Are we there yet?

Stupidity soars to new heights while I stay grounded.

VIETNAM | Thursday, 16 December 2010 | Views [575]

Staring at stains on the ceiling and taking photos of myself when I should have been panicking.

Staring at stains on the ceiling and taking photos of myself when I should have been panicking.

You can't have a signature move unless you put it in to action at every available opportunity. Like John Travolta and a dance floor, Tiger Woods and a bedroom, er golf course or Dubya and his Texan ranch, my place to shine is the airport. I'm extremely punctual socially, I'm never late for work and I'm often too early in bed. Why can't I make it on time for a flight in the middle of the afternoon? It's like Groundhog Day every time I go to the airport. It hardly even needs detailing here because it's always the same story; almost.

Waking up on your last day on holiday is never a pleasant feeling. Last night's are generally an exercise in alcohol engineered denial. The hangover carries the extra burden of sadness that something is ending, other than the desire to never drink again. I stared at the stains on the bedroom ceiling hoping that seeing something crazy in them might help me avoid work by having a short holiday in a nut house. One stain looked like someone had managed to spew on the roof, but aside from defying explanation, nothing proved my sanity was fraying.

I packed my backpack, thankful I had opted to buy a 100 litre bag as I needed every square inch. Hawkers, salesmen, touts, taxi drivers and the whole of Thailand was conspiring with Fate to keep me in the country and help me go through the last of my remaining cash. A 3pm flight made me somewhat complacent about busting my chops to get to the airport. The airport shuttle is punctual and leaves from a certain point near Khao San Road on a regular basis. Not regular enough for me though. Departures were hourly during the day and missing one bus by 10 minutes ensured a 50 minute wait for the next.

That didn't pose a problem as it still gave me over an hour at the airport. It was cutting it fine for an international flight but I am a master chef when it came to slicing my luck as thinly as possible. Unfortunately my bag was a weight-watchers reject and I had to supersize my luggage allowance. That didn't score me any fries but put me back a further 20 minutes, and removed the possibility of being able to afford some fries for myself.

With Sarah's back resembling an orchard in autumn, she was incapable of being her own pack horse. I had to play beast of burden, and would have done so more merrily if I hadn't have seen a clock on the stagger to her check-in counter. Alarm bells were chiming gently, but the airport's force-field was forbidding me from using any of my higher mammal faculties. I thought a facade that portrayed mild panic was becoming appropriate and sped through a farewell with Sarah.

That facade got a complete make-over as soon as I saw the queues for passport control. Mild panic might have been appropriate for someone who wasn't so well versed in the painful procedures that follow a missed flight. I had 45 minutes to come up with a better response to a situation I am more used to than its apparently more normal opposite of actually making the flight. I settled for apathy, not out of resignation, but an awareness that hysterics would have far further reaching consequences.

I had to remove my bracelet and lose my bottle of water to make it through screening, surprised there was no full body cavity search. 10 security personnel were confronting a problem that would be more regular than not, and should not have taken 5 minutes to resolve. But it did. It was passed actual departure time and I was not making that plane. But like a true Aussie battler, I still ran 500 miles through Suvarnabhumi’s ridiculously long hallways expecting to see a plane at the gate. It wasn't. And people sitting at the next gate took no small pleasure in looking at me, looking at my plane taxing to the runway, then looking back at me to evaluate how appropriately disappointed I looked.

I had moved on from apathy to extreme agitation as I had decided I would look weirder if I was hurrying somewhere with a really relaxed countenance. “Just out for a quick jog before I fly around the world three times. Honestly, I'm not rushing madly after a missed flight, like the other people you often see at an airport”.

If you have seen someone do it yourself, chances are pretty good it was me. Say hi next time. I'm not far off having plenty of time to chat.

I didn't this time as I had to get hold of Sarah straight away. She was my only avenue for the cash I needed to get another flight, and hopefully she hadn't spoken to my Nana. Her flight was delayed, giving her an abundance of what I needed most; time. That miracle was supposed to fall into my lap! Fate seemed to be throwing around thunderbolts like Thor on the piss, and hammered home the point when Sarah pointed out she was given a 300 baht food voucher for the inconvenience of the delay. If she hadn't have already spent it at Donut King, I would have claimed it for myself as a karmic accounting error.

Going the wrong way through passport control was made more difficult by the absence of an entry form for morons. I got a very interesting guided tour through the bowels and inner workings of an international port, something you would never get on a guided tour. Unless the tour included a discount if you tried to smuggle drugs back home with you. Each armed guard I had to seek passage from looked too mean to deal with anyone who wasn't breaking the law. One snarl from them was enough to think hysterics would be insufficient if I was in serious trouble.

A $110 'special price' to change to a later flight made me acutely aware that I was in serious trouble if Sarah wasn't cool with lending me the money. She was, probably out of compassion, but possibly just to be rid of someone who was quickly becoming a broken mirror, black cat and wrong side of the bed proposition to be around. At least it gave us the chance to say a proper goodbye not knowing when our paths would be crossing again either.

Having just bailed me out, Sarah should have stopped me from smothering myself in factor 500 idiot crème, with added synapse inhibitors. It took me another 30 minutes to get through passport control. I was close enough to departure time to hurry through the crowds with disbelief, desperation and a sense of de ja vue trailing after me like I had literally shit myself. Had it not been for 2 months of white rice, I probably would have.

Hurrying turned out to be unnecessary as no one was in any rush to board this plane. Docketed departure time came and went without too much concern from anyone not influenced by the state I was in. 30 minutes later I could hear Fate having a fine old chuckle to herself as we finally took off with my head full of 'what could have been' had the earlier flight been so loose on punctuality.

That demoralising thought finally got washed away when a heavy storm thundered in about 10 seconds after boarding the plane in Kuala Lumpur. In true typhoon fashion, the dry runway was flooded 2 minutes after it started raining. Had it drenched me before boarding, no one would have been able to convince me that the rain wasn't just Fate pissing herself with laughter.

Which is what she ended up doing when neither Trev nor I had any money to get out of the airport car-park in Perth. Trev went off to search the car and suggested I work on my begging or busking routine while he was gone. Then I remembered that the credit card may have expired, but my normal account still had double the amount the car-park mafia wanted to charge for less than 2 hours of parking. 5 minutes back in Australia and I was made acutely aware of the different standards of living between us and our Asian neighbours as I could have eaten for 3 days with what a 3x2 square metre patch of concrete cost for 45 minutes of lease.

Tags: flights, misfortune

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