Yesterday I had to go to the airport to pick up a watch.
It sounds like a scene from Pulp Fiction, but I assure you it is real.
There I was, carrying a ticking parcel through an airport I had no business being at.
Airports make me nervous because they are run by rules and filled with people who will get angry at you if you break the rules. I am conditioned by 13 years of Catholic schooling and not just Catholic schooling but Catholic schooling by De La Salle brothers and by nuns and not just by brothers and nuns, but by ex-nuns, the scariest of all religious figures.
I have a few mildly offensive theories as to why ex-nuns are more terrifying than regular nuns. Everyone knows the horrid feeling when a relationship breaks down. Imagine that the relationship was a marriage and your husband was none other than Jesus Christ and it didn’t work out. That’s what an ex-nun contends with when she slips out of bed every day.
So I do not like to break rules and I have a healthy fear of religious figures and airports make me nervous.
I’m also not entirely sure how secure airports are. There seem to be a lot of signs telling you where you are not authorised to go, but nothing other than Catholic guilt preventing you from doing so.
I was alert and alarmed as I tried to find my way out of the domestic terminal to the DHL building where my watch awaited me. It was difficult, I’d never left the airport without jet lag before and there seemed to be a lull in the arrival of planes, so I couldn’t even follow the zombified crowds pushing their way to taxis and my GPS was telling me DHL was located in the middle of a runway.
Eventually I found an elevator hidden under a set of stairs next to a utility closet and a threatening unmarked door. I tried to work out the likelihood that the door led somewhere very important and that not signposting the door was some kind of panoptic-esque deterrent from entering. I didn’t touch it in case of electrocution.
Finally I found my way out and was hit with a blast of humid Sydney air, a precursor to much worse weather ahead.
I could see the DHL building shimmering in the distance. “Bonjour, DHL,” I whispered to myself. “Bonjour.”.
I began an approximate seven minute walk to the building, keeping my eye out for other security features to be alert and alarmed about.
I watched the expressions on the faces of the drivers swooping past me to pick up arrivals. “Poor girl,” I imagined they were saying. “No-one to pick her up and she’s not even got sensible shoes to walk home in.”. I considered briefly attaching a sign to my front which would tell these busybodies that actually I was just there to pick a watch up in an approximate 14 minute round trip and then I would be on my way, thank you very much but suddenly something very strange caught my attention.
There, beyond a green sign which told me I was not to enter unless I had proper credentials and that the area was patrolled regularly, was a sight that made me almost renounce my Catholic guilt and break the rules.
In a large, fenced-off carpark lay a small cafe, like a mirage of a pond in the desert. Many men stood around this cafe, chatting noisily to one another, gesticulating wildly. I crept closer.
Hundreds of taxis were parked neatly in bays in front of the cafe, some occupied by drivers doing any manner of daily tasks: eating a sandwhich, talking on the phone, clipping their nails.
Weaving around the bays were cruising taxis, all seemingly following a particular route which made sense to them, but which never seemed to leave the car park itself.
Around and around they went and I began to feel as though I had seen something I shouldn’t have, like this was a factory where taxi drivers were made, or the graveyard where they came when their operating system had become infected with bugs and all they could do was steer in circles.
A limousine with dark windows slowly cruised past, causing me to jump and hurry on my way lest I be bundled into the boot and tortured until a forgot what I had witnessed.
After picking up my watch to some small fanfare when my required photographic identification was produced and there was some discussion as to why in person I didn’t appear to be wearing a wig of very dry straw, I hurried back to the airport, taking great care not to look anywhere I shouldn’t.
With my ticking package I boarded a train, and melting into the crowd, hoping to lose any security detail I had picked up on the way.