It was definitely a sign. The second one, in fact.
As I sat in the taxi, stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, I noticed a familiar design on the car in front of us: Sunshine Coast number plates.
I’d left the warmth of the Coast a few hours earlier and arrived in the congested, noisy, bright and cold environs of Sydney one Thursday evening, well past peak hour - and we’d barely progressed beyond the perimeter of the domestic airport terminal.
The first sign was when the airport bus failed to pick me up, although I’d booked it the day before.
Not even a telephone call to say “sorry, we’re running late” or “we can’t find you”; and as it was past 5pm, the office had closed. There was no way I could talk to someone and say “where the heck are you? My plane leaves in 45 minutes!”
I hate it when that happens.
Fortunately, a neighbour arrived home and offered to take me to the airport. Luckily, the airport was just down the road. I arrived at the departure lounge as they started to board the plane. Thank goodness for small domestic airports.
Now, I don’t generally get tense or anxious these days, but I was feeling a tad frazzled when the plane took off a short while later, which made it difficult to relax or sleep for the 1.5-hour flight in a cramped seat while the two passengers next to me talked (to each other) non stop.
Is it just me, or does anyone else find flying a pain in the neck?
After an exhausting five days in Sydney, where I succumbed to the dreaded lurgy, I had an unusually uncomfortable return flight home and not only ended up with a painful crick in my neck, but somehow managed to put my lower back out while attempting to sleep.
Crikey - I think I’ve lost my youthful physical ability to travel in confined, cramped spaces for short periods of time! Not that I was ever comfortable with long haul flights or extended stays in transit lounges, either...
A transit greeting
That’s nice, I thought, as I spotted an official holding up a sign with my name on it when I walked off the plane late at night.
“I’m sorry, but your flight to Chengdu (China) has been cancelled,” he said with a smile. “You’ve been transferred to a flight to Beijing, which is leaving in five minutes. Follow me, please.”
We trotted across the vast expanse of Bangkok airport to my next boarding gate. While trotting is a great remedy for getting circulation moving again and clearing jetlag, you’d think he would’ve offered me a ride on one of those airport carts to save time, though…
“At Beijing, please collect your luggage and check in again for the flight to Chengdu,” the official said as he waved me goodbye.
Dang. This was an extra leg to my original booking for a reasonably direct flight to Lhasa, Tibet and added another eight hours of travel and transit time.
Fortunately, I was sitting in a middle row with free seats on either side of me (although I always request a window seat), but at least I could stretch out and sleep in a horizontal position for the overnight flight. It helped, just a bit.
“Uno cafe,” I say.
“Normale? Italiano?” the waitress asks.
Is there a difference, I wonder? “Err, normale.”
I sip leisurely, opening my Peru travel guide. I glance at the clock on the far wall. Good grief - five more hours before my next flight.
I do another lap of Buenos Aries airport (which doesn’t take long, given its surprisingly small size), go to the toilet, sit down, read some more interesting Peruvian facts in my guide book, walk some more, sit down, fidget, read, walk, check the time, listen to a Spanish language tape on my Walkman, read, and - finally - sit at the departure gate. Just another hour to go.
“Hola,” I smile at the little old Peruvian woman sitting next to me on the flight to Lima, as we recognise each other from the earlier flight out of Sydney.
My pen hovers over the Peruvian immigration and customs forms, as I look for the English translations in my guide book.
“Por favour,” the Peruvian woman asks, indicating her forms. I’m not sure where she got the impression that I spoke Spanish.
Err… domicilio - must be place of residence?
“Occupation?” I ask.
“De casa.” Let’s see… “of the house.” Aha - housewife. Of course.
She chats amicably for the next 10 minutes, showing me her travel card - something about medico; perhaps the benefits of having travel insurance?
“Si,” I smile and nod.
Shame I didn’t have more time to learn Spanish before my last-minute change of travel plans to Peru.
I'm late, I'm late!
“I’m afraid all the seats are full.”
“What do you mean?”
“There aren’t any more seats in economy.”
“But I reconfirmed my flight yesterday!”
“I’m sorry,” said the check-in clerk behind the counter, “but we’ll have to upgrade you to business class.”
Serves me right for arriving at the airport so late. I don’t know how I was going to handle the five-hour flight from Hong Kong to Japan.
“Good afternoon, Miss Kotrotsios. Would you like a pre-departure drink?”
Now why don’t all domestic flights have business class style seats and service? Flying wouldn’t be such a pain in the neck, otherwise.
New Zealand 2008
New Zealand 2006
United Kingdom 2004
Athens Olympics 2004
Beijing to Athens 1994
I acknowledge the traditional Custodians of the land on which I work and live, the Gubbi Gubbi / Kabi Kabi and Joondoburri people, and recognise their continuing connection to land, the waters and sky. I pay my respect to them and their cultures; and to Elders past, present and emerging.
© 2023 HARI KOTROTSIOS