Travel Angels

When you focus on the journey, you will be blessed with guardian angels to direct your path.”

Lailah Gifty Akita

No matter how often or infrequently we travel, no matter how cossetted or basic the mode of our travel, there will come a time in a journey when, to quote Blanche Dubois from Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar named Desire”, we are dependent on the kindness of strangers.

It has happened to me a few times both here and overseas. The most recent experience was on a familiar route from Sydney to Canberra, one route I know well and assumed I had down pat so to speak.

Ah life! Its always got so much to teach us, hasn’t it?

I’d had a lovely stay on the North Coast, connecting with two great women and the flight from Coffs Harbour was smooth and timely. This time, instead of flying directly to Canberra, I’d decided to take the bus and had left an hour between arriving at the domestic airport and boarding the bus at the international. Plenty of time, I thought, what could go wrong in that time frame I thought?, Nothing…I foolishly decided.

At the baggage carousel, time seemed to speed up and still no luggage had arrived then as 30 minutes had elapsed, I saw my suitcase emerge from the tunnel. I grabbed it and made my way to the train station located underneath the airport .

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley.” ..

Robert Burns

I’d topped up my Opal card, the card required for the train, and strode confidently to the barrier.

Clunk! The red cross emerged and the gates refused to part. I quickly asked the attendant what had happened. She looked disinterested as she explained with a contempuous sneer that I now needed more than $10 on my card for the journey of a few minutes.

I looked at the long line of passengers queuing up to get paper tickets. I had twenty minutes to go.

When I become stressed, I get sarcastic.

“Thank you, VERY,VERY much for your WONDERFUL help” I replied. She looked bored but indicated I should try the (now free) bus shuttle-two floors up. I sped skyward and found the stop. By this time I had allowed stress to take over and forgot the golden rule of travel ” There’s always another way/bus/plane/train…”

I lined up next to a man in a flouro vest who gave me a gap-toothed smile . At the first response to a helpful person I started to regurgitate the story of my frustration and the unhelpful attendant

All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” -Martin Buber

“That’s terrible mate,”he replied “some people just don’t understand that we’re all here to help each other.

“Ah!” I thought “A travel angel”. He then proceeded to assure me that the free shuttle bus would be along soon and I would make the bus to Canberra.

The bus arrived full of passengers; my travel angel found me a seat and placed my bag in the travel rack. Almost at the international airport. I thought I should get ready and move to the front of the bus. There was a small group of African young men, laughing and joshing about near the driver. In Australia of recent times, such people have received negative comments from politicans and radio shock jocks. Of course, it’s a build up to a state election and fear of those people in our society who look different can be a useful political tool.

I approached the group and asked if I could get off first

“No problem Madame”, one youth said. “I will help you off with your case…oh dear, it is a very heavy case for you Madame” he answered with a lovely smile

We drew up at the stop where I saw that my Canberra bus had arrived. A line of people was slowly moving towards the open doors. The young man gave me my case and another warm smile as I wished he and his mates safe travels.

I heard the voice of my first travel angel beside me

“See mate? I told you you you’d be sweet”

I turned to thank him while rushing towards the line.

I made it with two minutes to spare.

Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” – Maya Angelou

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