Waiting at Sydney airport I watch people and type on my laptop. In front of me is the Qantas club buffet with passengers’ busy getting breakfast. Hard-boiled eggs, toast cereals, fruit and beverages of all kinds. There is a smell of air freshener mingling with the flowery perfume from a woman sitting to my right.
It makes me wonder who all these people are. I fancy I can tell the business men and women, with their heads buried in their Laptops or smart phone. Younger business travelers’ swipe iphones, executives flap their broadsheets, and the FIFOs seem obvious to me.
I imagine I can tell a person’s profession by the way they look and behave. There are public servants, bankers and financiers, technicians, engineers and tradies and then there are the holidaymakers. Who are the others?
Take for example the woman opposite me, alone, attractive and fit. Perhaps she is in her late fifties, wearing jeans, layered tops and expensive but discrete jewelry. It takes me a while to work her out but then I think I have it. She is a doctor.
But what of the others?
The woman to my left looks matronly. She is dressed in comfortable pants and tee shirt. Her clothes are not fashionable but they are expensive and speak of a woman of means but not of business. A single wedding band proclaims her status. Yet she is alone. Perhaps she has been at a medical appointment and now she is on her way home to her husband who cannot get the time off from his small business to accompany her. Her children are with her sister.
Then there are the academics and the journalists. A man walks passed, a journalist, I guess or a press secretary. He wears jeans, smart shirt and fashionable leather shoes the kind with long square cut snub toes.
Another man, older than the journalist crosses in front of me. An academic I decide, with his brown jacket, open neck shirt and runners. Two men follow, engineers with their expensive leather boots that don’t see the wear the tradies boots boast.
I like making up stories about these people and not just pretending I know what their profession is by the way they look or dress. The man across from me is a FIFO, in his sixties. He plays golf judging by his socks. He is single and his hands shake as he raises them to wipe eyes that scream hangover. He holds his smart phone as a digital Neanderthal with an alien machine. He’s a FIFO now but I guess he was an Australian soldier. Perhaps he was in Vietnam.
Why do all these people belong to the Qantas club I wonder. Why do I? Perhaps it’s because no matter which airport you arrive at there is a familiar destination waiting for you. Waiting for connecting flights in strange airports can be unnerving. Where does one go, where should you sit? Belonging to the Qantas club takes the uncertainty away. There is an unambiguous choice every time. The sense of a being a lost object averted in the certainty of what you can expect.
The disembodied Tannoy voice, calls my flight. I close my laptop and rise glancing once more at the waiting people, thinking so many stories forever hidden in their intimate but ultimately private worlds.