Last night in the hotel, I was trying to sleep and had to wake up several times. I woke up at one point after having fallen asleep during the rugby match only to find the movie Rainman playing on TV. There is this scene where Tom Cruise is trying to get Dustin Hoffman to get on a plane to go to Las Vegas and the Dustin Hoffman character is going down the list of airlines saying he will absolutely not fly any of these airlines (US domestic airlines) because they have all had accidents. So, the Tom Cruise character asks him “what airline WILL you fly on?” to which the response is Quantas because they have never had an accident. This response causes a meltdown with the Cruise character as Quantas does not fly domestic in the US and has absolutely no flights to Las Vegas. I smiled to myself at that point and fell back asleep hoping that did not just jinx my flight today or out of Sydney on Monday.
The cab ride from the Burswood hotel was very interesting. The Aussie cabbie for some reason thought I was German and then spent the next ten minutes in this diatribe about the Bush administration and using a chain of expletives you would not believe including some rather graphic and colorful words I’ve not heard since junior high school. He was also talking so fast I missed most of what he was saying because of the signal processing delay (VERY thick accent). By the time I decoded what he had said in the previous 30 seconds, he was off again talking about something else. When I told him I was an American, he seemed truly shocked and embarrassed, but I told him not to worry because I was not a fan either.
I have pseudoephedrine on board to try and clear me up, but it is not doing anything for my congestion in either my nose or my ears. This may be a most uncomfortable flight, and the lattes here at the airport are only so so, (they were fabu at the Burswood) but sitting at the airport right now is an absolute hoot. There are three Japanese folks right now sitting across from me and they are quite drunk, laughing very loudly, and talking in Japanese almost exclusively with the occasional lewd english word thrown in. They are most amusing to watch.
At the same time, there is a woman behind me reading the cutest sounding story to some kid. This country (Australia) and New Zealand are just crawling with kids. They are everywhere and it leads one to wonder what is going to happen in a few years when all of these kids grow up and start looking for jobs. I don’t know if this is how it has been in the past in terms of the number of kids going through the system, but it could make for interesting potential futures with respect to politics, economy and defense. This is especially interesting when you consider that the average age in Europe and the former Soviet Union is going up considerably. Nobody in those countries are having kids and that may have some bearing on their future in terms of the above-mentioned politics, economy etc….
Few minutes later…….
So, I just finished talking with a couple waiting for their flight and the other thing about how friendly folks are here is that they will talk with you and ask you the most probing questions right off the bat: What’s your name is followed very quickly by questions as to marital status, how many kids you have, where you are from, what then right to your politics: How you feel about George Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard.
There is now field hockey on the TV here at the gate and everybody is intently watching it. The Australians and the New Zealanders are obsessed with sport of all kinds with an amazing diversity that we simply do not see in the US. In the US it seems we have baseball, football and NASCAR with a strangely large population who watch wrestling. But here, you have lots of coverage of field hockey, soccer, rugby, boxing, rowing, motorcycle racing, automotive racing of all kinds including Formula1, International Rally Car driving, and local racing and other sports as well. This is especially impressive as it appears to be completely in parallel with all of the Olympic coverage which has extensive coverage of equestrian stuff, swimming, Judo and Karate, fencing, track and field etc…etc…etc…. The most interesting coverage to me from a curiosity standpoint is the synchronized swimming………very strange. One would have thought that sport might have disappeared some time ago (like 40 years ago), but it is still around. How does one get on an Olympic synchronized swimming team?
Oh, there has also been lots of coverage by the Australian rower who simply stopped rowing when her boat was in the lead for the gold medal. She seemed to fatigue completely and could not row any more while the other three boatmates were screaming at her to row while continuing to pull. The ended up getting the bronze medal I think, and there is much bad blood and coverage because of that. I am thinking she has a rare neuromuscular disorder called hypokalemic periodic paralysis because of her description of what she felt during the incident. I sent an email to the Australian rowing teams website this morning advising that they may want to have her checked out for that disorder. I hope this coverage has been shown in the US because the three neurologists who know the most about this disorder are there. One of them is Louis Ptacek now at UCSF who I worked with on the identification of the advanced sleep phase gene.
The other interesting thing about Australia is the diversity of accents here. Previously, I was under the impression that there was an “Australian” accent. However, like the UK, there appears to be a diversity of accents here and even though the country is very sparsely populated over most of it, there are regional dialects that show up. The woman at the Quantas counter who checked me in had the most lovely lilting accent that really captivates you. Compare that to the accent of a woman in the checkout line at the Burswood this morning which was most unappealing or the cabbie which was almost like a hybrid heavy cockney accent mixed in with an Australian accent. I asked the cabbie how long he had lived in Perth and he said his whole life. “55 some odd years mate” was his response…..I think. There is this man across from me right now who also has a quite nice accent with well enunciated words talking to his wife apparently completely oblivious to the man sitting next to them reading Penthouse…..(the “mens” magazine). Weird. They seem much less prudish here in Australia, or simply don’t care about issues which in the US have large portions of the population completely up in arms. Although that said, while I don’t think I am a prude, I am rather surprised at witnessing this.
Breaking news: The Aussies just won gold in field hockey and the airport is going nuts right now. Wild.
Other news coverage of late has been are covering a raging controversy in New Zealand right now. The New Zealand government is not going to allow the Olympic athletes who win medals to take the olive branch wreathes home with them because of “bio security” concerns. The athletes are quite upset, but I think I wrote you before about the bio security at the airport. If you have dirt on your shoes or are bringing in camping items from elsewhere that have dirt on them, they take the items from you and clean them. You hand your shoes and such to the folks on one side, go around the corner and they hand you back your items having been thoroughly cleaned.
There is a little bit on TV right now covering athletes after they win. Its pretty neat watching folks realize they have achieved a victory. The look on their faces is immediate and the cameras they have these days allows for an intimate look into their emotions. Pretty neat.
Hey, I just realized something. Here in Australia, they allow family and friends to greet folks as they come off of airplanes! That is one thing I really miss about the changes in US airport security. If you ask me, that particular rule in the US does seem pretty silly.