KIN Columnist Leslie Clague recently returned to the land of her birth. She was attending a reunion of Hollywood High School, where she and Michael Jackson were pupils last century. In a series of articles, Leslie writes of her experiences starting with the trip over.
By Leslie Clague
Well, maybe. I am just back from a trip to Los Angeles and Hollywood, California. I went to attend my 50th high school class reunion. It’s been at least 20 years since I travelled to the States and this time I took a lot of pride in travelling as a New Zealand citizen.
It’s always fun to tell New Zealanders that I was a cheer leader at Hollywood High and I guess it is the enthusiasm that makes one a cheer leader that leads to a return after so many years. It was well worth the visit. Hubby pampered me by upgrading me to business class where they now have those fancy seats that turn into beds so you can get a proper rest on the 12-hour journey.
Visa wavers and metallic status
The first challenge in finalising trip arrangements, however, was to get a visa waiver as I was only going for an eight-day visit. I hit a snag when I went on-line to do so. The system wouldn’t recognise the expiry date on my New Zealand passport. I spent several hours trying to get in touch with the U.S. Consulate with no success. Finally I gave up for the day, waited to the following Monday, went back on line for another go. Voila! The system was up and running and the visa waiver confirmed.
I travelled on Air New Zealand. New security systems mean you now have to check in three hours prior to your flight, which is a rather long wait. I was curious to see how I would get through security because I have titanium hips. Luckily I have a small card I carry, signed by a surgeon, to verify my metallic status. Security was not difficult.
Customer service efficient but a bit over the top
Once on board, the crew proudly announced they had won a 2014 customer service award as they prepped everyone for take-off. Flight attendants were very efficient and business-like, teetering on pompous and officious.
It did seem the idea was to get everyone through dinner as quickly as possible. It was almost like being told: you will go to sleep! So lights out and breakfast was served as late as possible before landing.
Ensconced in one’s cocoon-like seat one has a computer screen full of so many choices of entertainment and information that it is rather mind boggling: over 25 movie selections, 100’s of musical tracks, even news reports, dependent on where one is at in the flight process. I mostly stuck with tracking the flight across the Pacific and read my book.
Casual gear but don’t smile at Customs!
By the way, dress for travel has changed considerably. Knowing I was in business class, I wore a nice top and a pair of three-quarter pants. I was over-dressed; jeans and pullovers are the norm for both men and women.
And then one arrives. U.S. Customs wasn’t too onerous, although customs officials try very hard to maintain a serious face while processing you. If you smile and are friendly they fight to maintain a grave look and not smile back.
Outside customs at LAX is a Starbucks coffee shop. Sure enough, there was my old friend, Sheri Herman, easy to recognise because she looks much like she did in high school. My nostalgic journey had begun.
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