Before you even park your car at the Tullamarine airport, there is a high sense of drama and anticipation. One experiences a particularly sharp adrenalin rush from outmanoeuvring a fellow traveller or well-wisher into a rare parking spot after several, formula one type circuits of the car park, as your anxiety level rises in striving to make boarding time.
Once you’ve parked and have avoided eye contact with ranting fellow traveller or well-wisher, your next challenge is the luggage run. The luggage is never as easy to get out of the car boot as it was to put in, requiring a hefty, chiropractor enriching lunge to extract it.
Your life flashes before you as you run the gauntlet on the pedestrian crossing with your cumbersome, asymmetrically balanced luggage and its slightly geometrically shaped wheels, where yellow cabs speed through in a realistic imitation of a jet powering down a runway. You guess that for those who hesitate, the term airport ‘terminal’ is appropriate.
Once you have negotiated the excitement of the car park and crossing, you enter the airport building and it is abuzz. People from many lands colour the scene as their robes flash texture and vibrancy amid the default greyness of Melbourne. People walk with a sense of purpose, bravado, or total bewilderment. Some folk are dwarfed by their moving mountain of baggage which teeters impossibly on their trolleys. Others power through with their sleekly, aerodynamic Samsonite luggage shimmering as it trails behind. These luminous, frictionless, NASA-like accoutrements of travel look as though they could hurtle through space of their own accord.
But you must concentrate. There’s the Airline Counter to be found, flight numbers sought, check-in queues to be joined. Luggage and cabin luggage has to be hoisted onto the scales as you hold your breath. Tickets are inspected and…where in the hell is that passport with the disturbing photo of that mass murderer in it, that happens to be you?
For the fareweller it’s like magic. One minute your dear daughter, your loved one, is there before you in the flesh, scoffing six dollar lattes and organic, free range, yoghurt with heirloom pomegranate essence (that you’re still paying off) then it’s a big hug before your arms are empty and poof! they’ve gone. Royal Brunei, perform your conjuring.
They will probably hit their first stopover before you’ve figured out how you’re going to pay the twenty nine dollar airport parking fee with shrapnel in the bottom of your bag, let alone find your way to your, now possibly keyed, car.
That is, if you haven’t fallen into the trap of assuming that you can pay at the exit! The oversight of not paying your parking fee at the sparsely placed, heavily camouflaged, ticket machines previous to exiting, with c…c…c…cash only (I kid you not – cash, quaint isn’t it?) creates chaos. To extricate yourself of this ticklish predicament requires a certain je ne sais quoi that will enable you to back back into massing, oncoming traffic, without being rammed, road raged, or sent into the air without a plane. (I’m not saying that I’ve had to negotiate this “nightmarish hellscape” to quote Ron Swanson of Parks and Recreation, but let’s just say that I’ve been very close to someone who has.)
Everyone breathes a sigh of relief when they leave an airport. It is an exciting place for those taking leave as well as those not. It’s also a costly operation for those leaving…as well as those not. And it’s a bit happy and a bit sad.
I went back to my daughter’s house to pick up Jack and take him home. He was comforting himself on her comforter. He was a bit happy and a bit sad.