March 2003

Doris writes:

Folks,Hello friends and folks,

As they seem to keen on saying over here, “Welcome ….. to the March edition of the Turner Fiddaman Newsletter.”

We managed to survive our last week in Australia, filled with packing the house and farewells, not to mention collapsing every night at the Waldorf Apartments.  Even on the way to the airport, we were still diverting to Peter and Barb’s house (those wonderful people at St. John’s who let us use their house to store some furniture and other bits so that we did not have to pay an excess for storage) to drop off yet another box of “stuff” that we needed to leave behind.  And we are only now working out what the stuff was that we should have brought, but it got packed instead.  Leaving Canberra was the easy part – don’t ever let anyone tell you that the economy section of a Boeing 747 is comfortable.  Our flight was truly full and after 14 hours in the air from Sydney to LA, we were all ready to deck someone – anyone! It was even harder for Stew as he had that wonderful travelling companion … the man in the seat in front who insists on reclining his chair all the way back, except when the flight steward’s insisted he adjusted it for meals.  So Stew got to wear the front seat on his knees …. getting out for a loo stop was fun…stand, pull on said chair, bend back into unnatural position and take in stride the “look” from said person!!!! 🙂

Then in LA Airport we had to endure 2 hours in a line for Immigration and then Customs.  A flight from Melbourne arrived at the same time … so that adds up to 800 or so people in the line. What made it more challenging for the nerves was that they did not even check the bags.  All that hipe about security – oh vey!!!  so what should have been  a reasonable transfer to the Seattle flight turned out to be a sprint, luggage and all (all 8 suitcases and all of them heavy), to the next terminal,.  Then we had to get them “scanned” by security and of course the only one they wanted to pull apart was the one with the PC in it, very carefully packed with towels and sleeping bags.  We thought they weren’t going to be able to get the damn thing closed up again!  The security check into the local terminal was a gem – Rod had to take his boots off, Stewart took the longest to get through, because “the men only do men” and there was only one of them, and Doris was almost at the point of taking her bra off, because the metal clips at the back kept triggering the scanner!  So there we were, running down the concourse, shoelaces flailing, with our names being called on the PA system.  Thank God the Alaskan Airways people were really relaxed, when we finally got onto the flight to Seattle.

By the way …. the Qantas flight from Melbourne, we were told was only 1/2 full …. we really needed to know that!!!!

We’re still trying to work out why Boeing put their people into the Hawthorn Suites.  Probably something to do with it being right across the road from the site where Rod is working, because that’s all that it has going for it.  After 3 days of concrete beds, we’d had enough and only another week to go.  At least the car was a nice surprise.  The Yanks would call it a medium luxury, but it really is kinda nice when you put it in drive and the doors all lock themselves.  And the lights come on when it gets dark.  And we have had to learn that the sign that says “Freeway Entrance” really means “Plant your foot and get to 60 mph ASAP”.  And there’s a special lane for cars with more than one person in them – it handles about 5% of the traffic, so it really moves.  Love those extra bits ….. seat goes up /seat goes down..up/down!!! like a kid!! and then all the windows .. you know the story … up/down.  They are so concerned about car-jacking that the doors lock you .. in .. the car!!!  And the steering wheel is on the wrong side!  As I (Doris) get to play mum’s taxi — I had to get the handle on driving on the wrong side of the road.  Man do I miss our Cruiser.  50% of the cars on these roads are 4wd’s.  You can feel so low and vulnerable, especially when you get to the freeway entrances and exits.

We have now moved into an apartment in what seems to be a “classy” side of town, on the top floor with a view (off in the distance) over Lake Washington to the Seattle Skyline and when the clouds clear, to the Olympia Mountains.  And from the bedroom, we look out over the Cascades,  From the balcony we can see snow covered mountains, city lights and … right into other people’s living rooms .. thankfully we are on the 5th floor.  The cost of this place is scary about $6000 per week(Aus) which includes $1300 for monthly furniture hire.

And even more amazing, the connection to the internet and cable  was as easy as plugging it in and installing some software – followed by some gremlins like Rod fiddling and other things!.  We’re in downtown Bellevue, within a short walk from shops, movies and restaurants and more shops than even Doris can handle – can anyone get tired of retail therapy? ….. keep tuned in and I’ll let you know! …  Stewart of course is not happy, because has only has 70 channels on cable TV and alas no Foxtel.

We’ll include a photo or two when the digital camera arrives.  Especially if Mt Rainier pokes it way out of the clouds again.  We’ve seen a couple of glimpses so far and it towers over all the rest of them.

We are ok, just frustrated by the problems and hurdles at each turn. We are still without a normal phone system because there has been a delay in Social Security issuing Rod a social security number…you can’t do much without it – their computer systems are not as wiz-bang as they show in the movies!. We have had to take an option on the mobile phones that is not our first choice and has so many gremlins in it that you just want to throw the thing.  It is a pre-paid system (can’t get the other without the SS number and all the plans are for a min of 12 months) and every time you make a call it tells how many minutes you have left, before you connect to the call!!

I know we think Oz is over-regulated, but this place has it’s own barriers to getting things done. I just hope that when we go to get our Washington driver’s licence (which we have to have) there won’t be so many problems with the paper work and the …you guessed it…driving test, both written and practical, a scary thought.

Cost of living is very high here, hard to find too many bargains. Like a burger at Burger King may be $3.45, but then you realise that our buying power makes that a cost of $6.20. There are more take-aways per block and there is no such thing as the local chemist …. they are all drug store supermarkets.  Yep you can get stuff that we need a script for at home, thank God, because a script can cost you $50- $100! Yikes!!

Stewart has found a Rugby team. he is playing for a high school, not quite kosher but more friendly than the adult team he started with …. on the way home from training we stopped off to get dinner, went to a turkish cafe .. food was pretty basic, I got roped into a glass of turkish wine that cost $7.95US (about $12.50 Oz-that’s per glass) the final bill came to US$90.00 otherwise known as $160.00 Australian value.

Stew and Rod both have sore backs after the long trip and the concrete beds at the suites they first had us in, so went looking for a Chiropractor … that’s a life lesson on it’s own (man have the yanks developed a culture of over information!, anyway).

Found a chiro and so began a new experience, we are covered by Boeing insurance – if we have it billed direct to the insurance company , the cost goes up by $20 – 25. On the first appointment the chiro gave Stew and me a sales pitch, did x-rays, gave us a health lecture another sales pitch about the cash payment plan and the “home” package that would help accelerate his care plan (cost only $300 – for a weight to wear on head, foam blocks to fulcrum your back and a little chair pad that lets you tip forward, back and sideways) – but no adjustment on the first visit, that was to happen the next day, as well as an invitation to attend a 40 minute lecture on what a chiro does and why it is good for you, and by the way “do you have two people you can refer who will get a special intro certificate?” (God help me, it was almost like Amway!!!!).

Back to the first appointment – why did we make it? … because Stew was in pain with a sore neck and a headache because his neck was out …. so please Mr. Chiro (oops sorrrrry – Dr. Chiro!) can we have the service we asked for and can you adjust his neck …. Dr. Chiro was not happy to be asked to go outside his square, but tuff, Stew comes first.

So the next day we went back to get the results of the x-ray, to get the bad news that Stew’s neck does not have a “c” curve and would benefit from …… you guessed it! …  can you hear the next sales pitch coming up … for a cost of $1200 per month(2400 in oz dollars) and 3 visits per week for the next 6 months and the home kit, he could reverse the “c” curve to be more like normal, and by the way … the family package was more cost effective (oh-vey!!!!)

At the end of the second visit I tried to pay, but alas. there’s more ….. he insisted that we come to the info session that evening, with pizza provided. Well after rushing to pick Stew up from training and getting back (round trip of over 1 hour) and collecting Rod, we set off to the info session. The pizza was good!  Are Americans that badly educated about their health? that they need to be so spoon fed? …. will let you know later (that’s if you aren’t asleep by now).

At this point he still would not let us pay and asked to see Stew the next day .. oops we went into Seattle City and didn’t make it. He is passionate about his profession, but man the slick sales pitch gets up my nose!!!  We still need to decide what to do as Rod does need to see a chiro ( help!!).

 At this point we are all still very tired and still not sure about being here.  Rod had the first three days we were here off work and we were helped by a re-location assistant who drove us around and helped with the bank and social security – a lovely lady named Paula.  Rod discovered that his work station had been re-arranged by the gremlins and he has no phone, computer and those unimportant things you need to do your job.  At the end of last week (wk 2) he was still waiting for the right codes, security stuff and an internet connection – that worked.  He used his time to help a colleague finish her filing ……. and we thought he was going to be busy, all it did was make him feel at a loose end.  Still, his boss Sam tells him all is ok and when it gets busy he will know it!!  Stew can not work, so that makes things a bit more difficult and we still can’t find where to volunteer, I hope that doesn’t need a social security number as well, will keep you posted.

We miss you all and you know what they say…you never know what you have until it is not there.  But hey this is still only week 3 and now that living arrangements are settled we can start to explore.  We have already …. we went to Vancouver …. tell you about that trip next time.  For now keep well, take care and write to us.

Lots of love and kisses

Stewart, Rod and Doris.