It all started with the late taxi. Sorry, the taxi that never was. It should have been, but wasn’t, because when I called to ask where it was, I was told: “There’s nothing coming up on screen. Your booking has not been registered.”
Ok, don’t panic, I’ve got plenty of time.
The call centre books my taxi: “Don’t worry, there’s plenty of taxis in the area and there should be one there quickly.”
I call again: “Yes, your booking is registered, but you will have to wait because there are no taxis in the area.”
All right, “there are taxis in the area”, “there are no taxis in the area.” I’m fine with that. I’m modern. I’m into chaos. I have a plane to catch.
At the top of Kalamunda Road which, by the way, offers a great view of Perth, the city, where most folk who live in West Australia live, there is a road block.
The taxi driver gets testy: “Why? There is room. These people are idiots.”
We wait. Then wait. Then move.
No traffic lights work for us, not one, not even the last one, the one that lets us into the airport precinct.
I am out of the taxi, running, to the darleks, the self-boarding passenger terminals. My flight is not registered.
I rush the counter: “Do you mind, I’m sorry, my flight is leaving.” The man lets me through, a kind man, a potential passenger.
At the desk, I breathe, but it doesn’t help: “Your flight is closed. You won’t get on.”
Then I say that word, the F one, the one I don’t normally utter in a public, bureaucratic setting.
The counter attendant sends me to another counter. As soon as I get there the attendant gets up and moves away to fiddle with stationary, not to fill it out in order to help an anxious passenger, no, to unpack it, to spread it out over the blank space behind him.
Eventually he turns and looks at the blank space in front of him. I fill it.
“My flight is closed. They won’t let me on. They said you would put me on the next flight. Can you?”
He says nothing, not even: “Who are they?”
He doesn’t look up. He works his screen. Finds something. Writes something. Looks up: “4.15. You are on that flight.”
I have four hours to wait. I settle in.
Airports are interesting places. I like waiting in them. In the 1970s I once lived in Heathrow for three days, waiting for a flight, any flight, home. Perth airport, with heightened levels of chaos, gets more and more interesting.
While waiting I recognise that I consider it remarkable that flights take off, stay up, and arrive at a destination. Given the increasing levels of anxiety, chaos and incompetence, it is astounding that things work, not that they don’t work.
A plane arrived. It let me on. I landed in Sydney.
At the Holiday Inn reception desk I was told: “I’m sorry, but you have checked in already.”
“No I haven’t. Have you seen me before?”
“Then this is me. This is my passport. This is my birthmark. My mother’s maiden name is Brooks.”
“So, either you have given my room to someone else, or there has been a mistake, but, I would still like a room, please, any room, but one with a bed, a basin and a bible.”
“Yes, sir. I will check, sir.”
The man standing next to me asks: “You were on the Perth flight?”
“Yes, QF577, but I should have been on QF580. They wouldn’t let me on. I was late.”
He laughed: You know what happened to QF580?”
“It was delayed 30minutes, took off, experienced engine trouble, then returned to Perth and did not leave for another 3hours.”
I laughed. What else could I do?
The receptionist returned and gave me a room.
Ok, everything else ran smooth. Until departure.
At Sydney airport, two hours early, I booked in, thinking that would be plenty of time for the necessary folk to do what they had to do with my baggage and for me to get on the flight.
It was. I browsed. I drank coffee. I bought books.
As the lights flash “boarding” we are informed by a Qantus attendant that we have to face the counter near Gate 13 and collect a form to fill in to enable us to have our luggage delivered to us after we land in Perth.
Because there is a problem with the warning light in the baggage hold and if there is a fire on board no-one will know because the warning light doesn’t work. And nobody smells anymore.
We line up, some anxious, because the boarding light is still flashing, we collect our forms, and run to Gate 7.
Guess what? Once we are in the air, flying high, and the seat belt light has disappeared, an attendant walks around handing out the very same forms we had only 15minutes ago lined up for.
I love it.
As we are leaving the plane, the only attendant I can pick under 45 laughs at me and says: “Good luck with the baggage.”
“I don’t know whose I’ll get but it won’t be mine.”
He laughed: “I know.”
Then he laughed harder.
My bag arrived, yes, mine.
I looked stunned.
“This the wrong bag?” asked the courier.
“No, no, it’s mine all right.”
“That’s why I’m stunned.”
“We do a pretty good job, mate.”
He looked hurt.
“It’s not you, mate, it’s the others. No courier has ever delivered the wrong parcel to me. I admire couriers. Some of my best cousins have been couriers. But airlines, huh!”
He smiled: “Yeah.”