A Tale Of One City; Qantas Strike Action.

Picture Courtesy Of Nikki Smith

As I pulled apart my Big Mac, I couldn’t help but feel cheap and disgusting. I don’t eat at McDonald’s often; One of those places I’ve poisoned myself against over the years – but we had to spend the last of our dollars; That jangled in our pockets, blanketed by dollar bills, receipts and   tattered directions written on post it notes. Besides, we were in The States. One last burger before leaving wouldn’t hurt right?

We had arrived at LAX in decent time for our over night flight to Melbourne. Petra and I were in high spirits as travelling the States was an overall success; Not much in the way of problems and a great way to kick off our trip. We had loved our time in LA and were somewhat sad to leave the US. One month down and three go; But we weren’t counting.

We were flying out with Qantas – to which despite losing my bags before – I have no problems; In fact they are one of the better airlines I’ve travelled with.

For a couple of hours, we strolled through the terminal – drinking coffee and taking it easy – and  began to look towards Australia; I have lived in Brisbane before so I was looking forward to seeing some old faces, but Petra had never been so I was excited for her as well.

Before long it was time to board, and without a hitch, we settled in. I had torn apart the plastic package they provide you; With toothpaste, a blindfold and other things that get in the way and I probably won’t use. We wondered if we would get the seat next to us free, so we could stretch out later and squeeze in a fairly decent sleep; Although I wasn’t to bothered about it: They had a whole season of Curb Your Enthusiasm (my favourite show) available on the in flight system. I would no doubt be up all night watching that and drinking gin…

It was just past 11pm when we received an announcement over the tannoy:

“Ladies and gentleman this is your captain speaking. If I could ask for your attention; I have some important information to share. I have just received a call from head office…and…I’m afraid I have some unfortunate news. Due to industrial action…out of my control…Qantas has decided to ground it’s entire worldwide fleet meaning…sadly…we will not be flying to Melbourne this evening. At this time I do not have any further information to give…but on behalf of I… and the rest of the cabin crew… I sincerely apologize. I will have to ask you to gather all of your belongings…and leave the aircraft back to the terminal. Again…my deepest apologies.”

As we remained sat in our seats and turned to each other, I wasn’t sure how to feel but Petra looked quite upset. With only a few moments past, I had already gotten the feeling that this could be a difficult situation to navigate; Perhaps a true test of not only my resolve, but of ours as a travelling couple. My mind began to race; Making up different, unsubstantiated conclusions in my head. I was yet to establish clouds, never mind silver linings. I worried that this would put strain on us; Very, very quickly.

Surprisingly, most passengers (us included) collected their things and left the plane without a fuss. The cabin crew looked as shocked as we were and they also seemed quite passive; were they also in the dark about it?

Ourselves  – and the rest of the unlucky passengers – streamed and weaved our way back to the terminal. We were guided by make shift signs simply reading ‘Qantas’, held out by ever increasingly shy looking crew members.

I began to think of the scene that awaited us upon arrival at the terminal. We surely weren’t the only Qantas flight outbound that evening… I had visions of being met with chaos, however I decided – like the cabin crew – to also remain quite passive:

“Lets just go with the flow on this one. Let everyone else do the stressing” I said to Petra. To my gratefulness, she agreed.

We arrived back at the check in desks but my suspicions were right. It was chaotic. There was another out bound flight to Sydney – to which my disbelief – was in the process of being pulled from the air, and told to turn around. Frustrated passengers from another flight from the runway also began to stream into the terminal, clashing with our flight like two angry tribes looking for a fight. But we were to expect passengers from the plane in the sky to also join the party. Before long the place was packed and the rumour mill started to turn inside LAX airport; There was talk of another flight, not getting home that night, and all things corporate related, spouted from douche bags on smart phones.

I wasn’t too worried at this time; it will just take a while to sort itself out; But I was starting to think about whether this would cost us or not; That was a genuine concern.

After what seemed like an age, it was well after midnight and the Qantas staff still hadn’t heard a word on what to do with the passengers. Everyone was huddled around the check in desks waiting to hear information and by now people were starting to get disgruntled; aka fairly tired and pissed off. Petra and I decided to sit close to the desks – where most of the staff were hiding behind – in case a massive queue was in the making; We figured it was only a matter of time so getting a head start wouldn’t cause any harm. As we waited, some of the business class passengers began to perk up; stretch their wings, clear their throats and step confidently into the front line; Questions and orders began to ring throughout the terminal from those that remained, whilst many of the others had already booked alternative travel via their smart phones, iPads, and net books; And as many only had hand luggage, those fortunate passengers were already heading out the door. The rest of us remained in the terminal, scruffily dressed in baggy shorts and printed T’s; Baggage still on the plane, but plenty to be seen under ever glazing eyes.

Finally, after another lengthy wait, there was some movement behind the desks, and as more staff began to trickle through the terminal – dragged out of whatever bed, bar, or office they came from – they were ready to make an announcement via white megaphones; The kind in which I’ve only seen in protests and movies:

“If I could have everyone’s attention please: We have received word from head office in Melbourne and as it stands, unfortunately, there will be no flights leaving LA tonight and throughout tomorrow. We are in the process of arranging hotels for you all and for transport to take you there. Can I ask those of you on the Sydney flights to form a cue here and to those of you on the Melbourne flight to line up at the other side. We will then issue you with a hotel. Once you have the name of your hotel, head down stairs to collect your baggage and make your way outside for transport to your accommodation.”

As bad luck would have it, we were at the wrong side of the the terminal and should expect to be last in line. Not only that, but due to the sheer scale of bodies in the terminal – and not hearing the relevant announcement – we hadn’t noticed that the majority of the passengers on our flight had already been allocated hotels and were downstairs already. Disappointed that we had failed to get ahead of the game,we rolled our eyes and shuffled over to the other side of the terminal to be allocated a hotel. Upon arrival, we were greeted by a baron terminal, with only a few lost souls scattered around. Unintentionally, we had lost our Melbourne counter parts and were able to have a clear run at approaching the check in desk. We sluggishly stepped up to the desk, and handed over our boarding passes. In return, we received a piece of paper –  marked in black pen – simply reading ‘The Marriott  Down town’. That was unexpected….My eyes lit up (as did Petra’s) and I suddenly felt over joyed to not be flying tonight; It could have been written in gold… When I had booked the trip – Spending hours, scrambling through pages upon pages of potential hostels and hotels – I hadn’t envisioned staying at at The Marriott; Working minimum wage, prioritising with cities to be in, not beds to sleep on and it being beyond the realms of our reality went against it. But now that it was real? We would embrace it with open arms. However it was still to early to crack open a beer; We had to get there first…

Hotel name in hand we headed downstairs, dreading the impending chaos. We were accosted by a sea of people, impatiently crowding round a make shift barrier of orange vests, forming a line between the passengers and their belongings. The ground staff – rocking the orange – began rifling through miscellanious sport bags, suitcases and backpacks, scanning for name tags. In an attempt to devolop some sort of system, they indenting on locating bags, shouting the name and have you step forward. But it was flawed; Some passengers were ridiculously impatient, dramatic and unruly by this stage of the proceedings at LAX airport. There was a man in a wheelchair loosing his temper because he couldn’t see beyond the crowd nor hear if his name was called; There were people pushing forward; People raking through scores of unclaimed bags, as if they were trying to find the body of a lost loved one; People seeing their bags and grabbing at them, breaking the barrier between them and the ground staff. It was all becoming a bit messy and by this point, I could feel my patience fading also as I really, really, didn’t want to be there… Eventually, our name was called and we stepped forward to claim our backpacks. I flung mine over my shoulder, helped Petra with hers and began to head outside.

As we stepped out onto the side walk, it was to no surprise that the bedlam had spread to here also. The drop off/pick up point was littered with bleary eyed passengers, bags in tow, eagerly awaiting courtesy buses, cabs and lifts to take them to whatever mattress awaited them. However it was now in the very small hours. And as short staffed the airline and Qantas was inside the terminal, the same can be said for outside; Very little cabs in the rank, a small trickle of mini buses and a select few representatives pacing the side walk with talk radios.

We were given a hotel: I had the name in hand. We were given our luggage: Mine was laying by my feet like a trusted family dog. We were promised transport: It felt like it was never coming. It was at this time I could feel my patience dwindelling from being tried, to being severely tested. I sympathised with the staff, parents stuck with small children and the elderly, but my compassion was wearing thin. I was tired, touchy and  had enough. I wanted a bed; I wanted not to talk to Petra; And I wanted some proper/concrete information from Qantas. At this moment in time, I was getting none of the three. Time had ground to a holt. Outside was as bad as inside. We had been waiting on the side walk for a couple of hours…

At lengthy intervals, a new bus would pull up whisking happier passengers away with it as we sat and watched on. The crowd  had crumbled and chipped away from the wall of luggage and hunched figures it was before, but we were still there; Still waiting; Still listening out for ‘The Marriott down town’; Still tired; And still no closer to the hotel. Could we grab a taxi? Yes, we could, but it would have cost us a huge amount. The staff looked despondent; Like they knew nothing more than we did. And then – as teased before – I had really had enough. Like a moth to a flame, I stormed across the street, flailing out my arms, targeted a blonde haired Qantas crew member that had caught my eye and went on a tirade that I can barely remember. There was no more rational thinking left in my system; I had exhausted it all. I asked – or perhaps demanded – some facts, but all I really wanted to achieve was confirmation of our lift into town. Rather sheepishly, the blonde – who was already under enough pressure without my input – said he didn’t know, but he told me if we were to jump into a taxi, Qantas would cover the fair. As it turned out, this was information they knew all along;  Information that would have been helpful during our plight with the pavement. However, regardless of  how pissed off I was to hear it, it was all that I needed to turn around, storm back over the street, grab our bags and make progress towards the rank.

Shortly after – as if it was written all along – a black mini bus pulled up to the terminal, just as I had calmed down and  joined the rank. Other ‘soon to be’ Marriott guests awoke and began to make a break towards it. We wasted no time in joining them. This looked like our ride into town:

‘Marriott down town???’ We pleaded more than asked.

‘I have no idea where the hell I’m going. What’s the deal? Who’s paying the fare?’

If he didn’t hear ‘The Marriott’ and ‘Qantas’ the first time, he definatly heard it the second, third and fourth; Poor guy… We clambered in, snatched our seats, and I closed my eyes for a second or two. As the bitching commenced within the cab by other passengers, I examined Petra to see if she was annoyed with me. She looked back, let out a smile and rested her head on the window. She was fine; We were fine; And finally en route away from the airport. As we pulled out of the terminal, I spotted a woman at the side of the road: She was alone, about early fifties, short grey hair and sporting a baggy fleece decorated with portraits of dogs; The kind you see in tacky gift shops and wonder who buys these things. She was in tears. I had seen her earlier in the evening – not so upset but looking distressed – and I intended on asking her if she was all right. I didn’t bother. As we drove off, I felt terrible for not doing so. Selfishly, I was only truly concerned about her once we had been taken care of. And as emotions were high, I couldn’t really deal with that thought; That plus the image of her on the side of the road – crying her eyes out  – began to haunt me, and it did so all the way to the hotel. I really wished I had talked to her…

The ride to the hotel, through the far-reaching, grid like, down town LA, was a short one in comparison to the nights events and we found ourselves soon pulling up to the front door. We were greeted by friendly baggage handlers and an enticing warm glow administered from the hotel lobby. We found ourselves in another queue;This time for check – in. But this was a far more calming affair; Sympathetic smiles, well-informed staff and padded carpet. Within no time we were key in hand, and in our room, marvelling at the bathroom, staring out the window and flicking through the channels. Excitement well and truly over for the night, we crashed out, wondering what tomorrow held for us.

The following morning we arrived downstairs for breakfast after a good nights sleep; Hungry but with  patience restored to full capacity. Before coffee we were told to check in at reception for any updates on the strike action (Qantas had sent a representative to stay at every hotel, setting up a desk in the lobby). Last night, upon arrival at the hotel, we had been greeted by someone from Qantas; Young Aussie guy, approachable, friendly and some what light-hearted; Qualities that could defuse any stressful situation. The Marriot’s representative was just as great; Sharp, keen and  full of answers despite having limited information. Disappointedly, neither were to be seen today, and as we approached the make-do Qantas desk, I realised the Aussie guy had been replaced. In his place was an Asian woman; Rather scattered, out of sorts and looking a little bit disinterested; All in all seeming a little uncomfortable in her role, as more and more guests approached the desk armed with queries. She struggled to answer most questions and the ones she did, not very well, even with the added bonus of understanding and patience by most around the desk. It was also a struggle for her to understand most people as her English wasn’t the best. I came to the conclusion that she was either new on the job, or this wasn’t her regular role with Mantas. Regardless, she was doing terribly; Not helped by the fact that there wasn’t much to really say. Most people opted to talk with the Marriott’s representative – who was doing terrific under the circumstances – instead of her. We longed for the laid back Aussie.

There was only one announcement at breakfast and to no surprise:

‘There are no flights out today.’

We were handed  three vouchers each – to the value of 12,15 and 22 dollars – to spend at the hotel on breakfast, lunch and dinner, courtesy of Qantas. Brilliant. This was not only unexpected for us but a real treat. The pool outside – with it’s enticing blue water, picturesque setting and sun just warm enough to dip your toes in – would keep us in the hotel until tomorrow. The rare opportunity to completely relax – at the expense of someone else – was something we wouldn’t pass down. We, of course, would make the most of it.

The day came and went inside The Marriott hotel and we had enjoyed the down time. We had nothing major planned for our arrival in Melbourne and could afford to lose out on a few days. We were grateful for that fact and I’m sure others weren’t as fortunate.

On the second day we arrived down for breakfast again to be handed another set of vouchers and to be told that there was no movement on the strike. There would also be a new influx of passengers at the desk, who had arrived at the hotel a few hours after us. The announcement:

‘There are still no flights out today.’

‘I’ll have the steak please.’

Late afternoon on the third day we had just arrived back to the room after spending time by the pool. I was lying, sprawled out on the bed watching TV, trying to figure out the appeal in American football; Petra was in the shower. The phone rang:

“Is that Mr Croaker?”

It was the Qantas representative mispronouncing my name.

‘Would you like to fly out tonight at 11.30?’

‘For how many people?‘ I replied.

She had problems understanding I was travelling with Petra; Constantly mispronouncing/misspelling her name and I had very little faith in her. It was a necessary question.

‘For two. Be downstairs for 8pm’

I cautiously accepted. But I was apprehensive about going back to the airport…

For all different reasons, people were scrambling to get to where they wanted to be: Be it work, family engagements, whatever…So in that respect I was quite surprised I got the phone call. In truth, we weren’t really that bothered if the phone rang or not. We were told to be downstairs for 8pm but to be on the safe side we made the decision to go down for 7pm. We packed our bags with a sense of dread but also looked forward to finally getting to Melbourne.

Bags packed, loose plane clothing on and with a semi-premature feeling of finality, we headed downstairs to the lobby for six thirty – you know, just to be sure. Using the last of our food tokens, – the posh Marriott kind –  we pulled up chairs centre circle, dug into some pizza and pasta and maintained a watchful eye over the hotel lobby. We had confirmation that we were on our way out of The States, but I was to remain slightly on edge: I had lost faith in Qantas and worried that there may be more mishaps to come… A few slices in, Petra had spotted familiar faces across the lobby, dragging their bags behind them:

“They must have gotten on the flight tonight as well” she said.

“Hmm…Yeah…I guess…Hold on.”

A gulp of water and some laboured chewing later, I went over to check what the gossip was:

The Qantas representative – the useless one we had been stuck with – was in the midst of getting a grilling from a very angry passenger. It seemed she was upset because people were leaving to the airport, to which she wasn’t told about. She was sporting shades, (tucked into her top) sandals and had a book clutched in her hand. Key point being, she wasn’t ready to leave, and this situation – in comparison – would act as her final boarding call at the airport. I was confused. It was barely past seven. Didn’t she have an hour to spare? As I continued to listen in –  looking for my opportunity to get involved – the whole picture began to unravel, and it wasn’t to appeal to everyone’s tastes. Then, the Qantas representative dropped a clanger, heard all over the hotel lobby: She explained that if you happened to have been in your room at the time of the phone call, you were on the flight; If you happened to be by the pool, out of the building, taking a shit or anything else that involved not being by the telephone? Well you would have missed out. And as a consequence, not be flying out of Los Angeles. Never having dawned a Qantas uniform, even I felt qualified enough to realise that this was poor judgement on her behalf. The angry, sandal shuffling woman was now infuriated: She, personally, had been told prior that she would have priority because she was first class. Suddenly, I found it hard to sympathise. Unceremoniously, I piped up:

“Sorry to interrupt, Can I just want to confirm some information with you? We are still leaving at 8pm, right?…”

“ No” She said.

“We leave now. If you want to go to the airport tonight, be outside in five minutes.”

I bounded back over to the table, leaving the angry passenger and the representative behind. I told Petra we were leaving. Bewildered again, she finished her slice and shook her head. We were right to come down early.

News had spread and more and more people began filling the lobby. Some with luggage; Some without. We slid past the gathering crowd, made our way outside and scrambled into a mini-van. Within minutes we were joined by others, and we were on our way to the airport.

Upon arrival, we were greeted with the same check-in desk we fondly remember from those long and stressful hours from a few nights before. Not much had changed: There were still hoards of people, albeit, now in single file; Smiles upon faces and a lightness in the air. We joined in in the back, waiting patiently, ready to move forward and begin zigzagging our way closer to the check-in desk. However, there was one noticeable similarity from the last encounter: The staff.: They looked somewhat nervous; Like they had something to hide; Like they knew something we didn’t; Like they did the night before.The anxiety I felt at the hotel began to creep back in. I couldn’t help but feel that there may be more drama to come.

A few twists and turns later we found ourselves obstructed only by a couple with their young family. The father had been talking to the sheepish looking check-in guy for quite some time. Scanning the horizon, I began to notice more sheepish faces, cowering behind the desks, including our troubled representative from the hotel. There was clearly something up. The man – with his family it toe – turned around and headed right, away from the line. We were up next. I stepped forward, lay my passport on the counter and peered at the man behind the check in desk pleadingly: Within seconds and to no absolutely no surprise, I was to be told that there would be no seats left on the plane. Here we go again, I thought. Despite our early arrival, we were still too late. On the flip side, it wasn’t the end of the world: He offered us a flight to Melbourne, connecting with Sydney. But before he could do so, I had gotten frustrated again and as did Petra. Not with him; Not with the situation; But with the woman from our hotel for – once again – giving out terrible information. As much as I wanted to sympathise with her, I simply couldn’t. It wasn’t mine nor Petra’s finest moment.; flaring out, speaking up and adding nothing but more stress. But, thankfully,  it would be the last we seen of her: Cowering; Behind her desk; Well over her head.

As the cue became longer and longer and more and more people streamed into LAX, we began feeling fortunate that we were on a flight at all. There was a good chance that people in our hotel were going to be at the airport later expecting flights out, as well as many others. As the terminal filled up, I predicted a lot of unhappy people. Many will have made a wasted journey and could expect another trip back to the hotel: Too many people, not enough aircraft and a terrible breakdown of communication: This, yet again, was a mess.

We had been told at check in that due to short notice, the plane hadn’t been able to be stocked on time, there for, there would be limited food and drink on board. We were then handed  a voucher worth the equivalent of one hundred dollars for us to spend in the terminal: Well, this was different. I had never heard of such a thing. Naturally, my first question was:“Can I spend this in duty free?” He didn’t know. And neither did the guy behind me; Or the woman with too much make up;Or the guy with the tacky phone cover.;In fact no one quite knew what to do with the voucher, including Qantas themselves. But I guess we had time to figure it out. We headed upstairs, voucher in hand, feeling menacing.

Upon further probing we understood that the voucher came with restrictions: The main being that it could only be spent in one place within the terminal; Not a variety of. So with a little deliberation, naturally, we decided we would head to the bar, grab some sandwiches or the like to take away and spend the rest on whisky, cocktails and pints. Naturally.

The bar was dotted with normal passengers but laden with voucher waving Qantas nuisances. We had found a table in the corner and as we looked down on the ever increasingly busy terminal, we had time to reflect a little on the whole situation. I felt sorry for the staff: Not only Qantas, but for the ground staff, the baggage handlers, the taxi and the bus drivers; The catering staff at all the hotels; The maids, the cleaners, the cabin crew and those who had lost out on whatever plans, work or appointments they had waiting for them at the other side of the ocean. We had it easy: an extended holiday with a sprinkle of stress thrown in to keep things exciting, but others may have been effected in terrible ways: Missing a funeral is what came to my mind…  As I enjoyed my pint, at Café El Qantas,  I also felt sorry for our waitress: She was stressed – big time – and incredibly stretched, trying to deal with the floor on her own. Being a waiter myself for many years, I knew exactly how she felt and tend to sympathise with people I can relate to. I managed to catch a word with her: The consensus she put across on behalf of the terminal, was of the frustration with Qantas, and how chaotic it’s been for everyone involved:This mirrored my thoughts. Everyone had something to moan about or a story to tell. I wished her well and let her get on.

As we settled in at the bar, we began chatting to people around us, most of which were on our flight: A community of disgruntled passengers, becoming happier by the second, gripping onto a pint of lager and looking somewhat more upbeat then their downstairs counterparts.

“Do you mind if I sit here?” we were asked, by a man we briefly met in the cue.

His name was Andy: A thirty something year old from Melbourne who was in LA for business. He too had been caught up in the strike but he didn’t seem to mind, despite having a family to get home to. We began talking light-heartedly which came as a welcome contrast to the bull-dozing negativity that was circulating LAX. Even better, he was up for a couple of drinks, so before long we were on the whisky; Petra drank a cocktail. We shared a story or two as we waited on our food (club sandwiches) and he seemed to genuinely enjoy our travelling tales: His eyes lit up when I told him about upcoming plans and how my time was in Australia, Germany and Asia. He had travelled also – And I sensed he somewhat missed those days… We drank at the bar for an hour or two, taking full advantage of our 100 dollar vouchers. I was drunk.

It was time to stream through security and make our way to the gate. On the way we passed a news team, filming people holding up their vouchers to the camera: Would I have done the same if asked? Yeah, probably…We also passed some absolute fool in a Costa type chain, buying everything he could possibly get his hands on; Shortbread, muffins, cakes, crisps – you name it. I felt this was incredibly foolish as you CAN NOT take this into Australia with you: He would either have to eat it all on the plane or declare his loot to customs: So unless he would like to argue/ be fined over a half eaten chocolate muffin, a near empty tube of Pringle’s and a pocket full of crumbs it really wasn’t worth his while. All I was taking into Australia was a belly full of beer, and I was all the happier for it.

We had left it a bit tight to get through to the security checks as we capitalized on every single moment spent at the bar. As a result, we ended up rushing through – Andy included – and made a speedy beeline for the gate. Upon arrival, we were greeted with gloomy expressions, slumped over teenagers engaged with their smart phones and scattered crowds dotted over the carpet. I had seen this before. I knew exactly what lay ahead. Our flight had been delayed: Delayed for another three hours.

Due to the voucher restrictions, their would be no more freebies at the bar. What was becoming a relatively great night, turned into a shit one. I wanted to carry on boozing and fully intended on abusing the drink cart on the plane. But until then, we would have to cough up some dollars. In stepped Andy who kindly offered to buy us another round. Sharing stories had become sharing laughs with him. Another drink was in order. One became two; Two became three; Three became too many, and we danced our way back to the gate. Andy went on to explain how great it was to talk to us, as it brought back so many memories of when he was backpacking: Memories, he said,  he hadn’t recalled in years. Genuinely friendly and incredibly kind with his words and time. The drinks we had came courtesy of Andy; The fun we had was priceless.

Again, it was the early hours of the morning and again, we were at the gate waiting to fly. We had made in time to join another cue, waiting to board. The staff had that look about them again: A look that can only be described as unsettling. However the flight had been called, so I couldn’t see what could possibly go wrong. We made our way forward and stepped up to the desk. Ready to board, I handed over my passport and boarding pass:

“Sir I’m sorry but you are not on this flight. You will be on the next, which flies out in a couple of hours.”

Our tickets were right. We weren’t in the wrong.  But it seemed things had been shuffled around last minute. As expected, I blew up, but somehow managed to keep it inside, swallow it and get over it within a matter of seconds. There was nothing to be done, and the good natured drunk in me prevailed. We grabbed our bags, shuffled back the way we came and found a place to park our bodies. The bar was now closed. For the next couple of hours, I’d be sobering up on the patch of carpet I chose.

As we settled, Petra and Andy struck up another conversation. I became quickly bored of my chosen tile. I pulled myself up, stretched out and decided to go for a walk. I enjoy being in airports: I love the excitement, the bustle and the people that flock to them. I find being on a plane restricting (for obvious reasons) but at the airport I’m free to roam, wonder and daydream; I’m free to celebrity spot, eat sushi and and read smutty magazines; I’m free to eat peanut M&M’s, try on fourteen different after shaves and play on the escalators; I’m free to stare, peer and watch; I’m free to go where I’ve been waiting to go for months; And I’m free to fantasise about being there, turning my dreams into reality.

As I roamed, I recognised someone that I had fond memories of the last time I was at the airport: There was no second guessing and no mistaking. There she was with her short grey hair and her baggy fleece, with her eyes set deep into a book. It was the woman that I had felt so bad for: The woman that I should have checked on that first night at LAX  but didn’t. The same woman that would haunt me all the way to the hotel. I wanted to make things right. I had to talk to her. I approached her and opened with a simple ‘hello.’ She was nothing like I had imagined her being: Very well educated, charming and full of character. Canadian and going to Melbourne on vacation. I explained to her how I felt that night and how it was important for me to clear the air. On an emotional level, situations such as this one –  leaving her on the side of the street without so much as a word of concern – can effect me horribly: I tend to dwell over  the little things in life. She was lovely. And I was so glad I spoke to her. She to, was full of kind words and she very much appreciated my concern. Her name was Janice. She was crying due to being swept up by the stressful nature of the whole situation and – like everyone else – had no idea what was going on that evening. She got to a hotel shortly after we did. A little bit of thoughtfulness that night may have went far in a sea of people that were only out for themselves. That thought, has stuck with me ever since.

Two hours had past, and I was back at he gate with Petra and Andy. We were met with another hour delay. Still, in high spirits metaphorically and physically, I approached the boarding desk and talked with Qantas:

“I know you are under a great deal of stress but all I want is a truthful answer. Will we be flying out tonight or not?”

We would be. Shortly after our flight was called. It was time to say goodbye to LAX. The ordeal was over. And we were not the worse for it.

Half a dozen gin and tonics later, we touched down in Sydney and were soon on our way to Melbourne: four days late. As we collected our bags we said goodbye to Andy.  It was a pleasure to meet him. We swapped contact details and I vowed to write about the strike and send him the link. We waved goodbye to Andy and said hello to Melbourne. We had touched down and the next leg of our trip was upon us. But surely nothing could top what we had just been through. Could it?…

Writers note: It comes with the territory that things can do and generally do go wrong at some point on a big trip such as that: You take the good with the bad and if you can make something good out of a bad situation, then an ‘ordeal’ doesn’t necessarily have to be that.

Being ‘stuck’ in LA for another few days wasn’t a disaster. I would even go as far as saying that it was a highlight of the trip – Certainly one of the more memorable experiences that I will ever have in my lifetime. We/I were apart of something global and it was truly exciting. Saying that, I’m no stranger to this kind of thing; I was also caught up in the Icelandic volcano eruption, that grounded most of the flights in Europe for a short time. I ended up getting to Germany by bus, train and boat: Yeah, karma certainly isn’t on my side when it comes to travel. For those of you that no me well, I do love a good story, and although I may embellish facts from time to time, the base of this story is 100 percent true.

Life if full of mundane things: Whether that be sitting on the bus on the way to work in the morning, making ‘spag bol’ for dinner for the eighth time this month or wasting six hours straight on the internet looking at absolute garbage on you-tube. To be taken out of the realm of normality and to be placed into something so surreal and out of sort,  is a true exercise of the mind. And I – for one – relish this kind of rush as often as I can get it. Would I choose to put myself through that inconvenience again? Of course not. However could I and would I get a kick out of being inconvenienced? Absolutely. Life is full of inconveniences. And there will never be a convenient time.

Merry Christmas and all the best for 2013.

Take it easy folks.


Stories, ramblings and attampted other stuff from your friendly neighbourhood emo and walking dilemma – http://fromfirsttolast1.wordpress.com

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