few cubed melons. My mum asked the flight attendant if they had bread. Sounding for some reason extremely offended, the woman said, "EXCUSE ME??" and "NO, I don't."

WTH was the strawberry jam for.
mayoraasei: There is no such thing as coincidence (Default)
Ahaha so I finally got around to writing the second part of my tour.

The next day we got woken at 5am by a phone call, fortunately. We put on practically everything we could find in our suitcase and walked out to brave the cold.

With the windows up and about 10 people squeezed into a minibus, it wasn't actually that cold...until we were told to get out and walk.


At the crack of dawn


Yushan and Sun and Moon Lake )
Photos
mayoraasei: There is no such thing as coincidence (Default)
So a while ago I went on a tour of Alishan and the Sun and Moon Lake over two days. It was probably the only proper sight-seeing I've done in Taiwan so far XD

阿里山 is in the middle of Taiwan and is more a mountain area than one mountain. It, along with the neighbouring 玉山 (Yushan), form two of the tallest peaks in Taiwan and supposedly in north-east Asia...whatever that means LOL

Alishan tour day 1 )
mayoraasei: There is no such thing as coincidence (Default)
Sitting at the computer here 20 minutes before afternoon clinics start.

Got handed the flyers about the new prices that are coming in from April, and while I feel sorry for people who live close to the city, I'm pretty happy about what it's done to the Illwarra line, which is why I really want to comment on the SMH article that criticised it, especially its erroneous info about the current pricing:

...the $35-a-week Blue Travelpass - which covers commuters as far south as La Perouse, Rockdale and Hurstville...will no longer exist


Firstly, the $35 Blue Travelpass is bus and ferry only and does not cover train fares, whereas the new MyMulti will cover all three. Secondly the Blue Travelpass does not cover Rockdale and Hurstville. It covers only zones 1, 3, 6 and 7, which ends at around Arncliffe/Sydney Airport.

I've always been really annoyed at the pricing for Travelpasses on the blue line. It was supposedly priced on distance, therefore there's no way it can justify charging an extra two zones from Rockdale to Hurstville.

A current Red Travelpass can get to Ashfield in the west and Rockdale in the south. A Green one (the next level up) goes to Epping (10 stations from Ashfield) and KOGARAH (ONE F*$#&*ING STATION WTF IS WRONG WITH THEM). Therefore to go to Hurstville, 4 stations away from Rockdale, I have to get a bloody YELLOW travelpass, which can take me all the way to PARRAMATTA and WAHROONGA. Just because lots of people get off at Hurstville instead of Sutherland they had to make that three zones more?!?

Anyway, so I'm happy with the new MyMulti, which is the same price as the current Green Travelpass but can take me to Hurstville, Westmead, Epping and beyond!

Can't wait for the new pricing! ♥

Okay, running off now for more slit lamp funness...
mayoraasei: There is no such thing as coincidence (Default)
Tadaima~~~~~~~! Did anyone miss me? LOL!

It was one of those trips where everything seemed to really suck at the time but it all amounted to being much better than expected, so in all, it was great =D

NYC trip )

le hume

5 Jan 2009 06:18 pm
mayoraasei: There is no such thing as coincidence (Default)
So we rented a car and drove down and back from Melbourne, the "city" that thinks it's as cool as Sydney when really, it is so not =P It feels like a toned down Washington DC mashed with a severely deprived Flushing - in that it's really artsy in the city centre, and other inner city areas just seem really old and dusty and tram lines running low overhead. We stayed in a crowded hostel in Prahran, which reminded in many ways of Newtown, including its many rather quirky antique-looking shops.

As you might expect, since the trip lasted a total of about two days with about 11 hours of driving each side, we didn't actually spend much time doing anything in Melbourne except what was on our tight schedule,

Didn't sleep until about nearly 6am this morning, becuase I didn't dare go to sleep in the car in case my dad (driving) went to sleep as well. They're expanding or whatever-ing the Hume Highway, so the stretch from Albury to Yass is filled with road work zones, where there's just two narrow lanes for two way traffic with a speed limit of 100, which is surely asking for accidents to happen. The road has no lighting (as per most parts of the highway), the reflective bits on the dividing lines are very far apart, the road work areas include lots of sharp curves AND INCONSIDERATE DRIVERS DON'T TURN OFF THEIR HIGH BEAM LIGHTS WHEN THEY APPROACH. Because you're driving so close to the opposite lane (there's no dividing strip like in most of the normal part of the Hume), oncoming cars with their high beam on basically turns the already dark road completely black because your own normal lamp is overwhelmed. Going at 100 km/h on sharp bends where the dividing lines are barely visible ALREADY..is just......UGH. And stupid drivers who keep their high beam on when they SEE you've turned off yours. Far out.

I mean, I want to vent about trucks and buses too, but I know it's not their fault that their lights are at exactly the eye level of a small car and is about 10 times the intensity of normal car lamps. But cars can at least control their lamps, bloody hell.

Really recommend against driving at night on the Hume down to Melbourne unless A) You drive a bus and tower over the stupid cars or B) you do so after the road works conclude.

Also just for the record, the high beam lights on a Toyota Corolla is extremely bright (or maybe it's just the one that our family friend rented - we drove together). The glare feels overly bright even when they're about 500m behind.

Night-driving truckies are scary. To look in the rearview mirror and see five towering trucks bearing down at you at speeds of about 130km/h (well over speed limit =P) is like being a rabbit while elephants are on a stampede. 5 minutes later they are gone, their tail lights shrinking dots in the distance, weaving in and out as they overtake each other. I guess it's pretty boring on the road, so they probably race each other =_=;;;;;

The night sky is so beautiful outside the city. I think on the day we drove down we saw a planet near the moon. It was the brightest spark...big enough to look like an airplane (but it was up there for hours, so it was obviously not =P). But the stars are so much brighter and there are so many more of them. The sky is actually pitch black, and the stars look suspended in them, and you can even see clouds of very distant stars, like glittering rivers.

You can't look at the sky while at a petrol station either. You really have to pull over on an empty highway so that there's no light but your car and the moon and the stars overhead. Makes me want to go drive out and just sit there and watch the stars some time.

Apparently I was talking clearly in my sleep in our one night in Melbourne. My mum claims I uttered "Made many reports to the police" in a voice so clear and unconfused that she thought I was awake. LOL What? I don't remember having a dream like that XDD

Edit: After consulting the star charts I realise I did indeed see "The Saucepan" =D And also Orion and the whatever constellationy things muahahaha~~ It must have been Venus I saw too ♥
mayoraasei: There is no such thing as coincidence (Default)
Accomodation

As soon as I heard that we were going to be living in Manhattan for around $100/night during Easter, my expectations plunged through the floor. Don't get me wrong, you can get pretty good accomodation for around $100/night, but that's during July in Washington D.C. I still think Ramada Hotel's the best we've had in America, even though it was a bit far from the city.

Well, considering our last accomodation in Flushing Meadows (yep, where the US Open is held) had one toilet shared between eight rooms, said toilet floor being awash with drowned cockroaches, and the water from the sink was yellow.......I'd say Carter Hotel was an improvement.

There's a lot of horror stories about it from the net. Fleas, bedbugs, cockroaches and mice... Fortunately we encountered none of these, although our floor did smell mysteriously like our immunology mice labs for a few days... It isn't so much a "hotel" as a room to sleep in, but anyone who expects more from living right next to Times Square should be ready to fork out at least double the price. All amenities had to be requested and there wasn't any housekeeping (or maid service, as they like to call it in feminist America). The sheets were clean if you changed them yourself. There was toilet paper if you remembered to ask at the counter. The TV had about 7 channels (by comparison, Ramada had about 30 something channels), of which only 3 had fair reception (then again, my home TV at the height of its achievement could only receive 3 channels out of 6). There was no hot water, kettle, microwave, or any food-making device. Only one powerpoint worked and it had the TV plugged in. The walls were a non-descript pink with many non-descript stains on it. The heating wasn't switched on for the first day. The "hot" water was fixed with an error margin of 2 degrees at 35 degrees. And the toilet plumbing had problems sucking, er, stuff down the drain. Despite booking a 4 people room, the room came with one double bed and a sofa...at least it was cosy.

On the upside, since there was no housekeeping - there was no need to tip!

You could live in it, and if you're going to live at Times Square, you really shouldn't be holed up in your room watching cable. Within two blocks you had food from (practically) every continent on Earth and subways to anywhere in New York. And the subway is cheeeaaaaap even though we didn't use it much this time and I detest how its staff give me blank looks when I refer to it as "train".



People

When a book called Why Don't Cats Like to Swim had this to offer in answer to its name: a page-long digression best summarised as "because they're too lazy", one wonders if schooling in America is purely fictional.

Being a big city, New York is as much a centre of opulence as weirdos. On the one hand you have the big CEOs in their pristinely pressed suits, and on the other jobless bums that infest the streets. Neither end sees any point to courtesy, apparently. Hold the door for someone, they will walk straight by you as though its their god-given right. And that's probably a good thing.

At one McDonalds, while I was munching on my burger (it irks me that they refer to their burgers as "sandwiches" and give me blank looks if I say otherwise, but nevertheless refer to cheeseburgers as cheeseburgers), a black guy slithered towards us, bent over, feigned biting on my food and swaggered off, while everyone sitting around us glared collectively at him.

On the streets, apart from getting ogled by middle-aged creeps, one gets accosted by beggars sticking their hands in your path and coughing on you, passing on the latest strain of tuberculosis.

I have also never understood the appeal of matching tracksuits. I would never wear it anywhere near the door unless I'm going for a morning jog. It baffles me that people wear it as a fashion statement. And preps? Oh yeah, one week in America and one learns that preps are not just a Mary-Sue author disclaimer.

Apparently personality changes are also in fashion. We walked in to a restuarant and the janitor was shaking his head and snorting at us because he couldn't hear our answer to his question. We walk out after eating and he's bowing like some obsequious ass-wipe and repeating "thank you" over and over again. Erm, someone tell me where the secret button is, please?
mayoraasei: (Ugh)
A spur of the moment decision (more like, the travel agency rang a few days before departure and said, "Hey, those NYC tickets you asked for about a month ago? Someone cancelled on us and now they're available") led to a journey of many lessons......in which I've learnt that LAX hates me and America is a breeder of bad manners, bad taste, bad food, bad health and dead brain cells.

I'm going to split this into several posts. There's a lot to rant about.

Los Angeles airport
I hate LAX and by some law of conservation, it hates me too. I don't see why if you're going on a connecting flight in the same terminal there isn't an internal passage you can use. Instead, you have to go outside the terminal and hunt for that elusive escalator that takes you upstairs to the departure lounge, and of the 20 escalators and elevators that line the terminal......there's only one that goes upstairs. AND NONE OF THE STAFF KNOWS WHERE IT IS.

The first time I was in LAX several years ago, we nearly walked around to all the terminals (there are at least 7) before we found the one that connected QANTAS to AA. The wait was 14 hours. That was enough time for us to go to LA Kinokuniya by public transport and browse there and browse the Japanese supermarket next door and buy food there and eat there and catch the train back and go through immigration, and we still had time to spare.

The last time I was in LAX, it took us 2 hours to get out of the immigration. They had the foresight to man the immigration area with 2 people. It was lucky then that our connecting flight was 4 hours away.

This time our Sydney-LA flight was late by about 15 minutes and our connecting flight was boarding less than an hour after we got off the plane. That was a bad omen already. By Murphy's Law what can go wrong, must go wrong, and did. The stupid security computers refused to recognise my fingerprint. The n00b at the computer, who kept poking at the keyboard with two fingers and one thumb, gave me a glazed "omg-I-think-you're-a-terrorist" smile and said, "It's just a computer glitch."

Computer glitch my ass. Got escorted to secondary inspection. I got as far as, "Excuse me, I have a connecting flight at---" before the acid-faced man there snarled like some caffeine addict on withdrawal, "Just sit down, you'll have to go through here anyway."

...Look, you friggin butt-head, if I didn't think I'd have to go through there, I wouldn't bloody be there.

One nice Aussie compatriot offered to let me go first, but noooo, the acid-faced man said, "It'll be real quick."

Real quick my ass. There were 2 people before me, and they took 30 minutes processing them. The Asian chick who was on the computers had the free energy to talk about some fancy cocktail party. If it wasn't for those lovely curves of that handgun at her waist something very anatomical would have been snapped.....................

And me? They processed my file in about 3 minutes. Which pissed me off even more. All they asked were standard "what are you doing here", "when did you last come" and "what are you doing for work" questions.

Got out of there with 10 minutes to spare and firing expletives under my breath. Got to customs and the line was so long you couldn't even see the exit.

I missed my flight.

FARKING......STUPID........AIRPORT.

And the bloody hypocritical thing is......there wasn't even a security or immigration checkpoint on the way back to Australia.

That's not all (yes, there's more).

We got on the plane to Sydney, and it delayed its departure for about 15 minutes because 1) it wasn't sure if one of its passengers was onboard (seriously, what is the point of checking in then?!) and 2) it wasn't sure if its baggages were onboard......

That reminds me...LAX has one of the most retarded traffic systems in the world. There's always a traffic jam with planes all crammed on the same lane waiting to take-off. You'd think having 7 terminals would help them work around that problem. There was once we had to park. Yes, 3 Boeing 747's parked next to each other on the side of the take-off lane because there was no space to take off.

Anyhow...15 minutes after taxiing away from the terminal and waiting to take-off...the pilot realised that one of the plane's air valves was LEAKING. WTF. It's about time they replace all their ancient 747-400's with 777's, or at least 747-500's which at least has more leg room and chairs that actually reclined more than 5 degrees. The plane scrambled back to the terminal and was stuck there for another hour while the mechanics came onboard to fix it. Thus, we got to Sydney this morning at 7:40 instead of the scheduled 6:00. I feel for everyone who had connecting flights.

....Next time, I'll ask for a Sydney-NYC flight that changes at San Francisco. The suckiest parts of my trips to America always happen at LAX.
mayoraasei: There is no such thing as coincidence (Default)
BACK!!! But I don't think anyone missed me LOL XD

Gotta get this out of my system first: OMG I LOVE SYDNEY *HUGS COMPUTER* *HUGS SPARKLING CLEAN TOILET* *HUGS SULFUR-FREE CLEAR WATER* *HUGS AUSTRALIAN ACCENT*

Argh, 2 weeks away from the computer and I can't use the keyboard anymore.

This is going to be the first of many posts probably >__>;

Everytime I go to Manhattan my view about it changes. I used to be indifferent but I like it less every time I go. So many of the people are untouchable because they're so into their commercial world. So many of them don't know the basics of manners - there are some behaviours you see there you'd have thought belonged in less civilised places: people spitting on streets, on rainy days, people torpedoing through the crowd using their umbrellas as a weapon. There are some nice, kind-hearted people there but a lot of indifferent, self-absorbed people.

Girls should not travel alone. I've had about six or seven guys walking by and leering at me just as I was standing by myself on 58th St in the space of 20 minutes. Old men in Flushing walk around the crossroads and stick their faces near you if you're not careful. It's a really disgusting experience.

Manhattan itself is such a grey city, especially in the near-winter we went. It wasn't that cold (coldest day was ~1 degrees) and we brought more clothes than we could wear because everyone told us it would be freezing. Got really sick in the last few days because my mum passed her cold to me >.< Worst 3 days ever. Everyone there wears such austere colours, fashion there is very upperclassy, very proper - very, might I mention, unlike Australia. You'd rarely see people walking on Manhattan in anything but neat, carefully pressed and matched clothing. It's a great shopping place if you've got the money to spend it on big brand names. The department stores are luxurious multi-storey constructions, nothing in Sydney even goes close to resembling it. But I thank Sydney Westfields for having more toilets - I think it was Macy's on 34th St that had one toilet on level 2 and the next toilet on level 7...what's with that?? ==; The queue on the day after Thanksgiving was about 10 metres long. The Thanksgiving-Christmas season is also a really good time for shopping because most shops have holiday discounts...but erk, in so many ways it hasn't changed from the days of The Great Gatsby, it's still a place for wealthy, self-centred people. People like Tom and Daisy still exist in Manhattan, and in much larger numbers than you'd see in Sydney.

You walk on the streets of Manhattan in any working day and you see no smiling faces. With the wintery sun never quite reaching the grounds that lie at the feet of its many skyscrapers, this sort of sombre atmosphere adds to the grey overtone of the city. You get the feeling as you swap glances with people that everyone is so defensive and they seem more to be glaring at you rather than just glancing over you.

I think Sydney's evolved into a city that is cynical about its politics, but sympathetic towards human rights and still largely morally righteous. Manhattan's the sort of world that weighs decisions in terms of dollars, I don't know how much the city has learnt from WTC. Individuals must have learnt much, but as a city it plunged obliviously back into the money-saturated world, seemingly unswayed by it all.

We went to the WTC site - or at least, I insisted on going there. We went there a few months before 9/11 and because we lived in NJ at the time, we changed trains often at WTC station. The two levels just beneath ground level used to be full of shops. I remember a toys shop and a shop that retailed Jelly Belly's. Now they're all gone. They've cleared off pretty much everything on ground level and paved it even with concrete. Below ground a lot of the debris still stand in desolation. An empty shop front, pieces of concrete, cords and steel foundations, fenced off from the main station.

Oh, one thing: United Airlines was really sucky this time >.< It was great before, the food used to be the best amongst all the airlines we went by. No way I'm flying United again...they gave us the same menu on to and back, and their lasagne is the sort of thing that you make out of clay and plastic. Give me Qantas again! I thought it was American Airlines that was going down, but even that has better service. Last time the Qantas/AA flight to NY via Japan gave us 777 planes on all 4 legs of the journey. This time we got 747, 767 and 757...all tackily small, old planes....ugh. I love 777...I love computer games ^0^v I love miso soup from Qantas...LOL. And it's nice to hear Australian accent again. Ah.

*Thinks about going to sleep* ^^v

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