As I boarded a plane to Sydney recently for a 3-day work trip I had to ask the question, is legroom getting smaller on planes? That is the first thing I noticed when I took my seat and attempted to slide my bag under the seat in front.
The plane was buzzing with excitement it seemed and all seats were taken. This fact alone bought all my senses to attention – it was a 6.45am flight, on a public holiday Monday. Where was all this morning enthusiasm coming from? The rising sun was streaming in my window and I decided to smile and take it all as a good omen of my travels.
In the row in front of me there was introductions and chitchat that would continue for the whole flight. A middle aged friendly man introduced himself to a travelling retiree, who I caught saying that she was from America (didn’t catch what state). There was a beautiful young Asian women sitting next to me, who seemed to have no problem falling asleep once her neck pillow was in place and only waking when her head fell onto my shoulder.
A few rows in front was the child who was screaming blue murder and attempting to claw her way out of her mother’s arms. When I was in the terminal waiting for boarding the family (Mum, Dad and two young girls) were waiting in the seats adjacent to me. The toddlers were running around having fun and the Mum said to the Dad with a laugh in her tone, “I bet everyone is hoping they are not sitting near us!” The little girl finally stopped screaming about half an hour into the 1 and a half hour flight.
Not long into the flight I noticed the lady on the isle seat of our row looking frantically over at the people sitting on the other side of the isle. We had just been served coffee and tea and I think the elderly gentleman on the window seat had spilled his coffee in his lap. It turned out to be her Dad that had spilt his hot drink. A lot of movement ensued – people moving out of seats spilling out into the isle, wiping down pants and rushing off to the bathroom. Names were taken, passenger welfare checked and apologies made by cabin crew. I thought that was nice of them, however they didn’t spill his coffee.
I overheard conversations from what I guessed to be 2 models behind me. Talking of all things photo shoot – where they had been flown to recently, with whom and plans for the future. One girl said, “I am nearly 30 and not getting any younger. My dream is to be flown all over the world and do shoots in exotic locations.” Then she went on to talk about how her Uncle had died over in Greece and when they turned off the life support her other Aunty, who is psychic, got messages from the Uncle who passed, for his wife. There was lots of wow’s and ooh’s from her friend as she told the story.
After such an eventful flight, I was very lucky upon landing – made it into the toilet first after disembarkation and luggage was out in a couple of minutes of eventually finding the luggage pick up point. I looked at the taxis’ through the large glass doors and almost walked straight over to one. Then I paused and reminded myself that I had the printed instructions to go via train to my hotel in my bag. I said to myself, “I can do this; it can’t be that hard can it?”
I followed the signs to the train station and bought my ticket. I was to wait on platform one. Walking to the same platform it seemed was a couple, probably in their late 50’s early 60’s. She was complaining loudly of how tired she was as they pulled their suitcases to the chair. I asked her is this was the platform I was supposed to be on to get to Wynyard Station. She said yes, then proceeded to tell me that they had just got back from a holiday in Bali. She said, “It was good, and my son and I had fun, it was so dirty though, the people were nice, but rats everywhere, I can’t understand how Rome could have a sewer system built hundreds of years ago and they can’t.” She also shared how she had borrowed money off her partner to go and would be paying him back for some time. He just sat there quietly and smiled as she spoke, and she did speak a lot. I said I enjoyed our trip to Ubud in Bali a couple of years ago and this year we went to Hong Kong and really liked it there. They wanted to know more about Hong Kong.
The train came into view and they said their goodbyes and I hopped on. I was sitting next to a couple of Americans; they were in Australia on business. They didn’t speak to me or anyone else about it, just constantly between each other – deals, colleagues that they like and didn’t, more million dollar deals, clients they didn’t like and did, and then more strategies to get more business. Interesting as it may have been, I was put off at how they were able to have a judgment and criticism about everyone they spoke about – and kept conversation flowing as if they were in the train by themselves, and not with ten people listening.
Finally it was my stop. I got off, baggage in tow, and looked around for the exit tunnel my printed instructions said to take. I went down a set of stairs in the direction I thought I was supposed to go. Upon reaching the bottom of the stairs the smell of urine hit me. It was so thick, and I realized someone must have been using this alleyway as a toilet. I also began to realize as I cautiously walked down the tunnel that this was not the way out I was looking for. I turned around and headed back the way I came as quickly as I could.
Out of the station, I looked up and down the street and had no idea which direction to go. I would have to ask someone for directions. There were some shops open, even though it was a public holiday, so I headed in. Out of the three I asked directions from no one knew how to get where I wanted to go. One girl even said she didn’t know the city very well even though she worked right in the center of it. I pulled out my phone, turned on maps, and with phone in one hand and luggage in the other and after a couple of false starts where I was walking the wrong way, started following the path my phone was taking me on. I was hot – it happened to be the hottest day in Sydney for this time of year – and I was tired. I just kept walking and people kept looking at me, like I was a tourist.
About 15 minutes later I walked through the doors of the hotel. My bag was taken, my room was ready early, and I was so grateful. I went up, showered, changed and walked the 10-minute walk down to Sydney Harbour and ordered a cappuccino. The sun was out, being by the water was calming – and life is good when you can be present and really take it all in.