I have returned to a country where the people-moving sidewalks at the airport move people forward on the left hand side, and where when two people approach each other,one steps to the left to get out of the away. I had not noticed when I first arrived here that I would naturally step to the right to get out of the way, and I kept bumping into people.
We landed in Sydney close to 6 am and the airport was just waking up. The pilot had told us in Los Angeles that we would delay our departure so as not to arrive before 6 since we would not be allowed to land.
I wait in line to clear Passport control, passing my time by observing people in the queues – noting the unusual behaviors that can be brought on by sitting in a small seat for 15 hours, probably consuming too much alcohol. The woman behind me is generally calling everyone either a jihadist or a cunt. Not sure why, but she clearly feels strongly about it. My next stop is Quarantine, and I am greeted by a handler with golden lab. Perhaps their sense of smell is not as strong as a beagle, since the handler encourages the lab to place his front paws up on the suitcase to get a better whiff. I watch with great interest, recalling my recent interactions with a quarantine dog in Auckland, NZ who had jumped up and pawed my backpack on my back. Obtaining my permission to place the bag on the floor, the handler opened the bag and to my great surprise, the small dog climbed into the bag head first. Did I have any fruit in this bag at some point, she asks me. Yes, I often take an orange to work. And where is that orange now she queries. Well, I suppose I either ate it, or it is on my desk in my office in Melbourne. Gazing indulgently at the small dog I ask if he is a puppy still in training, since I am greatly surprised at the behavior. Most airport dogs are trained to sit when they spot a scent …. no, no, she replies, he is 5 and half.
The Golden in Sydney has no interest in my bags nor in me. Next stop is to recheck my large bags for the flight from Sydney to Melbourne, and then to clear security, yet again. Just before landing I had taken a medication which causes me to sweat for a short amount of time about an hour or so after taking it. This medication combined with my body’s fatigue after the long flight and the long process through the airport from International Arrivals to Domestic Departures, has sweat trickling down my face as I clear security. No surprise, I am selected to be wanded for traces of explosives. Not just my bags as has happened in the past, but also my clothing. No really, I want to say – it’s just the medication, but I remain silent.
While nothing akin to the coffee culture – even coffee reverence – of Melbourne, the aroma of coffee wafts through the airport and smells strong and fresh. By contrast to the hustle, bustle and general chaos of LAX, the Sydney airport is quiet, calm and orderly. This is possibly the result of the early hour, (although now it is already 8 am) but more likely the Australian rule-following personality. Undoubtedly an inheritance from their British forefathers who never saw a queue they weren’t willing to queue-up patiently in, the Australians are big on following rules. This makes for an orderly society. Coming from NY, a land where people have never met a rule they want to follow, it is a stark contrast. People obey the speed limits (probably because there are speed cameras all over the place that promptly mail a ticket to your home), are very polite, considerately ‘stand behind the yellow line’ at all train stations, and always return the shopping carts to the designated area in the parking lots. The one place they notoriously break a rule (and it is mostly the younger generation) is they hop on the trams without paying the fare. These ‘fare beaters’ are occasionally caught when the Metro folks board the trams, but the feeling is that if you get a long enough run between times you are caught, it is well worth it.
It feels good to be back in Australia.