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April 13, 2005

Departure Lounge

        After an horrific scene at the international departures gate of Melbourne’s Tullamarine International Airport, I gladly found myself thumbing through the pages of New Weekly and People magazines, relishing Jennifer Anniston’s house-hunting “woes”, what can one buy in Malibu with $20 million nowadays, and trying to avoid further commentary on Charles and Camilla’s over-speculated, over-televised and over-bloody-due wedding.  Airport bookshops are so convenient when one has time to kill.  Luckily, the instruction beside flight TG980 to Bangkok read “Relax” on the Departures television screen, as opposed to “Boarding”, “Final Call” or “Still Trying to Locate the Thingy That Goes on Top of the Engine Bit…Delayed”, so I obediently relaxed my way through the troubles of the rich, the famous, and of course the Desperate Housewives.  Jeremy nearby thumbed through a Thailand travel book noting suggested housing for Siam Square, Bangkok, our soon-to-be home for four weeks while we attempt a CELTA certification, hopefully widening our future employment options. 
        “Found anything?”
        “Yeah, there are a few places here…” 
        I looked over his shoulder and skimmed over the list.  The addresses were jibberish to me, “Thanon” this and “Soi” that.  We would need to sit down with a map and try to figure out were these places were. 
        His dedication to using his spare time constructively shamed me, so I moved back to my trashy magazines.  Best not disturb him as he is doing such a great job.  Besides, there is so much complexity to the Camilla and Charles situation I don’t fully understand.  I mean, will Camilla really be Queen?  I silently scoffed at those around me reaching intently for a paperback copy of their favourite Shakespearean classic or the latest best-selling autobiography of an influential world figure.  We both knew that they wouldn’t make it past the fifth page of the first chapter, but only I was honest enough to admit this and set my standards to a more realistic height.  In fact, by unashamedly displaying my tabloid-reading, I was furthering the strength of my character by shunning pretence and refusing to partake in this charade of intellectual superiority.  So were I, in fact, to reach for any literature which I had no intent to read merely for the sake of not reaching for literature which might lessen one’s opinion of my intellect, I would be denying my true self to myself and those around me, and missing an important life lesson in honesty and humility.  Satisfied, I pondered Brad and Angelina’s seemingly inevitable love-child.

        I always enjoy inspecting the population of an international flight and imagining each traveller’s circumstances.  The businessman so bored with airports and all activities related to them lessening his time to make profit.  The family beginning or ending a holiday with friends or relatives far from their home.  The young adventurers on a quest of discovery with the whole world seemingly at their fingertips.  The fifty-year-old couple who look like John Lennon and Yoko Ono.  The community of world-travellers is small, in comparison to the global population, and I always consider myself incredibly lucky to be a member.  Each time I walk down that rickety walkway between the departure lounge and the aircraft I imagine I’m falling through a wormhole between worlds, and I never tire of the excitement.  As I step through the aircraft door and am greeted by the stale processed air of a busy 747, I look around me at those who will be my best friends for the next 8 hours, the air-hostess who will ignore my smelly and disheveled state in the morning when she wakes me with a smile, the young child whose cries I will ignore an hour after the lights have been turned off, the heavy aging man whose snores will bring no complaint though I cannot help but listen to be sure he draws his next breath.  Coming from a society of growing personal space expectations, the imposed limits on liberties which must be suffered as a cost of world travel at speeds measured by the number of movies you can watch on a flight make the unspoken laws of cabin-society fascinating to me. 
        Jeremy and I are lucky enough to be the only two passengers in a row of three seats, a good omen for any flight. 
        “What are you going to have, the chicken or the seafood?”  Jeremy has already found the dinner menu options. 
        Airplane food is one thing, but seafood on an airplane?  “I’ll take the chicken.”
        “I’ll take the seafood then.” 
        As the plane begins to taxi to the runway, the cabin staff in their immaculate Thai dress busy themselves readying the craft for takeoff.  The cabin is filled with the sound of seatbelts being fastened as the Thai and English safety instructions are shown on the TV screen.  I look over at Jeremy and his face reflects the nervousness and excitement I’m feeling.  As the engines crank up after only a momentary pause for approval for take-off, the air in the cabin stiffens and it seems every joint in the craft clings tighter, knowing this will be a group effort.  The whine of the engines reaches a painful pitch and I reach for Jeremy’s hand as our center of gravity suddenly shifts slightly behind us.  We smile nervously at each other and the 747 throws itself down the strip of runway, overhead lockers rattling. 
        “This is it” he smiled at me.
        “This is it.”
        After a final lunge flight TG980 launched herself into the still black summer night. 


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I enjoyed reading your Thailand stories.

Wow! You evoke such a picture. I love reading your musings. Such a gift! You rock girl!

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