If everything had unfolded according to my travel plan, the 6 hour wait at Townsville Airport for the last flight home to Sydney on Wednesday this week could have been easily avoided; I could have booked in for the last Tuesday night flight out. It would have been tight time for check-in, but do-able. As it happened though nothing went wrong, or even slightly awry, to delay my completion of the install I was flown for: I didn’t get lost or take a wrong turn on the drive in to site; the client was fully prepped, present, and had all the necessary personal protection equipment on hand at the ready; no last minute changes required rewiring or hardware adjustments. In short, there was no need to stay late or go back again the next morning. But you don’t get bonus points for being ready to take your flight home a day early. Rather, they’ll keep what you paid in the first place and then make you pay the full price once again. So there was nothing to do but stick to the plan and stay one more night in (beautiful one day, perfect the next) Tropical North Queensland, Charters Towers.
I had the rental car back at the airport by 11am the next morning in order to save an extra day’s rent, checked in my tool case, and read the latest issue (#8) of New Philosopher on the theme of travel from cover to cover between numerous coffees until 4:30 boarding. By the time I was home—just on midnight—my reading had left me so deeply in such diverse thoughts on the ethics and utility of travel in general that I couldn’t get myself off to sleep for another 3 hours. Here are a few quotes from Issue #8 of New Philosopher to give you a taste for what’s inside.
“[Susan] Sontag argues that taking photos is a way of refusing life, of limiting experience to a search for the photographic.”
(News: Stealing the moment)
“Few places today uphold the right to be bored. Even our thoughts are hijacked. “Silent and lifeless, people sit side by side as if their souls were wandering far away,” writes Kracauer.”
(News: Radical boredom)
“[Peter] Singer’s is a philosophy that demands the end of travel as we know it, in that it demands that we unpack the special box of experience it represents and instead judge every action by the same criteria. How does what we say and do, every single day, affect the aggregate suffering of the world in which we exist? Where can most good be done – and how can we ensure that we contribute to that good?”
(Travelling with purpose: by Tom Chatfield)
I’m not sure that my purpose in Charters Towers – to help make personal protection equipment more accessible and accountable on a gold mining site – would impress Peter Singer, but it’s a step forward from my purpose 10 years ago, which involved servicing cash handling equipment for the gambling and hoteliers industries.
In brief response to Kracauer, I can say with some confidence after 6 hours waiting at an airport that airports are one of the few places that still uphold the right to be bored, though they do make the boredom, should you choose to accept it, terribly comfortable.
Finally, I haven’t read Sontag’s full argument On Photography for the dismissal of photography from the list of life enhancing experiences, but I have read elsewhere that she changed her mind later in life about some aspects of that argument, and, so, having now, by way of diary entry, at least partially justified using my free travel time between Sydney and Charters Towers to do some photography, I give you some photos of light playing on clouds filmed at a few different heights.
p.s. I’m not at all disappointed that I didn’t capture a photo of the iridescent fog that rippled and surged overhead of me like an aurora during my drive back to Townsville, but it wouldn’t have harmed my experience if I’d been able to stop by the highway for just a few moments to capture it without the fear of a truck slamming into me.