Okay, here it is:
So when I was checking in at Dallas, I was concerned about the short layover time; I asked the United staff whether it would be a problem. I was very specific - Do I have to change terminals? What about my luggage? Will they hold the plane if we're a bit late? She reassured me that I wouldn't even have to change terminals. It'll be fine!
We arrive in LA a bit late, so I know I'll have to run to the right gate: when I get off the plane, I show the United flight attendant my ticket and ask which gate I should go to. She directs me to a gate at the far end of the terminal, so sure enough, I run to the gate and the flight is just closing! I show my ticket and they tell me I'm not checked in, at which point they point out that this is a UNITED flight and I'm taking a QANTAS flight. Holy hell. I have 45 minutes to make the flight. Where do I go, I ask? Take a bus to Terminal 4! They say. So I run all the way outside again, and find the shuttle bus, all red faced and sweaty. Phew! I'll totally make this.
10 minutes later, the bus still hasn't moved because of the traffic: I ask the driver whether it would be quicker to walk, and he nods. Most definitely. So, still out of breath, I leap off the bus and start jogging.
15 minutes later, I'm still jogging, because Terminal 4 is apparently at the other end of the airport. Eventually, I find it and locate the Qantas check-in. Empty. I ask a nearby worker where the check-in is. He tells me that I need TERMINAL 3, right next door. Okay. Time is really short now, I'm pretty convinced I'm going to miss it, but I still run, and eventually find the right Qantas desk. Ah, Qantas! So reassuring, so friendly. They interpret my panting explanation, and tell me that I'll probably miss my flight; so, they'll check me into a flight leaving 30 minutes later, which goes to Melbourne via Sydney. GREAT! This isn't going to be a disaster after all. She gives me the boarding pass and tells me to go to Gate 104. Of course, now I have to go through security again, and I'm in the longest line, and I'm still sweaty, but it's ok; I'll make my flight!
10 minutes later, tying on my shoes after an idiot businessman holds up security, I'm beginning to have doubts again. I haul my bags and run. Naturally, Gate 104 is at the far end of the terminal. After an eternity, I'm nearly there, when an announcement comes overhead: final boarding call for flight to Melbourne, boarding Gate 123. Holy hell. She obviously told me the wrong gate, so I turn and half sprint, half limp to the OTHER END of the terminal, where the attendants are literally about to close the doors. I thrust my boarding pass at them, and they look at me pityingly: no, this is the direct flight to Melbourne, the one I was originally checked into but am no longer on the flight list for. It's leaving a bit late. I COULD HAVE FREAKING MADE IT. No, my flight is still at Gate 104, and is about to begin boarding. SO. Off I go, feeling very conspicuous since I'm red-faced, panting, sweating, and have run this way twice now.
Get to Gate 104 - boarding is very slow. YESSS. This is my flight. Wooo! Everything's going to be okay. Suddenly, I realise that my parents, who are picking me up, will be extremely worried when I'm not on my original flight. This one gets in two hours later. I try the payphones: they don't work. I try wi-fi on my nearly-dead phone - yes, but I have to pay 4.95 with my credit card to use it. I do so, send a quick message to Dad on Facebook, but before I can double check the message, the internet cuts out. I just have to hope it got through.
15 hour flight ensued - landed in Sydney - take shuttle bus to next terminal for flight to Melbourne - all is well - HOME AT LAST! However, my luggage is still in LA, and I'm told it will be delivered tomorrow.
Not a complete disaster, but I do feel that significant years were shaved from my life.