Airport mumbles bewilder

19:22, Sep 30 2012

Early last year I missed a flight at Auckland Airport after letting time fly.

It was a few weeks after the February earthquake and I was so mesmerised by the open shops, such as they are at the airport, that I jumped out of my skin when I heard my name on the intercom.

Literally only six metres from the airline of choice's desk I rushed over to say yes, I was here, checked in and ready to board, only for the man at the desk to inform me that the gates were now closed. So why bother paging me, I asked, suspecting the man enjoyed the frazzled spectacle of a passenger arguing the toss when the situation was already a fait accompli.

I mean, where's an airline sick bag when you need one? After paying an extra several hundred dollars and a stop in another city, I eventually got home a day later, resolving to always arrive early at the airport and pay the keenest attention to the announcements.

A few days ago there was I back at Auckland Airport, dutifully checked in an hour early and wandering around the throbbingly busy terminus neurotically consulting the time and struggling to make sense of the announcements that went something like this:

'Passengers of flight muffle muffle muffle are now advised that their aircraft is boarding at gate muffle muffle muffle', and further announcements so scrambled and speckled with static that they were aurally indecipherable. Fellow travellers communicated in sign language in a scratch of heads, holding their hands up in the universal gesture of no comprende.


God knows what would happen if there was a terrorist attack.

The thing was that the set- piece announcements pertaining to hand luggage not exceeding seven kilograms, and the warning about baggage being left unattended, were crystal clear.

I wondered not for the first time what was going on up there in the gods of air terminal land.

Was everybody conked out in armchairs, enjoying a good snooze and occasionally waking up to blurt out the odd announcement, only to spill coffee over the microphone at the critical moment when the flight number was read out?

Or were we all part of a grand psychological experiment to see how many travellers could actually conquer their torpor and complain about the poor quality of the sound system?

I was mulling all this over after having successfully jumped through every hoop and was sitting strapped into an airline seat staring out the window past an English couple who, to my irrational disappointment, were failing to appreciate the magnificent splendour of the mountains.

How can any mere mortal have the audacity to say they own any of this, I thought, remembering a recent conversation with a friend who'd pointed out that if the tangata whenua claim ownership of the land, sea and now the wind, then surely the buck shouldn't stop there, and they should take ownership of the earthquakes too.

Back home I biked past the nearly completed giant rugby ball, an anachronism left over from the Rugby World Cup, being transformed, and I use that word advisedly, into the Town Ball - a bar and restaurant.

Such imagination, such deep thought has been put into this, with the punters invited to swill it back seated in a giant pig's bladder. Classy. Do all roads lead to rugger? Can we ever get off the topic? Is there to be no intelligent discussion or inquiry into our identity? Why not turn the entire central city into a giant rugby paddock theme park with goal posts impaled into each of the Four Avenues intersections?

The planned placement of a huge stadium in Barbadoes St indicates the sports theme in the central city is already blown out of all proportion and is overbearing.

News that the work camps for a thousand workers for the rebuild will be heavily policed, that the bars will close at 8pm and visitors will have to sign off with rooms possibly ransacked for loose women, sounds like a Hogan's Heroes scenario.

Apparently naughty workers will have their bad behaviour reported to their bosses and the stockpiling of liquor in men's quarters will be banned.

One imagines workers tucked in with lights out at 9pm and bedtime stories read by Gerry Brownlee and Warwick Isaacs, booming out over the loudspeaker.

Do we want grown men to come here and work or not?

The Press