Uncut: airports

16/6/2007

Airports, well, you can’t leave home by air without one and many decades ago you could find me living in one for weeks, waiting for flights that came and went without me.

Not anymore. These days I book a flight, depart, arrive, complete my tasks, depart again and return. Too easy.

Back then chaos was my preferred lifestyle and airports my home base.

I had no need for visas, onward tickets, ready cash, credit cards, or any visible means of support.

This often led to detention by authorities and a couple of stints in airport lockups.

But I do love a good wait in an airport lounge and a chance to view the chaos along with the assorted fashions, religions, cultures, shapes and shoe sizes.

That last long weekend, for example, on the Friday, I spent most of the afternoon and evening in a lounge.

At first I was there on my own business, flying to Palm City (Geraldton), returning, picking up an American friend and heading back to see her off on the first stage of her return to New York.

My flight north was characterised by my fellow passenger, a financial advisor, who swore vehemently that Kevin Rudd’s Labor would destroy civilisation as we knew it and then declared he chastised large numbers of his clients for investing in stocks that enhanced global warming.

In the evening we arrived to find a classic airport departure lounge, one packed with nervous, anxious travellers, eager to get on board, to leave, to say goodbye, to get home, to find someone old, someone new, someone one they were looking for who they hoped they would never find.

Angela, our American friend, was a classic.

As we loaded her five large items into the car, along with two smaller bags, we warned her that there were baggage limits, but she remained convinced there was no such thing and we wondered if it was because she was American.

Angela is an academic, a person who knows everything about everything she needs to know, but nothing about anything else, like fresh fruit, fridges, parking, electrical equipment, or water.

Apart from the occasional flood, power blackout and crockery catastrophes, she was a lot of fun around the house and insisted on buying more items than she broke and responding to our Aussie jibbing with hysterical laughter and apologies: “I’m sorry. It’s because I’m American.”

At Perth Airport we found the longest queue available and settled in for the night.

I’m not one for silent queuing and so quickly began a conversation with the chap behind who informed me, almost immediately, that he was “Darius,from Iran and, you know, Ahmadinejad is not as bad as portrayed by the Western media. Also, he will not be President of Iran next time, because nobody likes him”.

He also said he was flying to Brisbane with three cans of beer in his bag and was determined to become one of us because he loved Australia.

Then someone with a loud voice declared Brisbane was waiting and all those on flight Q-whatever should break ranks and run.

The last we saw of Darius was his laughing face yelling: “Are there really more girls in Brisbane?”

Not one to be left high and dry by the departure of an old friend, I turned to the next person and asked where she was going.

“I’m going to Melbourne, to the footy,” she said.

“Are they all, with you?” I asked, nodding at the 400 lined up behind her.

She laughed and our conversation ended because the loud voice took over again to inform all people flying to Melbourne that their plane was boarding.

Angela took it all in her stride and walked calmly to the flight attendant who broke out in a sweat when I said, no, there this was not the luggage of three people, just one, an American.

Twenty minutes and $480 later Angela, stumbled towards her plane with more luggage than the baggage handlers and I remembered why I spent 30 hours in a Dutch prison, because the authorities deemed I had no luggage, although I was more than happy with my sack containing one pair of underpants, a typewriter, a toothbrush, a roll of carbon paper and a copy of the Guardian Weekly.

Back then, chaos had a certain naivety.

Leave a Reply