Don’t Ask (with song lyrics)

The day had arrived for me to return to Australia. I had been in Malta only four months instead of the usual six but had to leave early to attend a family wedding in Sydney. I was not happy about leaving Malta, early. I cleaned the house from top to bottom, leaving it fresh and clean. I had organised for a couple to stay in my Valletta maisonette while I was away and I had made an effort to leave it pristine in the optimistic hope that they would reciprocate for me on my return.
All my bags are packed and I’m ready to go…I’m leaving…on a jet plane.
After struggling up the steps of my street (it’s an ancient street with flagstone steps and no cars) I wheeled my luggage the eight minutes or so to the bus station and then to Stage 16 where the bus to the airport departs from. It was hot and I was sweaty. I congratulated myself for my insightful planning as I had left the house wearing shorts, singlet and flip-flops, with my jeans, long-sleeved shirt, shoes and socks in my backpack, in anticipation of a quick wash and change at the airport before my flight.
I noticed that the large electronic message display board that usually showed the time of arrival of the next bus along with the bus route and timetable at Stage 16 was missing. Hmm… must have been another accident where an overly enthusiastic driver had pushed his bus just a little too quickly and a little too far down the bus parking bay and knocked out the sign.
There were other people waiting and after about fifteen minutes I asked them if they had been waiting long. They had. Hmm…again. This didn’t look quite right. So, I asked some men who were in bus driver uniforms, standing a short distance behind us. They replied to my enquiry.
“Go around the corner. Stage 21”.
“You mean that the airport bus will leave from there?”
“Yes. Stage 21”.
The off-duty drivers had been standing behind us and our luggage, all of us obviously headed for the airport, the whole time, so it would have been extremely helpful if they had spoken up before.
So, my new friends and I hurriedly took up our bags and rushed around the corner into the adjacent street to Stage 21. One of the group checked the timetable.
“We are in luck. The bus to the airport is due any minute now”.
I sighed with relief.
Time was ticking, ticking, ticking… into the future.
Fifteen minutes later we had realised that the bus we were waiting for must have left early.
“Yes, sometimes they do that. We will have to wait for the next one.”
The next one arrived after another ten minutes. Phew! It was now one and three-quarter hours before my flight departure time.
I was lucky. The bus stopped directly in front of me and I managed to be one of the first passengers on the bus. That meant I got a bench seat behind the driver, facing the isle with room to have my luggage beside me rather than being in a normal seat inline with the driver and other passengers. Because the bus was late, or because the other bus had left early or did not turn up at all, this bus was very crowded, with passengers standing in the isle in front of me and packed in like sardines. Two young women who seemed to be together ended up in a position directly in front of me. One was an attractive, slim woman who seemed to be in her mid-twenties. The other was a very large woman of around ninety kilograms and of about the same age as her companion.
The bus rounded a bend a little too quickly and the standing passengers swayed to one side; the side I was sitting on. Guess which one of the two women standing in front of me lost her grip of the overhanging strap-type handle and fell, full force, on top of me?
Ninety kilos for her as opposed to around sixty kilos for me- it wasn’t a fair contest.
It all happened as if in slow motion and I can only imagine the look of shock and awe expressed on my face as the looming hulk slowly leaned further and further towards me and as I realised there was no escape from an eminent, severe crushing. Over the few seconds that it took for her to fall forward with all of her weight behind her, pressure on my upper torso increased enormously as the obese woman’s breasts pressed me up against the inside wall of the bus. In my mind’s eye I could imagine the shape of the back of my body bulging out from the outside view of the bus, as if in some children’s cartoon. The unfortunate woman and I were left for a few seconds face to face, gazing into each other’s wild and terrified eyes.
“Oh sorry, sorry, sorry. Sorry. I’m really sorry. Sorry”.
“Never mind. It’s OK. Just a little adventure on the journey.”
I realised she was even more embarrassed than I was.
Some other women sitting along side of me began to chuckle and to titter among themselves in another language. The sight of skinny, little me sitting there in my singlet and baggy shorts, minding my own business, being slowly eclipsed by this huge, round woman must have looked hilarious, even though it almost gave me a heart attack.
Total eclipse of the heart.
Of course, the traffic on the way to the airport was horrendous. It took about forty minutes to travel the ten kilometres or so to the airport which meant I arrived only fifty-five minutes before my flight was due to takeoff. I asked at check-in if I had time for a quick wash and change of clothes.
“Well, boarding should have already commenced. You better get to the boarding gate”.
I hurried to the departure section only to find a long queue at the hand-luggage check. I finally got through the checks and made it to my departure gate.
Delay.
I had to stand in another queue for thirty minutes before they let us on the bus that took us across the tarmac to the plane.
I could not help thinking to myself that half an hour would have been more than enough time for a nice wash and change of clothes.
Standing in my flip-flops on the transfer bus, it jerked violently as it moved off causing a man directly in front of me to jump onto my foot. He was wearing leather dress-shoes with hard, heavy heels. He did not simply step back onto me, mind you, he staggered for a second or two and then jumped backwards, heavily onto my foot. Luckily, his sharp edged heel landed on the wide leather strap of my new flip-flops. If it had landed with such force on my bare foot it would have surely broken skin and if onto my toes I would have probably had to complete the rest of my journey with a broken toe or two.
Proceedings up to now had not been a pleasant start to my journey.
The flight itself wasn’t too bad. I had a man seated next to me who found the movie he was watching very funny and laughed loudly, and regularly, for about an hour and a half, but apart from that the trip was relatively painless. A few movies, some sleep, a few meals and twenty-two hours later we arrived at Sydney. I had even managed to squeeze in a quick shower and change of clothes at Dubai, in between a connecting flight.
We landed at Sydney right on time at 10:05pm. I was grateful that we had arrived on time but was still a little nervous as I did not have much time to get to Central Station in order to catch the 11:18pm train to Blacktown, where my mother lives and where I was staying the night. I was staying at my mother’s house before the family wedding the next day and then continuing my journey to the Blue Mountains after that. If I missed the 11:18pm train I would have to wait another hour for the last train before the service ended for that twenty-four hour period and started again much later in the morning. My luggage arrived on the carousel at the baggage collection section within fifteen minutes. A record! I checked my watch. I had forty-five minutes to get to Central and the train only takes ten. Plenty of time. I was pleased. I wheeled my luggage past the throngs of happy people waiting for loved ones to appear through the arrival gates. Arrivals are such happier places than departures. Departure lounges often feature tears and regretful faces whereas at arrivals, faces are bursting with optimistic anticipation. The happy people in the arrival lounge made me smile. I had made it. I didn’t have to rush and I was in a good mood.
I travelled the length of the airport building to the escalators that led to the airport railway station with a big grin on my face only to be greeted by a large sign over the railway station entrance:
“STATION CLOSED FOR MAINTENANCE. BUSES REPLACE TRAINS”
And I wonder, still I wonder…who’ll stop the (t)rain.
I found the place where the buses left from in time for an attendant to tell me that I had just missed one. I waited ten minutes for the next bus which took me to Central Station. The road trip took forty minutes. So I missed the 11:18pm bus by five minutes.
I reminded myself that I was almost “home” and that it was almost all over, in the desperate but futile attempt to cheer up my tired-to-the-point-of-exhaustion, cranky and dishevelled self.
I navigated the station and lifts with my luggage and arrived at the correct platform, waited and caught my train.
Yes! Not long now.
At Strathfield station, about halfway between Central and Blacktown, a voice came over the train intercom:
“Due to technical difficulties, this train will now terminate. Please wait on the platform for a replacement train.”
You are kidding. You… “please wait on the platform” yourself, you *#$&%*!
I asked an attendant when the next train to Blacktown would arrive.
“Oh, only four minutes.”
Well, that wasn’t too bad, I thought. That was lucky.
After ten minutes, another voice came over the station intercom:
“The train to Blacktown has been delayed a further ten minutes and is now leaving on platform 8. Please make your way to platform 8.”
Oh, for God’s sake!
Come on, come on…and do the locomotion with me.
So, I struggled once more with my luggage and moved over to platform 8 just in time to catch the train.
I finally arrived at Blacktown station, caught the lift from the platform to the concourse, exited the station and caught a taxi to my mother’s house.
My mother was waiting up for me and feeling a little worried as I was so much later than my estimated time of arrival.
She got in just before I had time to stop her.
“How was your trip?”

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2 thoughts on “Don’t Ask (with song lyrics)

  1. Very funny Rupert. Some people have all the luck. I guess you have to thank your lucky stars that you made it in time for the wedding. At least you had your music resounding in your head to put a smile on your face.

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