the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Three friendships you need to reconsider when traveling to Australia

Well, how are you, Martha?

I started writing this on a plane home from Washington, DC, Sunday afternoon where I was ending more than two straight weeks of travel for work. I was first in Wellington, New Zealand, where I spoke at two conferences, and then in DC for another conference, with a day at home in between. Someone commented on an Instagram photo to say that they didn’t know how I was conscious, and you guys, I don’t remember writing the first sentence of this paragraph. Lemme go back and reread it… did I write that? It sounds much too coherent. Don’t believe another word of this post unless its bipolar. If I don’t diverge into absolute nonsense, someone call a doctor.

I’ve had my fair share of nutty experiences involving international travel, the worst of them being the three flights I took back from Peru last year with a ceviche-related intestinal issue so excruciating I thought authorities might see the distress in my face, the sweat on my brow and flag me as a terrorist. And the thing is, if they had I was so mentally stretched trying to keep it together that I would have had no qualms resisting arrest while screaming, “ALL I AM DOING IS TRYING TO HIDE MY POOP!” 

Is that on brand or what. Dear lord, Pepto, where is my sponsored content? #travel #lifeofadventure #liveauthentic #blessed #notanad #yet 

(I don’t ever step foot on a plane to ANYWHERE without a package of these in my luggage since that incident, and they did not pay me to say that. Although I would most certainly take their money.)

I realized during the first paragraph that I never wrote about the time I arrived in Brisbane, Australia, having missed my connection in Los Angeles and how I thought I was about to become the lead character in an episode of Locked Up Abroad. I believe I hesitated to write about it because I was afraid that the mere telling of it might get me in heaps of trouble. But my lingering jet lag is hindering my judgment, so fuck it.

This should end well.


I’ll keep it short, sort of, when have I ever: an Australian police officer had waved down the car transporting me from the airport to my hotel and began yelling at the driver and then at me, demanding that I tell him why I was in the backseat of that car. Um… let’s see… because sometimes humans use vehicular transport to move from point A to point B? Is there a more accurate answer to that question? BECAUSE THIS IS WHERE I LIKE TO BAKE A GODDAMN LOAF OF BREAD? What did he want from me?

But then I realized that he meant “why in the backseat and not in the front seat?” I was so jet lagged, so exhausted and was entering day three without my luggage, day three without having taken off my makeup or having changed my underwear, that I almost told him that the Chinese driver who spoke not a single word of English was my husband and we were fighting because I was tired of him farting underneath the covers and thinking it was funny.

I am not making this up. Because the cop was so furious he was foaming and spitting that foam from his mouth, flecks of it splattering on the half-rolled down window. Farting, I thought, is a universal language. Or, universal music? What better way to diffuse this bomb, am I right.

BUT. Oh, yes, there is a but in this story and it’s not even my butt. Sorry about that.

Suddenly I realized, oh god wait! What if CERTAIN UNNAMED FRIEND A or CERTAIN UNNAMED FRIEND B or CERTAIN UNNAMED FRIEND C has decided that it would be funny to slip a certain kind of “edible” arrangement into my wallet, knowing 1) I really, really don’t like “edible” arrangements (SEE: that one time in 1999 when I got so paranoid after smoking weed that the SKU on bottle of A1 Steak Sauce in my refrigerator made me think it had been manufactured before Christ and that I had somehow, without any memory of doing so, stolen it from the government) and 2) that I was traveling to a foreign country. Yes, there are three friends in my life who would pull this kind of trick on me, and now my lawyer is slowly looking over his shoulder and deleting every single piece of evidence that links us together.

GUESS WHAT, SCOTT! This will certainly be printed out and used against me in court and YOU are going to have to convince the judge that it’s just words on a blog while I sit back with my legs crossed on the table and pretend to smoke a fake joint.

In the span of less than a second I began daydreaming of how good it would feel to waterboard CERTAIN UNNAMED FRIENDS because I really did believe that the cop was going to yank me out of the car, search my luggage and purse and, welp! Hello, Piper in an Australian prison!

Not sure if I will pass in this costume

A photo posted by Heather B. Armstrong (@dooce) on

But then he took one step closer to the door of the car, and I guess all the exhaustion and emotion and lost luggage swirled into a perfect storm of OH MY GOD I AM GOING TO BECOME A LESBIAN IN A FOREIGN PRISON and I started silently sobbing. Quiet as a baby bird, I was, a baby bird whose wings are broken and is lying on the ground twitching in pain. Pathetic. Something that a really angry kid would pick up between his thumb and forefinger to shake and see if it’s still alive before he throws it into the air and whacks it with his backpack.

My shoulders were moving in rhythm to my silents sobs, and that movement made what I finally uttered sound like I was being exorcised underwater: “I… don’t… under… stand….” And then I wiped the snot pouring from my nose with the back of my hand and dramatically rubbed it on my pants. Not like they were clean pants anyway!

I guess he took pity on me and moved back to the front of the car to write the driver two tickets: one for speeding, and the second one for operating a taxi without a proper permit. I would later find out that the car the driver normally used had proper stickers on the windshield. Except that car had a flat tire, so he borrowed someone else’s vehicle. Which, FINE. I forgive him for creating a situation that triggered my patented death spiral, it’s just… on top of missing my connection and not knowing if or when I would ever see my luggage again, AND THEN…

Yep. There’s an AND THEN…

I ended up crashing a rental car not two hours later. While trying to park it.

You know those shopping cart return stalls in the middle of parking lots? Turns out that in Australia they move around and jump in front of your car from out of nowhere.

  • bushra

    2016/02/23 at 1:55 pm

    just your average school run again then? <3

  • Jennifer Cafferty-Davis

    2016/02/23 at 2:28 pm

    OMG this story!! People in my life don’t seem to acknowledge these types of stories in MY life as truth until I conclude with “I seriously cannot make this shit up, you guys.” I hope you are able to look back on it and laugh! 😉

  • Deborah Cruz

    2016/02/23 at 3:52 pm

    Dear Jesus, I just remembered why I love the shit out of you. You just made me make a complete asshole out of myself laugh crying at ballet. Fucking ballet, with all the anorexic, stiff upper lipped girls and whackadoo moms ( yes, I am one of them but I’m obviously not whackadoo as I just wiped cry/laugh snot on my own pants in solidarity with you my sister 😉 Thank God you are home and safe and sort of sound. Get some damn sleep. Thanks for the laughing off of my ass…I needed to lose some weight anyways.

  • L - Mama(e) in Translation

    2016/02/23 at 9:43 pm

    WHOA!!! Was that on the same trip where the uber driver was taking you somewhere much farther from the right location? If on the same trip, was this before that or after that? Oh, the things that happen to poor you! 🙁 I dimly recall you had previously mentioned something about this taxi driver? A tweet? Or am I getting mixed up with the Uber driver story? I’d be so relieved if you could clarify just a tiny bit? 😉 Dazed and confused (after reading the post)

  • Marcos Fabricius Moreno

    2016/02/25 at 11:15 am

    Hahaha.. nice one!

  • MallyMon

    2016/02/25 at 5:48 pm

    Can I please be allowed to apologise on behalf of Brisbane? I emigrated to and lived there for two years and my dual-nationality daughter was born there – so I feel fiercely protective and proud of the place. However, your experiences are so extreme and so unlike anything I’ve ever heard of before, I feel prompted to apologise most profusely for any distress caused by Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. It’s a lovely subtropical city, full of flying bush cockies (aka cockroaches), gigantic red biting ants and cane toads that’ll kill ya soon as lookatchya if you put one foot anywhere near them (plus a few mosquitoes). But I have a deep abiding love for the place (see earlier comment re: daughter) and feel somehow responsible for any distress ever caused to anyone who goes there. I hope you will forgive us. (Even though I now live 10k miles away, safely ensconceed in England.) I hope you weren’t injured! (Driving whilst jetlagged??!) Sorry.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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