It’s early afternoon. The phone at the Broome QANTAS Service Desk rings out. Pauline calls Perth. There’s been a delay. Bad weather. The plane should be in around 2pm.
At 2:40 Pauline phones the Service Desk. We’ve starting to get jittery about a second night in our gray issue PJs. They answer.
‘There’s been a mix-up’ says the sleepy voice, slowed by the afternoon tropical warmth. ‘Apparently your bags were left in Brisbane.’
Pauline explodes. She gives them a serve. We’re cheering in the background. ‘I can’t believe that QANTAS, the national carrier, could be so incompetent etc etc’
‘Hang on’ says the now alert voice. ‘No. No.’ a voice in the background is giving an excited commentary. ‘I’ve just been told they’re here. Yes. Right behind me.’
The rest of us garner this information from the roll of Pauline’s eyes and her wild sign language.
‘They were there all the time, the idiots.’
Silence from Pauline. Silence from the Service Desk. It’s not a stalemate. It’s a rare I’m speechless moment from Pauline and an I can’t think of what to say next from sleepy voice. It appears that QANTAS has also outsourced intelligence.
We all get dressed in our gray QANTAS gear to greet the arrival of our luggage. Steve goes into role. Pulls his shorties up under his armpits, stumbles down the stairs like a drunk and greets the cab driver and the neighbourhood in a too loud voice. ‘Hello everybody.’ He bounces forward pushing the others out of the way, sticks his head through the open passenger window and asks: ‘Have these come all the way from Brisbane?’ And he recites the inaccurate list of identification numbers checking off each bag in turn. ‘I can help if you like?’ Steve has had a sudden relapse into his former life as a clown.
The staff at the check-in desk of the apartment complex don’t seem to share our sense of humour.