At 12.17am, Alfonso Delgrado taught me to salsa on a table slightly shorter than his name.
He pulled me up on to the furniture outside the Subway outlet at Brisbane International Airport and, putting his hand on the small of my back, steered me deftly around the slab.
"Oof!" I squeaked as he drew me sharply against his chest. "We shouldn't really be standing on this. People are going to put food on it."
"Pfftt!" he retorted. "It is not about the table, it is about the dance."
I hope Security is of the same notion, I thought as he spun me away to teeter feet first over the edge. "The dance," purred Al, "is the essence of life. It says everything and anything. If you learn to dance on this small space, you will always find a dance floor, anytime you want to express your emotions." And he twirled me back against his chest.
"Well, cha-cha-cha!" I thought. The things you learn when you least expect it and of all the things I might have expected this night, swirling around a tabletop with a passably handsome libertine from Peru was never going to be on my list.
His friend, Herve from France, sat on one of the squabs, watching and making jingoistic remarks about the "hot-bloodiness" of Latins versus the more sophisticated sensuality of the French.
"Pfftt!" dismissed Al again, then "Ole!"
"Ole?" I thought anxiously, one beat behind and then he spun me fast and twice ... and "Strewth!" said Keith. "You were nearly looking up your own skirt." He didn't actually say "skirt" but that is a better word. "Bravo!" clapped Zeyad from Egypt. "Magnifique!" With that we formed our own UN - and all because the Airtrain that I had expected to take me on to my final destination stops for the night at 10.08, although incoming flights don't.
It never occurred to me - foolishly, probably - that there wouldn't be a service to Brisbane Central station, where I usually connect with the Cleveland service to my Australian home. The only difference was that this time I caught a later flight than usual. It was just idle chance that I checked the schedule, while hanging on the phone waiting for a call centre to answer. Would I have to hustle to meet the train or simply stroll to the station? Was it 15 minutes or 30 minutes between services at that hour? Turns out it was going to be seven hours.
Searching the web for an alternative, I found sleepinginairports.net, one of several websites that review the pros and cons of kipping down in the world's airports. The very first review for Brisbane was positive, so what the heck, I thought.
There were to be a few "what the heck?" moments that night.
I cleared Customs and checked out the two recommended spots for sleeping. The first had lots of passable beds with toilets right next door but colonists already included several infants, one bellowing. The second was more public, but with long inviting couches. I staked my claim. Alfonso and Herve were already there, and Edward from Germany. Less than 30 minutes later, I was spinning around the table.
The dance was followed by a baggage trolley race and although you will have decided we were all 12 years old, sadly none of us would see 30 again. It wasn't until Zeyad nearly tipped himself down the escalator that we came to our sheepish senses. That and the security guard who said although we were wildly entertaining, he was sure there were rules somewhere that forbade such daft behaviour.
Emirates called my new friends to Dubai; I tucked my satchel under my head, pulled up my pashmina and - despite the lights and people - fell asleep.
When I awoke, my shoes had disappeared under a pile of jandals and the surrounding couches had disappeared under a pile of men. It was 02.20am. I shut my eyes and when, a mere 40 minutes later my satchel-pillow slid to the floor waking me, I was disconcerted to find myself alone again. At 03.26am there was a soft wheezing noise and someone made a clumsy effort to raise my eyelid. Amiria -18 months - in a pink onesie, drool from just two teeth, fat silky curls and a low giggle. Her mother flew across the room to apologise. Exit Amiria.
When next I woke it just felt different. The light had changed, there were lots of people around. Subway was just opening, the coffee cart was already serving. I was surprised how refreshed I felt. I looked at my watch, nearly 5am. So I stood, smoothed down my clothes, ignored the odd mark on my cheek from my improvised pillow (after all, nobody looks like a fashion plate at 5am) and headed for the Airtrain.
Air New Zealand flies direct to Brisbane from Auckland. Four different Economy product choices are available - Seat, Seat+Bag, The Works, Works Deluxe - as well as Premium Economy and Business Premier (where available). One-way Seat fares start from $253.