When you're alone at an airport with time on your hands, one way to ease the boredom is to indulge in a spot of people watching. With so many of us engrossed in the wonders of technology via their smartphone, tablet or laptop, it's possible this pastime is going out of fashion.
So in the spirit of reviving what may be becoming a lost art, I contemplated my fellow travellers while I waited at Auckland's domestic terminal for a flight to Napier last month. Oh, the people you'll find if you just take the time. Airports are veritable zoos containing animals of the human variety. Here are just five of the exhibits I saw.
1. Ms Hand-dryer Hogger
There were maybe seven or eight hand-basins in a row in one of the restrooms. A woman washed her hands and dried them with the hot-air hand-dryer. There was nothing to see here. Or so I thought.
What she did next both confounded and astonished me. Having decided to apply some makeup to her face, she required the services of one of the many over-basin mirrors. Do you know which basin she chose to occupy? Go on, have a guess: it was the one adjacent to the hot-air dispenser, one so close to it, in fact, that the unit was rendered inaccessible by her presence.
That's right, I was unable to dry my freshly-washed hands because she'd parked herself there in order to apply eyeliner. Inconsiderate vanity trumped the rights of other people that day.
2. Mr Below-average Dad
There was a child toddling around the self-service food area of the provincial Koru lounge. Thanks to the child's short stature and unpredictable movement, he was a significant hazard and I had to take great care to not spill my bowl of hot kumara-and-coconut soup on him.
So that wasn't a big deal and I wouldn't have given it much more thought but for the belated discovery that his father (well, hopefully it was his father and not someone stalking a toddler on the loose) was tailing this child. The father's body language and air of affable resignation conspired to create a vibe that communicated Look-at-what-a-great-Dad-I-am.
But, according to my Scale of Dad Assessment, this father's performance would have rated below average. A great dad would surely have modelled appropriate airport behaviour by sitting down with his child and talking or reading - rather than forcing other lounge users to negotiate a pair of mobile obstacles while helping themselves to lunch. And, if burning off excess energy was the idea, then the open spaces of the main terminal would have been a less antisocial venue.
3. Ms Loud-and-up-close
A woman self-importantly entered the small dining area where I was seated. She consulted loudly with her companion about which coffees to order and proceeded to put a selection of luggage underneath the table adjacent to mine. On opposite sides of this table was a bench-seat and a dining chair so there was ample room for two people to sit comfortably.
But when the bustling woman sat down, she sat on the bench-seat right beside me, so that's in the space between tables where you would imagine no one would sit ever. I still don't know why she didn't sit at the table she had "bagsed" with her bags.
Once seated, the woman shouted out to her companion: "Well, this is a lot more comfortable than ..." Sadly, I was not privy to that riveting sentence's end for I immediately gathered up my possessions (newspaper, glass of water and carry-on bag) and vacated the area, thereby liberating myself from the uncomfortable experience of having someone yell 10-cms from my left eardrum.
4. Ms & Ms Keen Foodies
I relocated to a more lounge-style part of the lounge and this is where I encountered a matching pair of keen foodies. These women entered the lounge with their bulky luggage which they deposited beside a coffee-height table just along from where I was sitting. They both hightailed it to the food area and returned with full plates which they emptied with gusto.
Meanwhile I was just left with questions. What made these women leave their luggage unattended in an airport? Don't they know unattended luggage could be deemed a security threat, even interpreted as a bomb? Don't they know someone could steal from their suitcase or - worse - plant some contraband in it? Foodies are such trusting souls. These women's stomachs overruled their brains that particular day. They so easily could have watched the other person's bag if only they'd taken turns to harvest the food.
5. Ms Luggage-on-table
I'm still recovering from witnessing a woman place her carry-on bag on the top of a dining table. This is problematic. Dining tables are used for food so items that have been in contact with the germ-ridden flooring of public spaces should be kept off them.
Luggage (and footwear) do not belong on tables. Furthermore, because remnants of food may be present on dining tables your clean bags could become stained if you use it inappropriately as a luggage rack. If you need a handy place on which to rest your carry-on luggage while you fossick through it, my advice is to consider using a bench or chair.
You are most welcome.