Out of Office

It’s 9:30am and the airport lounge is already running out of toast. 

I’m sandwiched between a 3-year old bingeing Peppa Pig while she absentmindedly opens her mouth for her diligent father to feed her spoonfuls of yoghurt, and a boy wearing a college hoodie who is falling asleep to a podcast. 

I see a line forming where the toast was, and I can’t help but think there is something inherently optimistic about this chaotic, bustling airport lounge with no toast.
Running out of toast meant an overwhelming number of people were going on holiday. 

The beauty about holidays is that everyone has the same unspoken drill. 

They’ll pack a phone charger, little bottles of shampoo and sunscreen and hope they’re not seated next to a baby.
Everyone sets up an out-of-office email, adds a palm tree beside their name on Slack and packs at least 1 piece of clothing they won’t find an occasion for. At some point, everyone will reach for their boarding pass to confirm it hasn’t gone missing. 

But if you look closely, you’ll realise that not all holidays were created equal. 

Despite being packaged the same way – like a school uniform attempting to standardise the backgrounds and circumstances of a whole student body, it’s only a matter of time before their stories reveal themselves.

If you look closely, especially as the flight descends and people start to disembark, you’ll see the tell-tale signs of where they lie on the holiday hierarchy. 

The group of 4, who spent the flight giggling in hushed tones – loading their haul of duty-free alcohol onto their trolly as they brace themselves for the bachelorette of a lifetime. 

The lady who didn’t sleep a wink. She didn’t have any bags – all she needed for her father’s funeral was the overpriced ticket she bought last night. 

A young mother changing a crying baby out of a onesie and into a puffy dress for her first time meeting the grandparents, because first impressions count at any age.

The grandfather on his first flight, who took half an hour to muster up the courage to reluctantly ask his granddaughter if she’d give him the window seat so he could spend the rest of the flight with his eyes glued to the sparkling skyline below.

The young man who will wait endlessly at baggage claim today – because 35kgs of shoes, clothes and candy was the burden of being the first in the family to live abroad.

But if  you don’t look closely, they all look the same. 

Everyone disembarks the same way, as per the unspoken drill. They all say thank you to the stewardess at the door and participate in a speed-walking race to the immigration line.

They all stare at the conveyor belt with optimism – allowing bags that look vaguely like theirs to tease them into running up to grab it, only to retrace their steps, empty handed.
And once it’s all done, they make their way out of the glass doors and to their holiday.

They hop into their respective cars letting the road diverge to an intricate map of agendas – to a honeymoon, a funeral, a college reunion, eager grandparents, home.  

Their flooded email inbox staying afloat with the same message – Out of Office – Please expect a delay in response during this time. 

2 thoughts on “Out of Office

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