The last time I saw Heino was at Tullamarine Airport, Melbourne, Sunday October 2 2005. You haven't been reading long if you don't know that Heino is my best mate.
It fell to Heino to drive me from the last house I lived in at Footscray to the airport to fly off to a different life in the USA. I know how I felt that day, Sunday November 17th 2002. I think I know how he felt; we hugged but, being blokes, not much was said. Not much needed to be said. We've been mates for a third of a century and I certainly hoped that wasn't the last time I saw him.
I've been back to Australia four times since then. It's been my pleasure to stay at his house but it's always been understood that, given how well I know Melbourne, I go to the places I want to revisit pretty much on my own. That said, we always visit whichever computer market is open the first weekend, be it at Camberwell or Collingwood. Heino and his family always make me feel welcome and it's become the long standing joke that Petaluma Pacific Suites (not the real name) are always open to me.
This time around he's coming here to Phoenix! It's taken some orchestrating mainly because, even though the United Airlines Mileage Plus website says that I can book flights for someone other than myself using my points I've found that hard to believe. The website also doesn't make it at all clear, when booking the flight, that it really is for someone else. Indeed, the first time I tried, the site errored out with the complaint that Heino wasn't me. Well gee guys, I know that - why did you think I entered a different passenger name? The site told me that if I did nothing the booking would expire in 48 hours so I waited 72 and tried again.
It failed again but with a different error message and instructions to dial a 1-800 number. So I dialled it. Half an hour or so later I was put through to India. I fear she had more trouble with my accent than I did with hers and in fifteen minutes it was all sorted. How utterly expected that her first action was to debit my frequent flyer account with the appropriate number of points! That debit happened even before charging my credit card with the minor taxes United won't pick up! (and they are minor - seventy five bucks for a return flight from Melbourne to Phoenix is minor indeed!)
So, on September 21 of this year I have the distinct pleasure of greeting my best mate in a Phoenix Airport and saying 'Welcome to America, you old bastard!'. What's odder is to think I'll be doing that as a US citizen greeting an Australian friend to my new country. If you'd told me, five years ago, that I'd be doing that I'd have said you had rocks in your head!
Of course the poor bastard doesn't get to visit Phoenix without meeting Vern[^] and LaMont[^] and Guy[^]. Everyone has to pay a price! :-)