Gee, I’ve had a lovely trip. This wasn’t it …

The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - BACKCHAT - Mike51@ live.com.au

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.”

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