This is the cafe at Napier Airport, end of August and start of a long haul flight –
A middle aged woman chews slowly, an unlikely candidate for bright pink hair. Her husband sorts papers on the table, itinerary, boarding passes, confirmations.
You know it’s New Zealand because the guy in khaki cargo shorts and trainers who is sprawlled with his feet on a chair looks in context.
The TV is loud overhead, shouting the news. No one looks up. The accent is sharp and twangy. A bit strident. Sounds like many of my women friends. Distinctly kiwi.
We’re two steps down from “smart casual” here in the provinces. No sharp suits passing. In fact, nobody is passing. I’m on the early flight to Auckland and only the long haulers are early, that nervous buffer of contingency reserved for those with ongoing tickets.
Here there are phones at the table, but they are shared, photos, details passed around small groups. I’m looking for families but don’t see them, no kids here this morning. Our ages are from 30 to 60 and people are communicating quietly – last minute advice and love. It’s slow talk and I can’t hear it, but there is a comment, a thoughtful nod, a sip of coffee, a reply. I am imagining – You’ll probably have the garage finished by the time I get back. If the weather holds. What’s the forecast for Rome? Hasn’t rained for 100 days. Nice.
It’s the support group for the departees. I recognise them because I’m departing. I also have the pre-flight frisson. A little extra awareness that recognises this is not everyday life. We all have neat, small bags the floor beside us, touching the leg, held close. Without that bag you’re lost.
Though not so much anymore apparently, my son reminded me when he dropped me off. Very different from my earlier journeys when physical tickets and travellers cheques were tucked into folders with brochures and notes and we held cash in the denominations of each stop over country. If you lose stuff now you just log on from anywhere and everything is in the cloud. Good idea to keep enough cash in your pocket for a day, tide you over until you get a new card issued.
There’s no personal crisis in travel now.
The announcement to board brings the travellers to their feet. Hugs and kisses. The suits are here now, they walk main door to the gate, no waiting around in the cafe. Time is money. They’re not really in suits, either, but classy coordinates, ironed (not travel soft like the rest of us), scarves and groomed hair, shoes that make a noise on the tiles.
In the plane there is music by Thomas Oliver to settle to, a nice touch that will make the locals smile.
We’re fast off the ground.