Going Out of My Mined – Chapter Three – Nice Nuts
Get the full book:
Over the next few weeks I’m going to put a chapter a week up here. Hope you enjoy them. Also anyone who’s on Amazon and/or Goodreads, if you could add a star rating and some kind words, I’d really appreciate it.
Now on with another free chapter – enjoy!
Dispatch No 3 – Wednesday, January 9 (morning)
Bags packed and on my way out the door, I pat my pockets to check for my phone and wallet, which I have, and keys, which I don’t. Then I remember that I don’t have any. I’ve always tried to travel as lightly as possible, but the realisation that I’m an adult with no need for keys feels a lot like failure.
At the airport, although this is my first flight anywhere for three weeks, I couldn’t be less excited. Growing up, airports meant holidays. Now they’re all work, either mining or comedy, and I’m also fed up with flying alone. Standing in front of the self-check-in machine struggling to remember my flight number, time and destination, I’m instead fantasising about my first holiday with Verity. Which we haven’t discussed yet but I’m not getting too far ahead of anything; she’s simply provided a face to my long-held daydream of travelling somewhere for fun with a partner. Something I haven’t done for nearly a decade.
After twice misspelling my last name, ‘Toby’, I mistakenly tick that I’m carrying dangerous goods, so now need to talk to a human.
The guys I work with are among those milling around the departure gate, and I’d never forgotten that they were mega-bogans. Looking at them now for the first time in weeks, however, I realise that, such is the heights of their bogan splendour, that I’d never be able to properly commit it to memory. Designer sunglasses, so many tattoos, sparkling jewellery, gelled or shaved hair, board shorts, and tight t-shirts or singlets splashed with naked women or surfing brands, moulded around love handles and bellies, and bottomed-off by thongs. The way they’re pacing around and nodding at nothing, they look like obese seagulls who’ve just been on a shopping spree.
There are four women out of the fifty people waiting around, and they’re dressed as if for a respectable lunch at the beach with friends. Other men are there in jeans with collared shirts or some other borderline smart–casual combination, plenty are drinking beers or bourbon mixers, and anyone who didn’t know better would think this was the local football team, heading off for their end-of-season trip. Not the newest members of Australia’s middle class.
According to the Australian Tax Office, a middle income earner makes between $40,000 and $180,000 a year after tax, so these workers, on anywhere from $120,000 to $250,000, are technically a mix of the middle and upper classes. Not bad for a bunch of blokes who mostly never attempted university and often didn’t finish high school, instead leaving early to complete a trade.
The majority of working men and women used to wear suits on planes, and I wonder if anyone ever predicted that so many with a trade or ticket instead of a degree would be so regularly flown anywhere, and paid so well.
The giveaway to everyone’s true purpose is the quiet. These men haven’t seen each other in three weeks, but the small pockets of chatter that have sprung up are subdued, because nobody’s excited about where we’re going. It’s the exact opposite to the excited chatter that abounds when waiting for a flight home.
I’m in jeans and a checked shirt, with black converse – my default passable-for-public combination, and I always make an effort when flying. Maybe because airports have never completely lost that childhood sense of awe for me, and they remain places where humans are regularly launched into the sky with amazingly little ever going wrong. Or perhaps the effort is more to do with a stunning flight attendant, who last year told me that she never looks twice at most people who fly because, ‘The way most of them dress these days, you see higher standards on the bus.’
While waiting for the boarding call, I browse some news websites and repeatedly check my email, Facebook and Twitter accounts, afraid that something important might come through that requires an immediate reply while I’m without reception for a couple of hours, although not once has that ever happened.
The most I share with any of my workmates is a nod of recognition and I feel guilty for not attempting a conversation, but nobody tries to talk to me.
One guy I half know approaches a guy I don’t remember at all, rubs the unknown guy’s stomach and I overhear him say, ‘That’s certainly come along over Xmas. When are you due?’
The owner of the stomach gives it a pat. ‘No idea. It’s already been cooking for nearly two decades.’
‘Twenty years of no exercise. Quite the achievement. What do you think you’ll call him? Or her?’
The owner smiles, and looks down. ‘Maybe liver disease. Or diabetes?’
They both laugh, and take large swigs from their bottles of premixed bourbon and cola.
Our tickets are scanned, we walk across the tarmac, and the flight is barely two-thirds full, so I don’t know why Samantha at Debitel said all the flights were booked solid. Maybe she automatically sets everyone’s expectations low as a rule, so when she can’t help or can’t be bothered, people are less upset.
Shuffling to my seat towards the back, where I always choose to sit as it increases my odds of being next to a spare seat, I count three out of fifty people reading books. So, if these notes about my time as a FIFO are ever turned into a book, I’ve got at least three potential readers. Add to that the friends and family who’ll actually buy the book instead of just expecting a freebie, and that’s still three.
The others on the plane are at their phones, flicking through magazines of half-naked women, or staring blankly at either the safety instruction card, the inflight magazine or nothing.
The window seat next to me is empty, and there is some commotion as workers attempt to move next to their friends but are told they must sit in their assigned seats. Then the two flight attendants shuffle around the heaviest passengers, to ensure even weight distribution. If our safety can be compromised by a fat man sitting in the wrong spot, and the task of getting that right is trusted to the flight attendants, well, that’s a worry.
While the fatties are being moved about some of the guys complain, they’re ignored, and a massive man is directed to the empty space beside me. He sits, and his stomach takes over the armrest.
When I first began regularly travelling alone by air, I used to immediately introduce myself to anyone sitting beside me, because if something did go wrong, I couldn’t think of anything worse than spending my last moments next to a stranger. Especially a hot one, because if I hadn’t at least introduced myself, there’d be no chance of a quickie before death.
Once I shared this fear, minus the quickie part, with a middle-aged woman sitting beside me. The look she replied with, before returning to her book, let me know that this thought was never worth sharing again. So I no longer bother, also because I’ve discovered that the people who are the most talkative usually have the least to say.
Halfway through the flight, after our small and slightly stale complimentary meals have been distributed and devoured, I notice the use-by date on my 250 ml complimentary bottle of water.
‘See that? I’ve never noticed that before,’ I say to the guy with the mammoth gut next to me.
‘The use-by date. If water can go off, as a species we’re all in a whole lot of trouble. Alcohol has one too, and that’s used to preserve stuff.’
‘So the water? Is it still okay?’ asks gutsy.
‘Apparently it doesn’t expire until 2016.’
‘So what are you on about? Are you trying to be funny or something?’
The sky remains clear for the duration of the journey and there isn’t a bump, but despite having both air vents above me open, the air has become increasingly stuffy.
Then we hit the tarmac with a slap, and everyone is bounced up and out of their seats. Gutsy, next to me, had been picking from a packet of nuts, but the landing jolt caused his stomach to lurch upwards, knocking them up and out of his hands, covering us both in nuts, shells and seasoning.
I smile, raise my eyebrows at him and say, ‘Aw nuts.’
‘Stupid useless fucking pilot,’ he replies. ‘I’m not cleaning it up.’
He collects the nuts that aren’t on me or the floor back into the packet, and continues eating.
After the baggage trailers are towed into the luggage cage, we get our bags straight off the trailers, and I notice I’m the only one with a rucksack. While the rest wheel away bags and sour expressions, I must look like I’m off for an adventure, and recall some of the excitement I felt when I arrived out here last year for my first swing.
That was Going Out of My Mined – Chapter Three – Nice Nuts
Get the full book: