My husband and I were at San Francisco International Airport on a warm night in late July. Bags checked, phone calls made, dinner enjoyed, black passports in hand. Time to go. I strolled up to the departure gate in a long queue of passengers for the flight to Sydney, trying to appear nonchalant. In the pit of my stomach was this dread that one of the eagle-eyed Qantas gate agents would confront me about my carry-on baggage weighing two dozen kilos above the limit. They were all the right dimensions, but if anyone lifted them, they would have been aghast.
I wasn’t wearing a suit. No one called me to the front of an auditorium and handed me a flag to wild applause. Second tour assignments arrive via email, with little fanfare. Mine hit my inbox last night while I was wearing pajamas and sitting half asleep in an armchair watching the Armed Forces Network.