Domestic travel in New Zealand is often fraught with delays. On Friday the twirly-gig - you know, the conveyer belt-cum-luggage-carousel-whatsit - had stopped working.
Auckland domestic airport, which may have once been adequate, is now not. It's like being stuck in a ridiculously skinny corridor with crazed, bag rolling zombies. On Friday the zombies were at a standstill. Well, the bag rollers were still rolling. I loathe them. I loathe them and their carry-on suit cases that must surely weigh more than 7kg and take up all the cabin space.
I hate them because they roll those stupid bags behind them, posing a threat to everyone else walking with purpose. I hate them because they can pack everything they need for a weekend or more in to a small bag. My makeup and hair product alone wouldn't fit. Damn them. Damn them all to hell! (I'm just kidding. I'm pretending to be Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes.)
Friday was carnage. The airport was jammed with people waiting by the broken whatsit. There were delays due to weather and outside was a wet, muggy, stormy day with taxis and buses and all kinds of people jostling through the doors for pick-ups. It was a particularly wet, stinky and crowded mess.
That same afternoon, I missed my flight. Auckland traffic is only ever reasonable at 2am on a Tuesday. Any other time and it's touch-and-go whether you'll get somewhere in fifteen minutes or 90. The weather was still a storm and traffic to the airport was limping along like a water buffalo bitten a week ago by a Komodo dragon. It was torturous.
I'd been at a meeting where I'd been so engrossed by excellent radio gossip that I was way too late in ordering an Uber. Although it got there in a flash, there was no way I was going to make my flight. I rebooked.
Sometimes things happen because weather is torrential and traffic is absurd. Things happen because highways were built before anyone assumed Auckland would explode into a mega city. Not unlike Melbourne airport, all of Auckland's highways seem built for a third of the number of travellers.
I wonder if the team who designed the Auckland motorways hopped across the brook and did Melbourne International Airport too: criminal offences - both of them.
Sometimes, however, I have to wonder if late meetings, bad weather and grinding traffic are some kind of kismet. If fate steps in and gives you a chance to meet people who will enlighten you; People with messages for you. I'm not a great believer in the Celestine Prophecy. I'm not a great believer in anything. But on rainy days stuck in an Auckland monster snarl ups, sometimes a little magic happens...
My Uber driver is listening to Radio Rhema. I hope he doesn't ask what I do. I'm suddenly self- conscious about working in commercial media. When he does ask and I tell him I'm a writer and "fiddle about" in media.
I'm not sure why I suddenly feel like a heathen but I do. I ask what church he goes to and I'm relieved it's not that one everyone's talking about at the moment due to their contentious, fashion-challenged minister.
The driver is a good guy. We talk about my growing up in South Auckland and how he grew up in rural Western Samoa. He tells me that as a kid and all through primary school his lunch was guava and coconut growing wild behind the school. I tell him how healthy that sounds. We both agree kids these days drink far too much sugary rubbish.
As we talk of our kids and the struggles of bringing them up brave yet protected, I don't mind that I missed my flight, because I met someone who filled up my tank a bit. I'm grateful for that.
When I finally get on board my new flight, which is delayed, of course, I'm still in a good mood. The lounge had been crowded with delayed travellers but I remember what my young producer Dave told me the time he joined me in the lounge as my guest.
"Polly, people in here look so unhappy. They have free food and drink and they all look miserable. Don't they know how lucky they are? Can you imagine one of my Poly-brothers in here with his family? They'd be laughing and smiling and running around rolling in the luxury."
I try never to forget that. It's a privilege. Even delayed, it's a privilege.
When I board I sit down next to a woman who tells me she is Tokelauan. I can immediately tell that she is funny, astute, and highly intelligent. We chat. I always chat. I like to hear stories. She is highly qualified. I learn that she helps people understand and accept suicides in communities. She is all about love, not blame.
She tells me I am too self-deprecating. She has me worked out. She points out that I still diffuse any criticism of my weight or other flaws with self-deprecating humour. She thinks I should probably stop putting myself down as a natural defence. She is smart and kind. I learn from her that one of the largest groups of people to commit suicide in our country is retired, successful older men. I had no idea. I just assumed from media coverage it's mainly young kids. Young kids are taking their lives, but not as often as guys who retire and suddenly lose their purpose and self-worth. This woman is filled with positivity and goodness and enlightenment.
Today has been long and wet and delayed, but despite my cynical views on karma and fate, I do believe if we sit long enough, and shut up for long enough, we are going to hear some wonderful wisdom, wherever we go.
Here's to bad Auckland traffic and the people I encountered who educated and enlightened me.
Where to get help:
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• Samaritans 0800 726 666
• If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.