Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Early morning airport observations

I'm at Perth airport again.  I arrived at 4:10am.  It's a very quick drive to the airport at this time of the morning.  In fact, I recommend 4am as a great time to get around in a city choked by traffic, compounded by roadworks.  My flight doesn't leave until 6:10am, yet here I am.

The cab driver who took me from the office back to my hotel last night spoke of taxi apocalypse this morning.  Apparently it's quite impossible to get a cab between 4 and 5am.  Everyone is going to the airport and there aren't enough cabs to meet demand.  To make matters even worse, something went wrong with a cruise ship and there are 3000 or 5000 people who are in Perth, filling the hotels and all wanting to go to the airport.  He told horror stories of Irish girls from Adelaide missing their flight all because they didn't understand the problems of getting a cab at that hour of the morning.

I had experienced the issue last time I was in Perth, so I decided to believe him.  I booked a cab last night with a pick up time of 4am.  My alarm went off at 3:20am which gave me enough time to have a shower and check out of the hotel.  I wasn't going to be late and have a cab leave without me!  I was in that cab at 3:55am and fifteen minutes later had checked my bag and was through security.  I'm here so early I have two hours before my flight leaves and none of the shops are open.

This morning I didn't mind being stopped for my usual explosives scan.

"Have you had one of these before?" the woman wielding the wand asks me.

"I'm the most scanned woman in Australia," I reply.

I remember my guest pass for the Qantas Club and decide that this morning would be the perfect time to use it.

So here I sit.  Looking around me, I can see that apart from the barrista at the coffee machine and the woman wrangling the pancake machine and a woman clearing plates, I am the only woman in here. If this was a nightclub, I'd be in business. Other guests are clad in the local uniform; this time the high-visibility shirts are yellow, not orange, and the men wearing them are reading the Financial Review, working on laptop computers or doing something on an ipad.  Spaces are filling at the benches and the tables and the level of noise is growing.  I imagine that in about half hour it will be crowded and noisy.

Pat is the barrista who is working the espresso machine.  A long queue of people snakes along the bar.  She takes orders from the next three people in the queue.  I order a latte and after me the orders are for a skinny capuccino and a soy latte.  Her eyes meet mine.  I can see her rolling her eyes and thinking "can't you just have normal coffee".

"How many coffees do you make in a day Pat?"  I ask her, smiling.

She smiles tiredly.  "Only about a thousand," as though that is all in a normal day's work.  For Pat, it is.  It's not even 4:30am and she looks like she's already half way through that number.

The coffee is good.  The practice is paying off.

The destinations on the departure board are still exotic to me, even though I've been here a few times now. It's now 5am and the first flights are being called: Paraburdoo, Karratha, Cloudbreak, Christmas Creek. They sound musical and unmistakably Australian. I look down the list on the departure board to find the familiar Melbourne, Adelaide and Broome.

Looking out the floor to ceiling windows wrapped around the Club the tarmac is on display.  A luggage trailer snakes along to the nearest plane.  Green and blue lights mark out territory and have meaning for those who know how to read them.

Meanwhile, text messages from Metro Trains back in Melbourne are coming through to tell me about train cancellations and alterations to services.  I am a long way from there and glad not to be standing on a train platform thwarted in my efforts to get to where I'm going.

Catching this early flight always seems like a good idea.  As interesting as it is, I'd rather be home in bed.

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