Tullamarine airport, Melbourne, 20 June, 9.55am local time.

I have ordered my last coffee here in Melbourne. Well, at least, it would be my last one for the next month. Ugh, coffee, I’ll miss you.

I’m sitting here waiting for my boarding time, having my fix on a freezing winter morning. It’s 6 degrees outside. And a warm cup of latte sure makes my day. Always does.

Herald Sun, front page. Melbourne’s been struck with 5.3 SR earthquake yesterday. Too bad I was too busy watching Running Man (Korean variety show) that I literally didn’t feel anything. Not even when all my neighbours have gone out of their rooms, trying to make sense of what’s been happening. Not even when a friend tried to call me frantically because I didn’t respond to his chat. Nah.

Chuckling, I take another sip of my latte. Read the news. Look at the surrounding. Life’s good.

The flip side is, this only happens in my mind.

At the time I was imagining all these, I was kindly conversing with another Indonesian who was about to spring to the departure gate. He asked, “Why weren’t you heading to your gate yet?”

My reply? “I just had a crappy morning and I need my latte.” I handed a $5 bill to the clerk.

Final call.

Well, the announcement didn’t go once. Not twice. Seven. In ten seconds intervals.

I was starting to panic.

photo by Wong Yu Liang

Let me back up a bit. I woke up at 6.30am for a 9.50am flight to Indonesia. By 7.25, I was out of my apartment. At 8.10, I reached the airport. At 8.12, I queued to check in. At 8.59, I was still in front of the kind service clerk lady, waiting for my boarding pass.

You see, I had an issue here. Unprintable boarding pass. How on earth could you have an unprintable boarding pass?

Double checking with the service center, done. Calling someone of higher rank, done. The person who was called coming over, did something fancy, went back to his desk, punched something on the keyboard, and left, done. Another ten minutes.

Finally. My boarding pass. Gate 8. Boarding at 9.

It was already five past.

I rushed to the international departure gate. Cabin luggage, weighed. Queuing and trying to fill out the departure form, done. Queuing some more. A call from a friend. Sorry, I had no time to pick up. What’sapp from a friend. Ugh. Sorry. Typing one word reply: immigration. Well, technically speaking, I haven’t even reached the immigration.

The worst part of the airport is unmistakably the security screening. Everyone’s yelling, everyone’s cranky, and everyone’s almost missed their flight. A Chinese lady in her forties began to cut the queue, muttered something in Mandarin that I didn’t catch. Now, she cut my line twice. Still muttering some Chinese words. I started to become annoyed.

Getting out my laptop. Replying messages. Passport, where the hell did I put my passport? Oh, it was in my hand.

Got through the security screening. 9.20. Fell into the lion’s den.

Immigration queue: sea of people. Hit the panic button. Replied some messages again. Checked the time. Checked passport and boarding pass. Checked the time. Replied messages. Panic.

9.35. Finished with the immigration. Run through the Duty Free counters. Tempted to snatch a shot of the alcohol samples. Walked straight instead. Gone past the Duty Free. Saw Cafe Vue express.

So that brought us back up to date.

The guy who chatted to me while I was ordering coffee? Sprinting for dear life to his gate. Me? Still waiting for my latte, gee, thanks.

Final call for the umpteenth time.

I really wonder if the airplane would fly without me now. If it does, it would make an interesting blog post.

9.37. Powerwalking to the gate. Coffee’s too hot. Maybe the barista is having a crappy morning as well.

Arriving at my gate. Last 16 people haven’t arrived yet. Coffee’s spilled a bit. Officer tells me to finish my coffee first. My pleasure.

Nine people show up. Coffee’s still too hot. Gulping a third of it. Now I know what it feels to drink more than 66 degrees Celcius liquid. My tongue? Okay. My throat? Burning. My chest? Volcano-like.

Final call, names announced. Officers start to pressure me to finish my coffee. Another jokes that he also needs coffee. Maybe what he really wants to say is dump the coffee and get yourself inside the plane, now. Taking another big gulp. Handing my boarding pass. Taking three big gulps. Giving the cup to the officer. Powerwalking to the plane. Another officer is walking towards me. He says not to rush. Good.

Miss Purnama. The seventh from the last to board the plane. That’s a record.

Walking to my seat. Finding my seat filled with other person. He’s now asking for me to exchange seats. He’s traveling with a friend. Sure. Finding my exchanged seat. Get asked to change my seat, again. Traveling alone, that should be a common sight.

First reluctant, second, hey, this guy also has a friend back there. At least they deserve a good flight together. Relenting. Finding my second exchanged seat four rows from the very back of the plane.

Dumping my bag, iPad, notebook, and iPhone on my seat. A stewardess is now helping me to lift my cabin luggage up. The guy who is sitting next to my seat is now asking if I still remember him.


Sitting down and taking a deep breath, finally, I ask him to re-introduce himself. Oh, a friend from church. That’s why his face looks familiar-ish. Telling him the frantic morning. Finding myself looking really stupid from babbling too much.

Eying a man reading the Herald Sun paper across the aisle. Front page: a black sheet with super huge white letters that say: “MELBOURNE EARTHQUAKE, 5.3 SR”. Clearly, Melbournians have never experienced earthquakes before (if I was alert yesterday, it would be my fourth).

“I’m in the plane. Flying soon.” Hitting ‘send’. At least my parents know that I’ll be home on time. Turning off my phone. Chatting with a friend who needs to re-introduce himself. Forgot to change my iPad’s service to airplane mode. Changing. Forgot to wish two good friends the best for their exams. Planning my apologies.

Now I am somewhere above the Pacific (or Atlantic?) Ocean. Beginning to feel the headache.

Just remembered that I hate flying. Nausea breaches in. Six hours sleep last night makes it even worse.

Holiday, I’m on my way.

What’s your worst nightmare at airport?