Novel approach to renting a car

26 03 2009

I had booked a rental car (Compact) through National Car Rental via the internet before leaving. The process at the counter was quick and easy and I didn’t get asked every sullen question under the sun about insurance. That was nice.

But the big surprise was how they deal with allocating cars there! The lady behind the counter said “Go out to the lot and to the Compact section. Pick a car, any car. Whatever you want. The keys are in the door.” And so it was! What a great idea. No hassling with “I booked a [insert name and model of car here] but you’ve given me a [insert other car name/model here]” and the whole “We’re sorry Ma’am. We’ll upgrade you for no extra, but we have to print out all the forms again… blah blah blah … and did you want the CDW, LDW, PITA insurance with that?”

Another good thing about that system — if the car doesn’t work, you just try another one! This happened to the other guy in the lot at the same time. He got to the car he chose, tried to start it, but it wouldn’t start. So he gets out of the car, grabs his suit jacket and bag and just hops into another one in that section. Cool!

LA International Airport

26 03 2009

… was actually a pretty nice place to be first thing this morning! I HATE having to come into or go out of LAX as it’s usually a bloody nightmare. Not so this morning — at least part of it.

We touched down around 7:30am as scheduled, but we couldn’t get off the plane until 7:50 even though we were at the gate and the jetway doors were lined up by 7:40 (I have no idea what the hold up was).

Because this aircraft (A380) is so huge and it’s two storeys high and there’s a jetway for both storeys, I think we were in a different part of LAX. It was a LONG walk through a major construction zone (are they EVER going to finish that airport? They’ve been in construction mode every time I’ve landed there since 1993!). When we got to immigration, they was much joy (in my heart anyway) — we were the only plane being processed! Yay! Last time I landed at LAX it was just after a couple of 747s came in from Korea and South America and the immigration lines were very long and very very slow.

Anyhow, immigration took seconds, the bags came through nice and quick, and I was waved through customs.

I was out in the street, on a rental car shuttle bus, and had signed up for the rental car by 8:20am! That has to be a record!! Maybe it’s the downturn in the economy, maybe we were just lucky. Whatever. My experience meter at LAX just went into positive territory.

Airbus A380-800

26 03 2009

The flight from Melbourne to Los Angeles was on a new Airbus A380. Woohoo! Man, is that plane HUGE!!! When we were taxiing out at Melbourne, the windows of the upper deck were level with the tail exhaust of a 747…

In his welcome, the Captain said it would be quiet — he explained that this new aircraft had lots of extra soundproofing and that it flew higher than 747s. He also said that some 560 tonnes of weight had to be lifted off the ground!

How well did this new beast measure up? Well, the take-off was MUCH quieter — there was very little rattling and shaking that typically happens on a 747. Though we didn’t seem to be doing a great speed taxiing down the runway… I wondered if this beast could get into the air, but it did, though I suspect that it had to use the entire length of the runway to do so!

We took off 40 minutes late — we were told we were waiting for some passengers, so perhaps someone was held up on a late connection.

Dinner was fillet steak, green beans, layered creamy potatoes — like last night’s meal coming over from Perth but WAY more palatable (I wrote earlier about that horrible meal on the Perth to Melbourne flight). Voyager Estate Shiraz.

As of now, I’ve officially given up on ever trying to sleep on a plane. This time I tried a hypnotic suggestion MP3 — it’s meant to drop you into a deep state in the 15 minutes. I listened to it 6+ times in a row. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. No sleep. This plane even has a fully flat bed — that didn’t work either. I can usually get to sleep easily any other place — but not on planes. I think it’s the continually drumming/humming noise and the echoes of people walking up and down the aisles all night, and the kids in front of me begin wide awake and chatty with their parents, and the air conditioning, and who knows what else. Even with ear plugs in and noise cancelling headphones on, I STILL can’t sleep. I’ve tried doctor-prescribed sleeping pills previously — they didn’t work either. So I’ve now given up. I’ll just have to learn to occupy myself for the 13+ hours flight time.

So I watched a couple of films: Slumdog Millionaire — parts of it were heartbreaking but the human spirit is an amazing thing and really well highlighted in this movie; I really enjoyed it. And Vicki Christina Barcelona — I watched this ‘cos it was nominated for an Oscar. But I really didn’t see the point of it. I did like the ‘Dick and Jane’ style narration though!

I also read three online books (one on CSS and IE8, a Q&A one on Seth Godin’s Tribes concept, and most of another on web design), and watched a heartwarming episode of The Secret Millionaire, on a lady called Gill Fielding.