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The Flight Of The Humble Me

I always arrive at the airport sufficiently early to allow plenty of time to catch my plane. I have to – if I didn't, events would conspire to prevent me from ever completing my journey.

Every time I walk through the sliding doors into the check-in area, I find that I have to stand in a vast and slowly moving queue that is wending its way towards the only premium check in window that is open. The premium person currently checking in appears to have lost his Koru Club card. He has forgotten his name, and he didn't remember to put his underpants on this morning. The person in charge of the counter is being very patient – she fires powerful X-ray beams at his skull in case his name is engraved on the inside. The X-rays shoot through the vast, empty, echoing caverns inside his head and bounce around for a while. His eyebrows fall off and wriggle like demented caterpillars all over the desk. Men in white coats hold him upside down and shake him. Small coins, fingernail clippings, peanuts, hot wireless sets, aspirin tablets, the sandpaper sides of used matchboxes and something that might have been castor oil fall out of his pockets.

Aha! A Koru Club card appears! It is picked up and examined closely and the premium person's name and number are punched into the computer which goes down immediately and is counted out.

The computer thinks carefully for a while and then tells the premium person that he does not exist. With an agonised scream, he melts into a greasy puddle and oozes into the carpet. The next person in the queue steps up to the counter and the whole rigmarole is repeated.

After several geological ages I finally arrive at the desk. I proffer my Koru Club card. The lady examines it carefully.

"Did you remember to put your underpants on this morning?"

"Yes of course." They aren't going to catch me out that way!

"Did you pack them yourself? Do they contain any forbidden substances, sharp objects or weapons of mass destruction?"

I consider the contents of my underpants carefully. "Yes," I say. "No," I continue.

She taps my number into the computer and issues me with a boarding pass for the wrong seat. I politely point out that my preferred seat is a front aisle and that this information is recorded in my Koru Club details.

"Sorry," says the lady. "Our check in computer system, isn't attached to our Koru Club computer system and it can't look those kinds of details up. Seats are assigned by a random number generator."

"Then why did I have to provide the information in the first place?"

"That's in case we ever manage to get the two computer systems to talk to each other. We haven't been able to make it work yet. But we've only been trying for twenty years. These things take time."

"Can I have my preferred seat please?"

"Of course you can."

She tears up my boarding pass and taps a few more keys. A new boarding pass is disgorged and a luggage receipt is issued. A luggage sticker and a priority tag are attached to my bag. I wend my way to the Koru Club lounge, where I indulge myself in hideous dissipations until my flight is called. I stagger bleary-eyed, weary and sore to my seat, and I strap myself in.

The plane takes off at least three quarters of an hour late. There are two passengers somewhere in the terminal who are ignoring all boarding calls. Eventually muscle bound security men track them down, club them into submission, bind them hand and foot with rusty manacles and carry them on board the plane to the accompaniment of rousing cheers.

The safety demonstration is performed as we taxi to the runway. I pay careful attention to everything that is said. My closest exit is behind me. The bag on my oxygen mask may not inflate. There is a life jacket in a pocket under my seat. Should the plane crash and kill me, I must put on the jacket and I will come back to life. Makes sense.

We lumber into the air and bump and grind across the sky. For my reading pleasure there is a copy of the Air New Zealand magazine in the pocket of the seat in front of me. I read it. It gives me no pleasure.

I drink lukewarm black sludge that pretends to be coffee. I refuse a sweetie. The plane lands and I make my way to the baggage claim carousel which whirrs and clicks as it spasms on its infinite journey.

Bags appear on the carousel, none of them mine. The first thousand or so bags that pass me on the carousel have no priority tags on them. The only function of a priority tag is to ensure that any bags adorned with one will be the very last ones off the plane. Koru Club members pay an annual fee of umpteen hundred dollars to enjoy the benefits of this service.

Eventually, after most of the people have collected their bags and vanished in the direction of surface transport, I spot the distinctive yellow and green striped handles of my case. It sits forlornly with the rest of the priority luggage, coming off last. I pick my case up and head off to get a taxi. There aren't any taxis. The passengers who didn't have priority luggage have used them all up.

I always arrive at the airport sufficiently early to allow plenty of time to catch my plane. For my latest flight, I left home while the dawn chorus was still having a cough and a spit, prior to bursting into song. The plane was scheduled to take off shortly after dusk.

However this time it proved to be an unnecessary precaution. To my enormous surprise, I was checked in faultlessly within thirty seconds of arriving at the terminal. I was even assigned my correct seat without having to ask. And the secret sins available in the Koru Club were the most sensual and decadent that I have ever indulged myself with.

The plane took off on time and arrived at its destination on time. My luggage, positively festooned with priority tags, was the very first bag to appear on the carousel. There were so many taxis waiting for passengers that I had to fight the taxi-touts off with a stick.

Things always go wrong when I fly. This journey was no exception to that rule. What went wrong was that everything went right. It completely upset all my plans.

And so, as always, I arrived at my motel tired, and fed up with the inefficiencies of Air New Zealand.

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