Oh, Australia

Can you talk like an Australian? What are sunnies, Eskies, helies, pollies. (Sunglasses, Eskimo coolers, helicopters, politicians.)

Got it? So then, what is sosh, or goss, or satched, or mackers? (Social, gossip, saturated, McDonalds hamburgers.)

No worries, mate. You’re all right. Which means, “You’re welcome.” Roight.

Australia offered us the very best vacation we’ve had in a long time. I’ve only just recovered from 9 flights in 16 days. Incidentally, I will never have anything to great to say about Qantas airlines. There’s no alternative but to take them across the country. It’s this monopoly, I think, that makes the service so cavalier. The agent at the check-in desk insists that we’ll have to speak to customer service if my husband and I prefer to sit together. This after having had reservations for 3 months. The customer rep instantly finds us adjoining seats. “She didn’t spend too much time looking, did she?” he commiserates.

Checking in at the Melbourne airport, the woman at the counter points us to new QuickCheck in machines. The machine directs us to the service representative. We go back to her. She points to another counter with the wand from her lip gloss. She says with irritation, “That’s what happens when you have old tickets.” A roving floor manager eventually directs us back to the same woman who makes her feeble apologies.

I’m not right behind my husband when we are checking in at the departure gate because I turned to apologize to an older woman for cutting in front of her. The agent taking our tickets, his face ferociously furrowed and condescending, spits out cold and hard as an angry cop: “Stay close. Stay close!”

Perhaps we’re just used to a gentler customer service in Northern California?

At the Alice Springs Desert Park the ticket taker is absent from the window. We can see her attending to a woman who’s gotten off our van and has pushed through the turnstile into the gift shop. We push through to get our tickets taken too, and get scolded for not first dinging the retro service bell.

When we stop off for lunch at the Apollo Bay Hotel on the Great Ocean Road, we don’t get our food for 20 minutes. People from on our Grayline tour have all eaten and are leaving. My husband goes up and asks if our food will be coming soon. The sour cashier says she’ll check. She doesn’t report back. Five minutes later he goes again to get an update. She tells him he’s annoying and to go sit down. When he demurs, she says she’s going to get the manager. Please do, he tells her, losing his native sweetness. Apologies all round. But, God Almighty. The customer as enemy?

Tired of my whining yet? Let me rant a little more, though. I need to.

We are in the elevator at the top of the Sydney Tower. Five laughing British teenagers, rowdy, hopped-up on group mentality and testosterone turn to me. One of them, guffawing, asks if he could take my photo. They’ve mistaken me for an Aboriginal woman. Their manner changes the instant I tell them I’m also a tourist from America.

The Aboriginal people. It’s a sad story, really. We see more of them in Alice Springs than we’d seen previously in our trip. As with all indigenous peoples, they suffer from poverty, disease, alcoholism, illiteracy, malaise. They seem to hold fast to ancient ways. Because of their very pronounced sense of family, we see them walking in groups, in their unhurried way; we see them sitting placid on the ground everywhere, not even plucking at the blades of grass. They just stare out as if they’re waiting for something they know will not be coming any time soon.

My sense is that the population around them treats them like children. Sees them as wallpaper. Or some ancient, irrelevant tribe. The hotel clerk at the Alice Springs Resort looks away from me as if I might singe her eyes. Aboriginal fatigue, perhaps. We arrive before check-in time, as is always the case. Unlike other many-starred hotels, we wait, and wait, and wait, for our room to be ready; we have lunch before we force the issue and ask her if she knows when a room will be available. She goes and consults with her supervisor, and, oh, miracle des miracles, we are checked in immediately.

But you can run into bad and prickly service anywhere. Right? Right?

Navigating this photo gallery may be confusing. See “Help,” if you need it, at the bottom right hand corner. Toggle F11 for a bigger screen.

[tags] Qantas, Apollo Bay Hotel, Aboriginal, Alice Springs Resort, Australia, Photo Gallery[/tags]

This entry was posted in Travel.

One thought on “Oh, Australia

  1. I loved your photography from Australia. Bats! Yikes and I love some of the achitecture. And, Cook sure got around. There is evidence of him in New Zealand too and the Island between these two great countries. Loved his house. So British.

    thank you

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