I ran. Sydney airport had somehow managed to take 90 minutes to deliver the bags from my inbound London flight to the luggage carousel, where I needed to clear customs before checking them in again for my onwards domestic flight to Canberra.
I dodged the swarm of amblers, greeters and sign-readers on the 500 metre or so walk from International Arrivals to the Domestic Transfers hall. I had imagined it differently – it was almost a year to the day since the whole CBRbound family had arrived via the same route as new migrants.
When I booked this trip, I noted the return date and imagined reliving the whole thing: that’s where the man stamped our passports; that’s where Mini-CBRbound begged us to buy him an Aussie pie at six in the morning; that’s where Maxi-CBRbound stood by the mock-up of a Qantas fuselage, posing for a photo while proudly pointing to the Aussie flag; and that’s where Mrs CBRbound crept into a corner to phone her Mum and Dad, telling them we had made it and reassuring them that we would call and visit as often as possible.
That’s how it was in my head, but in the end, a frustrating wait and a frantic walk were all I could manage. At the Domestic Transfers hall, the baggage check assistant reassured me.
“You still have 40 minutes,” she said. “The buses over to the terminal are every 20 minutes, so you should be fine.”
That sounded tighter than I liked.
“And will my luggage make it?” I asked. I’d already nearly lost it once. I wasn’t ready for a repeat performance.
“It should be okay,” she said, in that way that is designed to reassure but, at the same time, offer no guarantees. As a result, it gives neither.
Okay. Through security. Grabbed for a random swab test. No worries, the terminal bus wasn’t there yet anyway. Then back to security for the bag of duty free gin I’d left in an x-ray tray. Then through to the waiting room. Waiting, waiting. Sweating from the run and 28 hours on three flights across all the continents bar one.
The bus arrived after about five minutes and we boarded quickly, but the driver wanted to wait a moment to see if he could squeeze a few more passengers on.
Come on. Come on.
Then off we went, across the tarmac. Away from the vast intercontinental aircraft like the Airbus A380 and Boeing 777, and towards the smaller, wasp-like Dash 400 that would buzz its way over the New South Wales countryside to Canberra.
The bus doors sighed open and I ran up the stairs and looked for a list of flight departures. Canberra, Gate 16, Boarding. I did that sprint walk that you only ever usually see when TV channel hopping during the middle of the summer Olympics.
At Gate 16, the last few passengers were disappearing down the stairs to the aircraft, but I paused at the Qantas desk.
“Hi there, I’ve barely made it from an overseas flight. Is there any way you can check if my luggage made it too?”
She smiled and looked down and in an easy way, said: “Not yet, but it’s only a short drive across the airport, you should be good, and if not, we’ll work it out.”
Once more, this didn’t reassure me or guarantee anything. But then she did something else. She added: “But welcome home. Or, judging by that accent, perhaps a second home?”
It caught me off guard. Home. Yes, I suppose it really is. And, despite all the uncertainty, despite my fatigue, despite the stress of it all. I smiled. Oh, and my luggage made it too. Thanks Qantas.