I’m writing today, set up at the coffee shop in the Brisbane International Airport. It’s 9:23am and our flight to Hong Kong leaves at 10:50am, just enough time to grab a coffee and write today’s blog post.
Airports and long-haul flights are a funny thing, they’re a mix of utter excitement, stress and really strict rules. It hasn’t really felt like we’re going to Hong Kong, even now sitting here and listening to other flights being called and watching people stock up on obscene amounts of duty-free chocolate and alcohol, it still doesn’t feel real. I’m caught between the excitement of going on this awesome adventure and the dread of being confined to a chair in an aluminium tube for the next 9 hours.
That’s the thing, travel is amazing and it’s so much fun and you have the best adventures but at the same time there are those tiny little elements that kinda suck. You aren’t supposed to think about them or whine about them though because you’re very fortunate to be going away and mentioning any of these sucky things could be seen as being a brat or a little bit ungrateful. But stuff it, I’m putting it out there… there are some parts of travel that really stink.
As we arrive at the departures hall we see the big long queues waiting to check-in and drop off bags. Damn. But wait, there are no queues over at Qantas! Why? What’s going on? This seems suspicious. The big long queues have been replaced by an army of self-serve kiosks. I love self-serve kiosks, they’re where my A-Type personality can really shine and I can make up time on the other people just standing there staring blankly at the screen. I whiz through it without any hassles and it prints off our bag tags, now all we need to do is drop the bags. But, hold on, where the heck are our boarding passes? sigh of course… the magical box hasn’t printed them. Off we trot to the customer service desk. I was way too confident, serves me right.
Going through security the tiny woman in front of us has no clue what is going on. She has her bag on the conveyor belt, waiting to go through the scanner, and seems to be rifling through the bag looking for something that she probably doesn’t need at this point. The people ahead of her have gone through the metal detector and she just stands there, fixed on finding whatever is in her bag. I move to go around her but as I do she looks up and moves forward another few steps, then stops again. There’s no getting around her. We’re trapped.
At the other end of the security scanner, she stands there staring off into space, totally unaware her bag is just sitting there waiting for her to grab it and, as a result, holding up everyone else’s bags. She panics when she finally sees it and grabs her bag, knocking a whole stack of trays over in the process. I feel bad for her.
Standing in the line, waiting to go through customs, I look up and see a man standing in the line in front of me. His massive finger is wedged inside his nose and his digging away. He pulls his finger out and inspects the massive booger sticking up off his finger. My stomach turns and I gag, it’s all I can do to stop myself from throwing up. He balls it up between his fingers and flicks it away. I cringe.
As we approach the customs desk a young couple, possibly from Japan based on how cool their clothes are, pushes past as they politely explain they’ve just heard their final call and may miss their flight. I feel immediately stressed for them, they have that really distinct frazzled look about them. They’re freaking the hell out. They get up to the customs desk and they haven’t filled out their exit cards. The customs officer is asking them questions but they can’t understand her. The people who just let them skip the line are frustrated. The tension builds. I start to feel awkward and look away, immediately remembering Booger Man and I start feeling queasy again. My photographic memory will be the death of me.
Once you’re through the time-consuming bits you’re unleashed on the terminal. Duty-free shops selling everything you can think of, but mostly chocolate and booze, and really tacky shops that sell things you’d never really buy, like Kangaroo Scrotum coin purses. Why, Australia? WHY? There’s also the newsagent which sells magazines and chocolate bars at $5 a piece and the coffee shops that sell you a cup of the good stuff for $7. We are at their mercy and they know it.
Airports are also fraught with slow-walkers, the people who love to dawdle and move around at a glacial pace. If you find yourself stuck behind a herd of slow-walkers you know you’re in real trouble. Suddenly you find yourself feeling like a bowling ball, wondering if anyone would really say anything if you just barged through them all.
I always get anxious thinking about sitting on the plane for the entire length of the flight, in this case, 9 or so hours. I compare that amount of time to how long I’ve sat on a plane before and talk myself into it, “Mate, you’ve done 14 hours before. 9 will be a cinch!” I plan my attack, “Okay, so by the time you get on and get settled. You and Matt will talk for a bit and maybe go through your plans once you arrive, then you’ll watch a few movies and then they’ll roll out the food. After that, you’ll read your book and then watch another few movies. You’ll be fiiiiiiiine.”
The key is to not check the time, right? Just hold off looking for as long as humanly possible and then surprise yourself with how long you’ve got left to go. Only, there’s nothing worse than when you look at the time and realise you’ve still got 6 hours to go.
Despite all these things that drive us mad, we still sign up for it and, not only that, but we pay top dollar for it too! Why are we subjecting ourselves to these shitty social situations where poor planning, inflated prices, poor personal hygiene and low social awareness run rife? Because it’s totally worth it. The chance to see a new city or country, experience another culture and have a really fun time are completely worth the shitty points.
Do I long for the day I’m able to fly first class all the way and feel like a bit of a super-star, holed up in airport lounges and whatnot? Ahhh yeah, I’m hanging out for that! But, in the meantime, I’m happy to put up with all the stuff that’s annoying and gross because they’re kinda the best stories. So, here’s to you, Booger Man…. have a great holiday, you gross, gross individual.
What are the things about travel that get your goat? What drives you mad or really ticks you off when you’re in transit? I’d love to hear your horror stories or just the things that irk you about travel. So, please share in the comments below or on Facebook.
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Phoebe Lee is a travel writer and award-winning blogger with a love for storytelling. Phoebe creates practical, fun and engaging written content designed to inspire and energise travel-lovers and dreamers. Follow her and Matt’s adventures at home and around the world, right here on Little Grey Box and through Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.