Gee, I’ve had a lovely trip. This wasn’t it …
One tries to retain one’s equilibrium in the face of adversity but there are moments that can, as my mother might say, try the patience of saint. Being told that the flight that is to carry you from Hong Kong to Brisbane in two hours’ time does not exist is one such moment. Were I a saint, I might have merely accepted that the Lord moved in mysterious ways and smiled serenely. Being somewhat lacking in saintliness, I exclaimed: “You’ve got to be joking!”
She was not. Our flying kangaroo was still in Australia due to “technical problems”. We had flown from Nice to Zurich to Hong Kong and were now stuck here for another 24 hours. Lovely. Our luggage was to be offloaded and sent to carousel 14. A hotel room, meals and bus transfers would be provided. Lovely. If I’d wanted a night in Honkers I would have booked it. I just wanted to go home. Instead, we go to carousel 14 and wait for an hour. No sign of flying kangaroo staff. The luggage never arrives at carousel 14 and I eventually find it near carousel 7. Three-and-ahalf hours after being told the flight is cancelled, there is still no bus. Eventually we get to the hotel and watch several hundred disgruntled passengers attempting to check in at once. Lovely.
We go back to the airport 24 hours later for a 7pm departure which becomes 7.30, then 8.30. We finally board at 9pm. An obviously unhappy co-pilot apologies for the delay and says the flight crew was not kept in the loop. Inference is that there has been a massive stuff-up. Flight is uneventful and the Brisbane skyline finally emerges through the cloud cover. Lovely. Head for passport control to find airport staff have blocked the entrance. Two other flights have now landed and 1000 tired travellers are now thrust together in an untidy jumble of wrinkled and creased humanity. No announcement is made as to the nature of the problem. After 20 minutes, the barricades are removed and the flood converges on passport control.
As usual, half the booths are unmanned. No matter. We’ve got the latest biometric passports. We can check-in DYI. Well, we could if the machines were working. They reject the two people in front of me and then reject me. This means joining another queue of several hundred people. I finally get to the immigration desk. “What’s the problem?” I ask.
“Total stuff-up,” she replies. “Nobody told us you were arriving.” “Gee,” I say. “Good to see that things are coming along nicely for G20.”
I check the monitor, which announces our bags are on carousel 4. I wait for half an hour and still no bags. Check with the baggage service desk. “They’re on carousel 1,” the man says. “We keep telling the airport people but they just ignore us,” he shrugs. Get bags and join huge queue trying to get through Customs. No problem. We’ve been given express lane passes. This should be easy. Ask for directions to express lane. “Sorry, mate. It’s not working today,” says the Customs officer. “Gee,” I say. “Good to see that everything is in place for G20.”
“Tell me again why they call it the Lucky Country,” asks my wife as we queue for a cab.
“Because,” I reply, “we’re lucky that it keeps working in spite of the towering incompetence of the people charged with running it.”