I’m writing this in an airport, one of the most gigantic wastes of time ever invented. I’m in Brisbane waiting for an onward flight to Sydney, a three-hour wait which until recently would have been dead time: listening to music, reading a book, browsing the magazines in the newsagent. One can kill a few hours in this way, it’s just enough to keep from going insane, but beyond say, three hours, some other sort of distraction is really necessary.
Right now I am struggling to ignore the wailing of a toddler 25m away, hopefully about to board some aeroplane to anywhere, please. The last cryer was a baby, who I could just about forgive as they are barely sentient beings, but this one is plain annoying. Look, he’s shut up now. It can’t have been that serious. “Can’t someone stuff something in that kid’s mouth?” says Gerda, who’s been trying to steal a quick nap. Oh, I’ve just realised that his mum is boarding the flight and he’s going to miss her. “Mummy, Mummeee,” he sobs. I instantly regret my evil thoughts but now my annoyance has shifted to the parents. She’s gone through the doors now – why is the father still dragging out his misery by keeping the boy here? They should have left straight away…
Where was I? Oh yes, killing time. And that’s exactly why I generally save my blog writing until I’m travelling: to use the dead time in gainful employment. Of all the hours I’ve spent loitering in airports in my life, and on airplanes, and on trains and buses, most of those hundreds of hours were tipped into a bottomless void of wastage, until quite recently. What has changed? Now, I have a tablet.
Joining the 21st Century
Ah, technology – allowing one to work not only when one is on holiday, but even when one is travelling to and from their holiday. So here I sit, writing my blog. It’s an expensive pen & paper really, although there have been times, and hopefully will be again, when I could be bothered to load films and TV programmes on here to watch in the evenings in lieu of the wall of my tent or crappy hotel television channels showing films, probably a full third of the length of which are now given over to commercials.
That’s when the hotel has a TV, which is pretty rare really. Most of the places I stay in are a) backpackers with a communal TV lounge, always with a few hungover slobs watching DVDs in the gloom on a sunny day making me wonder why they aren’t out there enjoying the place they have travelled so far to be, or b) dingy, no-budget dives which barely have lockable doors never mind in-house big-screen entertainment.
Browsing the old-fashioned way
One of my hobbies while on the road is going to the cinema in foreign countries. I’ve watched Bollywood musicals totally in Hindi, Hollywood blockbusters dubbed into French in Tunisia, action movies where the crowd stand up and cheer mid-fight. I’ve walked into a cinema in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe only to find they’d started the film half an hour earlier than advertised, so I went out and made them rewind it to the beginning. I’ve bought a ticket in Eritrea and been shown into the theatre through velvet drapes by a uniformed commissionaire just in time to see the climactic event of the previous performance. I’ve watched obvious bootlegs passed off as recent releases, with ‘Property of Warner Brothers’ popping up on the screen every 15 minutes, and copies so bad that the DVD skips every time the onscreen action goes too fast. It’s the cinematic equivalent of coitus interruptus in, say, a toilet cubicle. I’ve read subtitles that are so laughably inaccurate that they transform a compelling drama into an unfunny farce. I’ve seen many fine movies bite the dust.
In short, the price of this tablet has been worth it for the use of Microsoft Word, web browser and the video player alone. I’m sure there are many more uses to which I should be putting it – travel apps, Skype, etc – so I am undoubtedly underusing it. One things for sure though – I won’t be using it as a sodding camera!
Making a statement to everyone else in the waiting room
Until I find out what these myriad uses are I’m content to carry my Surface as an expensive, fragile typewriter, in departure lounges and economy class seats around the world, while trying to block out the screaming of assorted confused babies, bereaved toddlers and war veterans having nightmares. Anyway, that’s what the Bose QC-15s are for!