Everywhere. Has it been that long since I saw so many, so many that I’m surprised?
It’s unseasonably warm but overcast. My driver greets me with a call, I roll out to the street in anticipation, are we there yet? Melbourne airport Qantas domestic terminal one is deserted, it is a Saturday and mid-morning but where are all the people? A cavernous check-in hall devoid of life. Kiosks have taken the place of (sometimes) warm bodies; I negotiate the procedure and haul my gear into the mouth, hoping I’ll see my belongings again at the other end. Security is empty. I’m the only person here. I ensure no eye contact is made and miss the explosive residue test, for once. Display screen, gate 2, one hour, Club time. Upstairs I proffer my chip inlaid documentation which receives the appropriate eyeballs and my cards are printed, the Club check-in quips how wonderful it is now that they now fly direct, from Melbourne via Sydney, abrogating the need for the forced induction sun themed child company, a concerned look and it’s noted that I might have the seat next to me free from Sydney, surprise that I haven’t checked in and reserved “my” seat. It’s a window, they’re all alike, and I’m at the back? No hurry, after all, it is now a direct flight. I case the magazine racks noting that anything worth reading has long been souvenired. Brunch calls, the impromptu roll stuffed with my selections, pressed apples and I wheel myself to the meagre twig based kiosk, securing two non-electronic offerings I wheel over to the windows and note that it is a good day to be leaving, as a smaller one taxis backwards the grey sky casts a blue hue over the vista, I snap one for the colours and nestle into the much-loved supporting structure. In due course, the announcement is made and I trundle off, still deserted. Through the back way (escalators and travelator!) I roll on, embarkation has already commenced as I join the excited gathering eager to climb in (why is it on-board? surely it’s in-board? I travel inside not onside). Ah, their concerned look is explained as I’m almost in the last row, it matters not though, to me. My compatriots make way as I slide into the snug and restricted cocoon, I snap another as rain blemishes my window with its circles and lines, without the loading completes, within we strap ourselves down and we launch ourselves into the yonder. Minutes pass and the grey makes way to toy land, picture perfect patch works, familiar roads I guess, shining circles stretching off into toy land.
The descent is announced and the familiar is in sight, so many times, so very many, so very, very many times, I know this place well, no excitement, more a sense of resignation is brought back to mind. At the transfer gate novices fluster with their paperwork, agitated by the wait, I have no fluttering, it will be when it will be and in time it is, a small contingent alights as we disappear into a different terminal of shiny floors, secreted cameras and heavily armed peacekeepers, again the sense of emptiness is apparent, as I snake through the empty lanes I quip to a native how they must be expecting a rush, laughter and lit eyes echo. The gauntlet traversed I passingly remember that I have no need for these offerings, shiny, bright things, alluring by design, unneeded ballast, componentry to fill a void in the soul. Despite the garish glare, I roll onwards knowing the lounges will be ahead, the layout familiar and within I proffer my papers, secure yet more sustenance and await the signal. In time too that is given and I lapse into the familiar restriction again. The launch takes place almost unnoticed, no Top Gun moments here, home it is different, I enjoy outpacing the silver cigars there.
Time – He’s waiting in the wings
He speaks of senseless things
His script is you and me boys
Time – He flexes like a whore
Falls wanking to the floor
His trick is you and me, boy
Time – In Quaaludes and red wine
Demanding Billy Dolls
And other friends of mine
Take your time
The sniper in the brain, regurgitating drain
Incestuous and vain,
and many other last names
I look at my watch it say 9:25 and I think
“Oh God I’m still alive”
We should be on by now
We should be on by now
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la
You – are not a victim
You – just scream with boredom
You – are not evicting time…
David Bowie, Time
No eviction. Scream with boredom. He speaks of senseless things. Yes. Resignation. 1973, Aladdin Sane. I remember ’74, I have memories of clutching a wooden implement and scrawling the date as a school boy. ’73? No, only six, my consciousness starts later at seven, for that memory.The journeys back and forth from the cold grey old country to the bright garish sunshine. Countless times I have traversed the blue ball and back, again. Countless times the experience, the experiences experienced. Today the experience is muted, no hostage to AA or square power, no tubing embedded in the cranium, less room (surely?) and yet the distractions are still that: we have to fill time, we can’t exist in that state of not being engaged, of being empty, fear of emptiness, fear of the void. And now, today, I embrace that void, that emptiness, we have become friends, void and I. A warm blanket envelopes me, the void is no stranger and no threat. Time. It passes.
Descending from the darkness, lonely dots of light creep out from the cover of night, as if from ages past we decamp onto the apron, alighting from the light, hard and slippery stairs onto coaches. It begins. Cocooned away from the travellers our new pilots career and snake their wending way narrowly avoiding solid and moving obstructions, obstacles, comrades, formed gantries and baggage carriers to the new caverns. This place is big. A testament to the hordes who impart their hopes, their angst, their frustrations, their desires, their longings, they’re here for the vacation, for the difference, for being someone outside their ordinary skin, to feel, again, perhaps. A cavern. It fits. It is cavernous, the high ceilings, the hard clad floor, the ant-like people, the knowledge that heat is managed here, by design.
Past the gatekeepers and towards the belts, the monitors direct me to a number, not a letter, a number (who decides these things?). I observe the adjacent carousels noting the direction of movement, the throng eager to reclaim their effects; the baggage lottery. At the mouth of my number I stake my claim aware that it can go either way, experience teaches this. In time it fleetingly disgorges piecemeal the contents of its labyrinthine innards, the game has begun, who will win where winning is recovery, recovery ahead of the others, a competition, the lottery?
I retrieve my effects and roll out towards the green and red lanes. In short time the calm boredom from within the cavern evaporates and a tense excitement pervades. The throng of drivers is intense, the sounds of the crowd fill the air, yet the drivers are silent, the vast contingent has a weary air of resolute expectation. I spy my name stencilled on a placard, so many drivers greeting their charges, so many faces in a crowd. I say thanks to my colleague who “organised” Ferry; like Ferry Corsten? We laugh, a shared connection. A name remembered. Seven years? The same driver? He looks after your children? And he still hasn’t lost them for you? Laughs. I enjoy sharing office time with him.
We wheel our way out into the humidity, it is late and yet the assault is palpable. The throng of tourists clad in their attire contrast with the natives, I hear a rough, clamouring, high pitched and accented voice ask with a deep sense of resignation if their transport has air conditioning, if it has Wi-Fi (seriously?), the lift doors close and they are ingested.
Expectation gaps. I remember reading that this is a source of anger, of expectations unrealised, of disparate understanding of what one wills and what one receives. I wait calmly amidst the whirlpool of faces, of luggage, of vehicles, of the stream of people. Ferry returns and we alight. I mentally thank my colleague again; a trusted driver is always of the greatest value. A local SIM? Certainly. We embark. Stationary at the very first traffic lights an onslaught of scooters soon encircles us. The red lights reflect from the stationary vehicles yet the carefree two wheelers blissfully ignore the red, I am amused. Yes, I am in this land again, the land of two wheels.
And yes, to be continued.