It is official. By going to America, Linda and I don't count any more in the eyes of the Australian government. Literally, we do not count.
Next Tuesday is Census Day in Oz, and the official census guy stopped by the house a couple of days ago to give us our forms. We opted for the online form. On the Tuesday before leaving, completing the census was No 5 on my To-Do List.
It was a quick process. The first question asked how many people would be present in the house on Census night. Since we will both be domiciled in the US that night, the answer was 0. And so the next screen came up and abruptly told me to sod off:
So that makes it official. This time around LK and I are non-persons. When Australia makes policy decisions in the future, they will be based on numbers that do not include us. That means that retirees moving to Tasmania will be undercounted, thin men with a full head of hair will be overcounted and - as a fitting continuation of my retired life - I will be ignored.
But that was the price to pay for going to America this month. And what a welcome we had!
Our first two legs were uneventful. The final leg taking us from Chicago to Rochester, however, was just a little bit more noteworthy.
It all started innocently enough when we began to board the plane. A woman was putting a bag in the overhead bin above our seats. When she saw us waiting in the aisle, she stepped aside to let us pass. Problem was - she stepped into where we would be sitting.
She seemed to wonder why we were still standing still and looked at us quizzically. "These are our seats," Linda said. At this point the woman seemed to get flustered, although I cannot imagine why. She told us that she was just helping the woman next to her seat put her bag in the bin. Which seemed like way too much information when all we wanted to do was sit in our seats.
By now the queue trying to get on the plane is stretching further and further down the jetway, and I could sense eyes burning holes in our backs. Anyhow, the woman decided that we didn't need any more conversation so she stepped from our seats and, instead of returning to her seat in the row in front us, she stood in the seats across the aisle.
To make a very long story a bit shorter: At some point, since she was still blocking people trying to get to their seats, someone apparently told her she made a better door than a window. And she apparently decided it was me, although to that point - and in fact to this point - I have never said a word to her.
Oh well, doesn't seem like much, anyhow, does it? Nonetheless, two of her friends were sitting across the aisle from her and the female friend kept reaching out and patting her and asking her if she was all right. Since I knew LK hadn't been rude to her and I hadn't even spoken to her, I figured it was something else bothering her or at the very least it wasn't my business. I forgot that we were now in America.
Once we landed I started getting the stuff out of the overhead bin and the man from the couple came up. Since the only thing that wasn't ours was the bag that had started the original tie-up, I said I would get it for him.
"It's not mine," he snarled.
Which made me wonder why he had come back to our row. Turns out his next sentence or two made it quite clear. (And by the way, I will use the Australian spelling here so I can avoid dirty words that might offend my mother and mother-in-law.) For he called me "an arsehole for being so rude to our friend and ruining her flight."
At this stage I did notice that his pudgy face was turning quite red under his silver brush cut. It occurred to me that he had all the looks of ex-military turning to seed. Which meant I really should just back off. So of course, I didn't.
I told him that I had never spoken a word to his friend, that my wife had told her only that she was standing in front of our seats and that anything else that was bothering his friend was her probem but clearly not mine. I then suggested rather vigorously that perhaps he should get his facts straight and think twice before calling someone an arsehole.
To my surprise, he seemed a bit taken aback that I would be kind enough to explain these facts to him. "Well then forget it," he snapped.
So of course, I didn't forget it. I decided I would lecture him on the importance of getting his priorities right. "You are getting all exercised about something that didn't happen," I told him. For some reason, he had let on that somehow he knew we were travelling from Australia. So I decided to end the discussion as a true-blue dinky-di. "You know, mate," I said, "you've got your knickers in a knot over nothing." I assume he got the gist of this even though he had no idea what I had just said.
At this stage all the people who had been delayed getting to their seats because of the little episode on boarding were starting to get delayed in getting off the plane. So there was a collective sigh from behind us when he turned and left the plane. I assume the sighs were of two kinds: Most were just happy that the idiots having an argument weren't going to hold them up any more than they already had, while a few certainly were hoping it would go further and make their evening more entertaining.
No matter, that was the end of that. Well, almost. I had actually enjoyed our little stoush once it became clear I wasn't going to get a knuckle sandwich. First of all, I was 100% in the right - and believe me, that doesn't happen very often. Second, I got to publicly lecture a guy who called me a naughty name and he ended up skulking away. As Nelson says on The Simpsons, "Ha! Ha!"
And finally, I thought it was pretty cool that I was able to go all Aussie on him and leave him with a line which he probably was still trying to figure out this morning.
Naturally, I wasn't able to let our little set-to end merely by having him walk away. As we walked down the concourse to the baggage area, he and the two women were a few yards ahead of us. Pressing the advantage of my obvious victory, I kept up a rather loud patter with LK about just how wrong he had been to initiate this exchange.
Rather loudly - and maintaining my newfound Aussieness - I said, "Such typical bloody Americans! First they lie about something and then they want to start a war over the lie!"
But then I remembered. I am also an American. And for all my posturing, Australia isn't even going to count me this year. So I shut up, collected the bags and was very, very happy when Sandy and Dave pulled up to get us.
Welcome to America!