Monday, November 09, 2009

Changing fortunes

Oh the cruel vicissitudes of fate. I am often asked what's the worst thing about having cancer. Chemo? Being bald? Losing strength in my right arm? Scars? Breastlessness? Fatigue? Probable early dried up pruneness? Oh that it were that simple.

Schipol, Chicago, Heathrow, Los Angeles, Frankfurt, Arlanda - I love airports. Full of possibility and the promise of things to come, travelling through the world's big airports is one of my favourite things to do. The little kiwi in me always feels like busting out a song and dance routine to thrill the captive crowds. "Look at me, I'm Sacha C, all the way from New Zealeeeeeee". I'm not cool enough to be over the multi-cultural buzz of international gateways, the allure of duty-free and the electronic displays that read like the answers to a geography quiz. Istanbul? What is the capital of Turkey? Rome? Where didn't Sacha visit on her O.E because she was lovestruck and came home after 21 days? Lisbon? Where did Sach take P when she was 4 months old? Germany? What country did the moaning shitheads sharing Business Class with Sacha and the baby come from?

In the last 18 months I've been to Fiji, Sydney, Gold Coast, Aspen, Stockholm, Bad Nauheim, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Los Angeles (3x) and travelled between Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington too many times to count. This mileage is nothing compared to the global commutes of my friends at Les Mills International but for me, it was heaven in an over sized skybus. But most important of all I earned enough points to become an Air New Zealand Gold frequent flyer. Oh, the sweet taste of status. "Come this way Madam, anything you say my Queen. 75 bags to check in? No problem your highness. Extra socks for your tootsies my love? Have some more champagne. Do. Go on. You deserve it. You're Gold."

You know the wankers who attach their frequent flyer name tags to their luggage? Check. That was me. Shiny gold ones with my very own name printed on them. Sucker Coburn. Apart from the wee spelling error I loved them. You've all seen the arseholes who effortlessly saunter past the lengthy queue of (I feel dirty just typing the word) economy class passengers waiting to check in? Tick. I'm not a total snob. From time to time I would smile ever-so-graciously at them as I redistributed my body position to ensure that not one of their grubby children touched any part of my golden self. Oh, the hypocrisy. One of my earliest international airport experiences involved being delayed in LA and having no money for food. I contemplated eating the leftovers on the plates left behind in the cafe where I waited. My mother stopped me. I was seven. Dad, of course would have encouraged this sort of carry-on and rightly so. He's an opportunist, like me. Mum's an Anglican. Say no more.

My status points are sadly going to expire. Before cancer I had a number of international trips planned and then...well, you know how this story ends. Air New Zealand, in their wisdom, didn't buy my argument that I ought to be allowed to keep my status points so I'm on my way back down to silver. If I drop to jade, I'll kill myself. What point in living? They did allow me to carry over my complimentary upgrades which C and I will no doubt use when we travel together as soon as my treatment is over. It will be a honeymoon of sorts, 15 months after the first one. Oh, the anticipation.

The very worst thing about cancer is that it forces redefinition of who you are and where you fit in the world. Good luck to those who go all Buddhist and want world peace and a simple life growing veges and raising kids. Well done to those who soul-search and find new meaning in their life. Me, I just want the freedom to travel again. I want to experience the crush of the crowds, the rush to a tight connection and the pressure of explaining my hotel address to a driver who's even further from his homeland than me.
I want my Gold status back.

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