- Ben Stower
Rocky Airport Doldrums
Updated: Oct 27, 2019
I realise after about 45 minutes that there's nowhere I can sit in Rockhampton Airport without feeling like I should be somewhere else. This constant need for movement, like shift workers trying to keep themselves awake at 3am, permeates the entire airport. I can see it in the people impatiently awaiting their flights. We move from the cafeteria to the flight board like fish in an ever-changing current and all we get for our expense of energy is another 15 minutes tacked onto the delay metre.
I succumb to the will of the airline. Content myself with sitting at a table facing the departures list, watching the departure time extend almost as quickly as the clock beside it. Is it a ploy? Is it a cheap trick to get me to drink more beer? I can’t keep leaning on these $6.50 XXXX Golds for much longer. Pretty soon I’m going to have to turn to a premixed whiskey and dry or something with similar swing power and God only knows how my standard of living will fare after a couple of those.
It’s also blatantly obvious that you’ve about as much chance of spotting anything worth looking at in Rocky Airport as you do making your parents proud with a selfie in Auschwitz. Wow. Would you look at that. Two hours in this crevice of the world and we're already lingering dangerously close to the Holocaust. How much longer do I have until I'm spouting Hitler jokes like they've been pulled out of a Christmas cracker? What’d you call me!? I knew someone once who used to make that joke whenever anyone said “cracker”. He made it enough for it to become embedded in my humour make-up like a bit of barbed wire and every now and then it pops up in my head, spouting this untrustworthy one-liner.
But I digress. It ain’t pretty in the depths of this town. It’s true what they say. If you were to drop a ball and follow its roll, you’d eventually get to Rockhampton. The town is literally one metre above sea level. Fortunately, we’re a little bit higher out here at the old faithful Rocky Airport, but we must be on a slope of some sorts, because it feels like everything is rolling backwards. Or we’re stalled, trying to power a semi up a hill with a two-stroke engine. God save us. No, forget that. Anyone, anyone at all, if you’re out there listening, come down on this place and fling it north somewhere or even out to sea. Lord knows it would do a hell of a lot better as its own island. Feels close enough as it is.
To be fair, it’s a pretty unsatisfying feeling to spend over $300 on a flight and wait an extra hour—no make that an hour fifteen now—to actually get out of this place. I’m seriously questioning that return airfare. Is four nights really enough when you’re spending most of one at Rockhampton Airport. At least the beer is cold and, sure, I’ve paid more elsewhere, but I’m usually in the throngs of a festival crowd at that point. There’s far more excitement in a festival port-a-potty than there is at Rocky Airport at 7pm on a Friday night. The most to look at here is a mining girl in high-vis. It’s a thought to wonder what this place might look like a few more drinks under. Would it take on a hellish glow, bring forth the demons of an unexpected dip in an acid trip. Or might I finally see the girl behind the make-up; find a sense of reality within this fantastical land of uncharted personalities and the uniform of crazies.
People tend to simply stop here. Stop speaking. Stop thinking. Stop seeing. And eventually, one day down the Rocky line, stop breathing. I challenge you to find a different place more sacrificial than the self-proclaimed Beef Capital of Australia. Anyone heard of Casino? Don’t mention that place to a Rocky local. Let’s pose the hypothetical, shall we? If the whole country was at risk of being annihilated and the holder of that weapon of mass Down Under destruction demanded we relinquish one city to his cruel device, where would you pick? These are the questions that tend to wander through one’s mind when they’re stuck in Rockhampton Airport just a little longer than they’d planned. It’s bitter. Oh for sure it’s bitter, but there’s nothing like a little bitterness to get you through the wait of a perpetually delayed flight. Chase it with some whiskey or maybe a glass of wine and you’ve got yourself a pretty good time on the people’s runway.
God I’d hate to imagine a pre-flight queue here that the likes of Sydney or Melbourne experiences. Someone would pull out a gun. Or at least a cattle prod. Can you imagine. The bloodshot and drawn-back eyes of a man (or woman, let’s not get carried away with the male ego’s impatience here) swinging a cattle prod around the departure gate demanding to personally be seated next to the pilot so this “Goddamn plane finally gets where it’s supposed to be.” My god I’d give one of my toes to see that right now. Probably not a big one, but definitely one in the middle.
The clock’s been stopped at 19:50 for some time now. Seems the pilot actually does want to land here after all. Perhaps he’s being forced to fly here at gun point. Would they call the hijacker a terrorist or an agent of Rocky tourism? I’d say we’re probably closer to seeing the balls back on the bulls here than some button-downed tourism rep holding a plane hostage just to boost the number of visitors in this year’s report. Balls on the bulls? We’ll get to the nuts and bolts of that one another time. I’ve just run out of beer and I’m feeling the pull of a different part of the airport. Maybe a closer look at this hi-vis miner.