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A Day in the Life

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The day began without my permission, at around 4am when I awoke to the unmistakable sensation of a person getting into bed with me. I whipped myself around to see the lanky Irishman who normally sleeps in the far corner, pulling my blanket over his legs as if it were his own bed.

It was so absurdly inappropriate my body sprung to life and gave him a hard shove that almost sent him over the side.

He regained his balance and gave me a puzzled look, like I was being rude to him and he was genuinely hurt.

“Calm down,” he urged, as if he were the voice of reason.

“What?! Are you insane? This is my bed!”

He sprang up and marched back to his own bed. “Fucking yankee!” he snapped, then dropped into the fetal position on his mattress.

It took a few moments before I realized that it wasn’t a dream, and there was no hope of getting back to sleep. I wasn’t exactly frightened, just completely stunned. I will never know what he was thinking.

I sat out on the hostel’s porch and read my book until sunrise.

My flight was supposed to leave at noon, so I gave myself plenty of time, getting packed and on the airport train by 10. There were delays en route due to track work, so I ended up arriving at the international terminal with only 30 minutes before I had to be checked in.

But my 12:15 Brisbane-to-Auckland was nowhere to be found on the big board. I asked at the information desk, where I was reminded that my flight has a stopover in Sydney, so I was technically checking in for a domestic flight. The domestic terminal was the next stop on the train I’d taken, but I’d already surrendered my ticket.

I went back to the train ticket desk, beginning to trot now. The ticket man swore he didn’t recognize me, but still ended up giving me a free pass to catch the next train. Stroke of luck number one. Twenty minutes later I arrived at the domestic terminal.

The auto-check-in kiosk rejected my passport and ticket number, so I queued up for the counter. When I finally got there I was informed that I needed to present a printed copy of my e-ticket out of Auckland.

“Oh they’re very strict about that,” she assured me. “They won’t let you in without proof of onward passage. So I can’t possibly check you in for this flight.” She stressed the “possibly.”

I told her I could show her my ticket if I could only access my email. Or she could call Cathay Pacific and confirm it.

“Oh I can’t phone. There are internet terminals upstairs, but there are no printing services. It is your responsibility to provide all necessary documentation.”

Stroke of luck two arrived at this moment: the board now said my flight was delayed by 40 minutes. That gave me a bit of extra time, but not enough to zip back to the city to find a printer. So I lugged my bags to the sales desk, hoping to change my flight to the following day.

The Qantas guy told me my fare didn’t exist the next day, and it would be quite expensive to change. “All I can think of is calling somebody who could get it from your email, print up your ticket and fax it here.”

Praying that I could catch my Mom at home (the only person I knew with a fax machine) I rushed to the nearest pay phone, punched in the 35 digits necessary to use my calling card, getting at least one of them wrong, evidently, before I realized that I didn’t know the number to have it faxed to. I ran back and snaked my way into the exit of the velvet-rope maze.

The clerk caught a glance of my distressed face, and told me to follow him behind the counter. He led me into the cramped offices behind the big Qantas sign to an ancient desktop computer and said, “Do what you can do.” I flipped on the grubby monitor and was thrilled to find Google’s homepage waiting for me.

I pulled up my ticket in Gmail, and clicked Print. Nothing happened.

“Oh we can’t print from webmail here,” some other guy said, “That’s just the way it’s set up.”

My heart tightened. “I really hope you’re wrong,” I said.

We waited. Just as I stopped holding my breath, the printer kicked on and shuffled out my itinerary.

I made my way out of the cubicle maze, bidding profuse thank yous, and bolted to the check in.

After passing security, I heard my flight number mentioned in an announcement. The woman at the counter (the fourth counter of the day so far) told me my flight was delayed again and would not make my connection in Sydney. She put me on a direct flight from Brisbane to Auckland, which left at 7pm and arrived at midnight.

Sometime during the six extra hours I had at the airport, I came across the internet terminal the meaner clerk had referred to. Sitting beside it, mocking me, was a public-use HP laser printer.

The City

I jumped off the airport bus, somehow having gone three stops too far, onto Auckland’s busy Queen Street a little after 1am.

After six weeks out of the country, I had almost forgotten this, but virtually all New Zealand towns get a bit rowdy at night. Back home in Canada, you see drunks roam the streets in threes and fours, but in New Zealand it’s in tens and twelves. You can hear them shouting and howling and smashing bottles, blind drunk and in big enough groups that they feel invincible.

Most of the bars are up on the notorious K Road, which I would have been happy to avoid, but it was the only way to cross the motorway, so I walked fast and tried to look not worth the trouble.

A pack of ten or so was headed my way on the other side of the street. They were twentysomethings, probably young professionals by day, who looked like they’d been well-dressed when they left home. Guys in button-up shirts, now mostly unbuttoned and untucked, girls stumbling in heels and miniskirts, all of them loud and shitfaced.

On the other side of the bridge it was a lot quieter. There was one last bar, a poorly-lit working-class place. I marched by on the other side of the street, and glanced over at a huge tattooed Maori guy standing out front. He was far away but I felt like he saw me look at him.

“That’s it! Stick to the light, mate! Stick to the light!” He laughed like a movie villain, and it echoed.

When I was past the bar strip, I slipped down a sidestreet to get off K Road into the residential area. I couldn’t hear the drunks any more, and this neighborhood was completely asleep. I walked for blocks and blocks on the way to my host’s place, with no sign of people until the last block.

It was a young woman carrying a violin case, coming down the sidewalk. She was looked happy about something.

When we got close I said “Hi” but my voice didn’t work. She said “Bonjour” but she definitely wasn’t French.

I found my host’s place. He made us some tea, we talked a bit and he showed me to my room.

At 4am, I was sitting up in a bed in the centre of a freezing garage, wrapped in a quilt, watching my breath billow out in front of my tiny laptop screen. I couldn’t sleep. I played solitaire and won.

When I finally did put my head down to sleep, I wondered for a second what the rest of the Irishman’s day had been like.

Truth #17: Every passing face on the street represents a story as complex and compelling as yours.


Photo by Jason Pratt

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Steph in Berkeley September 21, 2011 at 4:39 am

good post. ah the thrill of international air travel. and hostels. truth #17 is good stuff.

Nevu September 21, 2011 at 6:14 am

Howya David,

Had I known you were American, I never would have called you a wanker, I was the worse for wear after too much of the brew, me heartfelt apologies to you! When I woke up it was the middle of the day and you were away on your travels. I went on for a few more bevies but me heart wasn’t in it. Later on I sat on a bench in Rocks Riverside park and watched the world roll by. At some point that afternoon though, my own personality up and left with the folks passing by through the park and it dawned me that I didn’t exist.
Well, that is to say didn’t exist in the way I thought I had. The old inner void feeling was now as real as the craic in me arse! But somewhere there was a watcher watching the feeling and it wasn’t the old inner eejit I had come to know all these years. All in all it was a funny old day. Glad you made it out in good shape in the end yourself!

The lanky one!

David September 21, 2011 at 6:34 am

Haha! Glad you’re getting your inner void problem straightened out

BTW I’m not American.

Nevu September 21, 2011 at 7:54 am

Aha, sorry about that! I have been lurking here a while and I really do enjoy your Raptitude. You’ve set me off on one with Douglas Harding -diamond geezer. There is a wealth of great stuff here, thanks is all I can say, its very generous of you.

Lindsay | The Daily Awe September 21, 2011 at 8:34 am

David, I love this post. Truth #17 is something we should all try to remember a little more often. Maybe then we’d treat each other a little better, with more kindness.

Ali of Spinner's End September 21, 2011 at 8:44 am

i think about this all the time, how many strangers we come in contact with each day. one of my favorite things to ponder are the people who make it into the background of your photos. and i’m not just talking about silly photo bombers who jump in back with a thumbs up and a stupid face. if you were to take out a family photo album with pictures from any bar, party, or crowded vacation spot, you will see dozens of random people frozen in various positions, unaware that they have just become part of your personal recorded history. my favorite photos from disney world are the ones of my family in front of cinderella’s castle (or any other monument) where you can clearly see another family just 8 feet away taking the exact same picture. it tickles me endlessly! how many photo albums and family memories are we a part of without realizing?

David September 21, 2011 at 8:44 pm

I think about random people in my photos all the time. I always wonder if they’re still alive

LunaJune September 21, 2011 at 8:59 am

Wow.. what a journey… and yes.. each person another wave along their path through this wild wonderful journey called life .

enjoy your time there

Chris Walter September 21, 2011 at 11:29 am

“Every passing face on the street represents a story as complex and compelling as yours.”

I can’t even tell you how many people i’ve repeated this truth to. It’s such a fascinating concept to try and step out of your own narrow view of the world and completely empathize with someone else. With nearly 7 billion of us here there seems to be an infinite number of stories to explore, and lessons to be learned.

David September 21, 2011 at 8:46 pm

I’d love to learn more about where some of those faces came from. Can’t wait to see some of the faces from your trip, and maybe bits of their stories.

Monica G September 21, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Thank-You for writing this. It’s good to know that I’m not the only person that wonders about all the different paths that everyone’s lives around me lead, like a big tangle of thread.

CutCopyPaste September 21, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Being from Auckland I can definitely associate with your story! Although I wouldn’t risk walking through K Road after 11pm on a Thurs, Fri or Saturady night by yourself! Lots of people looking for fights. Huge drinking culture in New Zealand, one of our biggest social problems.

Also – its 7:43am here in Auckland and I am about to go to work – see those two black towers in the upper centre of your photo – that’s where I work – for a Bank – on a six figure salary – and I hate my job!!

by the way you never mentioned why you were in Auckland or Australia for that matter?

David September 21, 2011 at 8:52 pm

Yeah it was kind of sketchy. I lived in a hostel on K Road for a month a little before this happened, so after busing around Australia I was looking forward to seeing a somewhat familiar street for once, but after dark it gets a bit dodgy.

I came to NZ and Oz on a backpacking trip about a year ago:


CutCopyPaste September 22, 2011 at 4:15 am

Awesome – yeah K Road can be great during day time its very colourful (in colour and in characters!).

nrhatch September 21, 2011 at 4:27 pm

What a way to wake up to the dawning of a new day . . . being called an English wanker by a lanky Irish lad!

David September 21, 2011 at 8:53 pm

It was a super weird way to wake up because I jumped right out of a dream into something even more ridiculous than my dream.

gustavo September 21, 2011 at 9:38 pm

This story could be tagged as “magic realism” down here (South America), only that I know those things can really happen –Something very similar happened to me while traveling from Athens to Rome, but I never had to deal with a 35 digit monster (a real nightmare to me).

Congratz on winning solitaire!

Great story!

Dan September 23, 2011 at 3:55 am

Haha, what a strange lad. Calm down!

jewel September 23, 2011 at 10:08 am

This is awesome!It is good to know that I am only one person that wonders about the different kind of paths..Thanks for sharing this post..Jewel@Phoenix Tax Attorney

Eric | Eden Journal September 23, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Everyone has a story is a truth that we often discount. The series of events that leads anyone to where they happen to be on this very day could scarcely be imagined. Life takes so many turns that every individual has to have a number of great stories.

Your post also made me think about how everything eventually works itself out. It make take some effort and you may have to endure some frustration, but you would eventually reach your destination.

Alex September 23, 2011 at 3:21 pm


It’s lovely how someone’s bad bit of luck can be so amusing. At least you were in a civilized place and you weren’t mugged or worse. Every day is a story and traveling long distances always has a special one!

B September 25, 2011 at 6:29 am

Very intriguing post. Gotta love those days when it seems like nothing works. Everything’s a mess and you feel like you’re swimming through molasses. But once you make it to shore, you respect yourself a lot more.
I’m sure it crosses everyone’s mind at some point that their story is not that unique, and I do ponder what’s going on in the lives of others. But I’m too curious for my own good. I live on a realllly busy street. Cars are passing by my window at all hours of the night (obviously not doing much to soothe my insomnia), and it makes me wonder… Where the hell are all these people off to? I say it out of annoyance at first, but the question never goes away. “But seriously… where are they going? Why? And where are they coming from?” I’ll never know. There’s so MANY people around that it becomes overwhelming. So sometimes I have to force myself to ignore Truth 17 or else the mystery can become just plain maddening.

Emmy September 25, 2011 at 6:40 am

It’s weird to know that you are currently in my home city, and have frequented the street which I have to walk up everyday….strange to think that we may have/may cross paths and not even be aware of it.

David September 25, 2011 at 9:32 am

This actually happened over a year ago. I spent about six weeks in Auckland altogether though. I did a lot of walking, so we easily may have passed on Queen Street or K Road :)

Elaine September 28, 2011 at 8:39 am

Weird! because every time I have encountered a not so huge problem i always ask why all this is happening to me. Until someone made me realized that every person has a different problems. And #17 is so true.

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