What to do while waiting at the airport

Planes arrive late. For some reason, those in charge of planes (i.e. pilots) sometimes do very silly things, like fail to load enough fuel to quite make the distance, go via Fiji because of turbulence, forget about and overshoot Hawaii, accidentally take a wrong turning at Auckland, or even happily land in Austria before realising they’re over the wrong continent. Face it, you’re gonna need something to do while you wait.

1. Luckily, there’s usually lots to do in airports. Like give uncomfortability ratings to all the chairs in the various waiting areas. Watch the soapies on the TVs. Try to work out how many ratings points for these shows are attributable to people waiting in airports.

2. Wonder when it was that those armed guards actually tackled anyone armed with anything more threatening that a glass of lemonade. Test them out by setting off a firework.

3. Ask everyone you see where they’re going to, and see if any of them admit that "yeah, we’re off on one of them Thai sex tours…"

4. Ring the airline arrival hotline that you should have rang before you actually left to go to the airport. See who can guess the arrival time down to the nearest hour.

5. Go up to the observation deck and see if you can spot any planes touching wings in mid-flight. See how long it takes to freeze up there, before giving up and going back down to the cafeteria for a hot drink and a view at the window that’s just as good.

6. Pretend to be a disgruntled tourist balking at the $25 departure tax. "You mean it already cost me thousands of dollars to set foot in this godforsaken country of yours and you wanna charge me to leave?!?"

7. Take along your electronics kit and see if you can pick up (and interfere with) control tower broadcasts.

8. Hang around International Arrivals with a sign saying "Dr U. G. Koorier".

9. Compare how many different types of condoms and travellers’ kits are in the machines in each toilet.

10. Sneak into the airport offices, get hold of a PA microphone and make a "We regret to inform you that flight XXX has plummeted out of the sky and ummm… well, let’s just say I hope your relatives can swim…"

A plea

This is a plea to any of my relatives who may be reading. (Actually, not many of my relatives do read this drivel, meaning that my standing in the family as a "fine upstanding young man with a promising career etc etc" has not yet been completely shattered. Give it time.)

Don’t give me any more novels to read. The backlog is getting embarrassing. They pile up in the bookshelf… Okay, I admit it, I’m not a great reader. I’ve never been a great reader. In school, it may have looked like I was reading "1984", but to tell the truth, I never got past the first sentence. The one about clocks. "Animal Farm" — no problem. Appealed to my love of small furry animals, probably. (I still deny any accusations of cruelty to these particular creatures. There is no substantial evidence.)

It’s not that I can’t read. I’ve read for many years. It’s just that I have a belief in only reading things that can keep me interested. If a book doesn’t have one even mildly interesting thing on each page, then chances are I won’t be bothered. It’s not like music, which you can just turn on and listen to without too much bother. You can leave it going in the background. Books are effort.

Maybe I just don’t have enough patience. I just can’t be bothered to read through 250 pages of narrative to discover that the butler did it. Maybe I’m too much a part of the TV generation. Maybe the whole plot has to be given to me on a 19 inch black-tinted plate with stereo sound. And commercial breaks every five pages.

Photocopiers

Photocopiers. Another example of a good idea, implemented by complete sadists. I mean honestly… does it really need to have that many buttons? And do they have to have all those little symbols all over them? Surely it would be easier if each button just actually SAID what it was for. "Do the copy now", rather than just being big, blank, and green.

And the thing about the photocopier is that everyone barely knows how to use it, because whoever originally took delivery of the photocopier lost the manual in a desk drawer somewhere. Without first making a copy of it.

The bigger the photocopier, the more things seem to go wrong with it. Out of toner, out of paper, paper jam, toner jam, hand jammed in the input tray… In fact, the piece of paper you most frequently see at the photocopier is the hand-scrawled "Out of Order" sign.

Photocopiers have a lot in common with laser printers. Quite apart from the similar technology, it’s the paper jamming and demands for more toner are dead give-aways. And the way that people always seem to be queuing around them both.

Why is it most office appliances are a sort of greyish beige? And stereos and all other recreational appliances are black? It’s probably so management can instantly spot which minions have brought in personal stereos to run off the company’s electricity while pretending to work. What someone needs to do is make personal stereos that are beige. ("Ah — using some of the new equipment, eh Smith? What exactly is this? Oh, an audio monitoring refractor unit. Hmm, well done, keep up the good work.")

Nostalgia trip

I went on a nostalgia trip today… dragged the old 8-bit computer out of the cupboard and played a few Donkey Kong variants. Found an old magazine in a box extolling the virtues of owning an Atari 2600. Ah, those were the days… the graphics were crap, the sound was crap, the gameplay was… hmmm… but boy, was it fun.

I can just imagine showing one of those things to today’s Nintendo super Sega Megadrive generation. And watching their facial expressions saying "what the hell is this?!"

Yes, I confess, I was once envious of friends who had Pong. I do remember how to put an Apple ][ into graphics mode. And I have a Beeb that still works. You know, despite the seventies revival, I haven’t spotted anyone playing Break-out lately. But elsewhere in the computer industry, the seventies never really went away. Look at all the poor sods still programming in COBOL. They probably think it’s an example of "when you’re onto a good thing, stick to it". Problem is… it isn’t. Which is why in Uni we knew it was Crappy Old Bloody ‘Orrible Language.

Twine

I’m holding, in my other hand(*), a box of twine. What strange stuff, twine. It must come from a twine factory. I wonder how many people work there. And what they say at parties when people ask them what they do. "Oh well… I make twine. Yeah, you know how when you get the packet, how one end of the twine ball is sticking out of the hole in the top. I do that. I find the end and stick it out of the hole."

I also notice on the box it says "open flap for instructions." Well, thank God for that. I tell you what, I’d be lost without instructions on how to use my twine. They’d have to open a 24 hour Twine Line, for distressed users of twine. "Oh, you’ve got to help me, I got my twine home, and I just can’t think what I’m going to do with it. I’ve tried everything – cooking with it, programming the VCR with it, even sex. You’ve got to help me, please." But no, there are instructions inside boxes of twine. It probably just says "tie stuff".

(*) the one I’m not typing with.