“Attention Please: We are a safety-conscious airport. Please do not let your children play near the escalators.”
The first time I heard this message over the PA system at Christchurch Airport I was impressed. The woman spoke in dulcet tones and I agreed wholeheartedly with the message. Unsupervised children and escalators can be a lethal mix.
I first heard the message when we put our luggage through at 5 pm for a flight due to leave about 7 pm. The Spouse and I were uncharacteristically punctual. All the business meetings for the day had gone well and we’d enjoyed the road trip from Oamaru to Christchurch. But, now we had our noses towards home and were looking forward to being back in Auckland by earlyish evening.
But, sadly it wasn’t to be. When we saw the word DELAYED on the board beside our flight number, we tried to be optimistic. Meanwhile, that safety message kept being repeated at very frequent intervals. I was starting to feel frayed around the edges and finding fault with her mellifluous voice.
The expensive magazine I’d given myself as a ‘delayed flight treat’ seemed low on content and The Spouse soon finished all his business calls and I’d long done my necessary emails. And as the departure times starting coming up and then changing, we had to keep contacting the poor chap in Auckland, who had kindly (stupidly) offered to pick us up.
It’s not quite ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ territory, but strange alliances form when strangers are clustered together in a departure lounge waiting for a delayed flight. For a while, we were entertained by some teenage girls doing some form of gymnastics/acrobatics. I almost wished a Barbershop Quartet would mysteriously materialise…
During the delay, you strike up conversations with other frustrated travellers.
You hear tales of other people really seriously inconvenienced by the delay and start to feel a bit guilty about fussing over being four hours late for bed. A big family group with an elderly grandparent in a wheelchair and several small children running around with the frenetic energy of the young and overtired had to drive for several hours after they reached Auckland to get home.
Meanwhile, that woman kept banging on about the escalators. As the time went on the small children we’d befriended early in the wait because they were cute were now also getting hyper and just not cute at all.
We all attempted to be positive. “Of course, the staff can’t help it and it’s all about safety,” was the mantra of the moment.
And the old South versus North banter began too. Some of the Mainlanders had to make sure we knew it was bad weather in Auckland (and it had been a glorious day on the Canterbury Plains) that had created all the delays which threw the whole country into chaos.
About four hours after the flight’s scheduled departure, the boarding call was finally given. The poor staff members guarding the entrance door, were practically knocked over by a surge of passengers, yet still managed to be poised and dole out cheery greetings.
And then just as we were about to join the stampede, that bl**** woman was rattling on again about their safety-conscious airport …