The Trip That Was Nearly Over Before It Had Begun


I pride myself on being meticulous and well-organised, so when I make a mistake I take it personally, no matter how small the error.

But today’s mistake was almost one of Decca Records proportions (ok, not quite, but if you’re adverse to a bit of hyperbole, then stop reading now).

We’d been planning this trip to Japan for months.

It was to be our first new country since arriving to start our new life in Australia. The minor inconveniences of a worldwide pandemic and an unexpected child had paused our travel, so we were all the more excited.

No more so than little Grace.

She’s been telling everyone she meets recently that “we’re going to ‘Apan soon for hol’day”. For her this is a mythical place, where her favourite food is on every corner (sushi – she’s a very Melbourne child) and (as she’s not been afraid to tell anyone who’ll ask) “the toilets have a hairdryer that dries your bum bum.”

Quite.

So having done our usual travel run up of over-stretching out diaries, working too hard1, cleaning the entire house and also managing a night of trick or treating thanks to the unfortunate timing of Halloween2, we were ready.

We got up long before sunrise, and arrived earlier than we needed at the airport.

We always do, and sometimes we get asked why.

Well, today is why.

Everything had gone smoothly – no traffic, the bus was on time, the airport was (relatively) quiet.

That was until I put my passport into the automatic check-in machine.

BOOKING DOES NOT MATCH PASSPORT, PLEASE TRY AGAIN

Um.

What?

I tried again.

Same response.

Fuck.

Then it hit me.

I’d booked the tickets through my Virgin Velocity account. I fly a lot with work, so lord it over the peasants at the airport with my platinum card and extra legroom seats. That’s right, I get 300mm of extra legroom for nothing. BOW IN MY PRESENCE.

Ahem.

Yeah, I’m not really like that, but  I’ve never been in the premium club of anything in my life, so let me have my few minutes of aristocracy.

Well, King Legroom over here forgot that domestic flights are a little different to international flights.

When I’d signed up to my Velocity account, I did so thinking only about the loyalty element of it, like a store card, not that at some point I’d need it to get into another country.

FIRST NAME: Ben
SECOND NAME: Reeve

Done.

Signed up.

Let those juicy points flow.

Anyway, back to today.

I decided to take my problem away from the machines and to a human. How different is Ben vs Benjamin really?

Five characters won’t be much of an issue.

I was right.

It wasn’t much of an issue.

It was a major fucking shit storm.

The queue built behind us, as the slightly nervous lady on the desk explained to her supervisor Melanie what was going on.

We were stood out of earshot, but there was a lot of head shaking, and a puffing of cheeks that I last saw when returning a hire car in Sydney with a large part of the front bumper missing.

Something was about to go down. And it wasn’t going to be good.

And go down it did. But we had someone on our side.

Melanie went into bat.

For 45 minutes, she wrestled with mysterious people on the phone to get it fixed up. At one point she was had her mobile on one ear, a landline on the other whilst also texting someone else for advice. All this while somehow coordinating an increasingly chaotic set of departure queues.

I asked her what my chances were. She said she thought it was unlikely.

I then asked her what my options were if it was a no.

Easy one, we’ll book you on the next flight…

…at the same time tomorrow.

When I mentioned to Becca that there was a good chance she’d be Grace-wrangling by herself for a day… into a new country… where she can’t speak the language, I was surprised at how pleased she seemed.

And when I say pleased, her reaction was a version of furious that sat between Alex-Ferguson-hairdryer and Full Metal Jacket drill instructor.

The surprise was just that she didn’t kill me where I stand and claim the insurance money.

Right Melanie, no pressure, but the future of this branch of the Reeve clan may well be in your hands.

I turned up the charm, told her how embarrassed I was. Wandered up and down for a bit like an expectant father doing my best worried face (I’m not a great actor, I was genuinely shitting it), told her what an amazing job she was doing given how busy it was (this didn’t help given most of the reason she was busy was due to an idiot Brit who can’t fill out a form – namely, me, Ben – sorry, Benjamin).

I’m not sure any of this helped, but at least from a distance (Becca and Grace were a good 20ft away) it looked like I was putting in a shift.

When the news came in, I felt like the heavens parted, the angels started singing, and I was being karmically rewarded for all those times I’ve told Becca not to use fly spray in the house, and I’ve shepherded those little buzzy bastards out of the door.

The world is full of people who make the days of people they never met before. We’d already met one this morning, Luigi our happier-than-is-healthy-for-6am bus driver who even managed to make a sleep Grace smile, and now we could add Melanie to that list.

Melanie, who is now formally the patron saint of travel for the Reeves.

The lady who went in padded up, got out the bat, ducked under a few beamers, defended some short stuff when she was told it was not possible, and came out 45 minutes later with the game winning runs.

For us. 

A little family of people she’d never met before, and is never likely to meet again. 

She could easily have given up at any moment. When the first voice on the phone said no, when the hard stares of the building queue nearly pieced her skull, when one of a dozen other team members came over seeking her wisdom.

Two things are clear.

Melanie keeps Virgin check-in going at Melbourne Airport.

And we were fluky as hell that she was on shift today to rescue our trip.

Sir Richard Branson, if you’re reading3, that lady deserves a serious bloody raise.

Thank you Melanie.

The world needs a few more people that show remarkable kindness to strangers. People like you.

I’ll do my best to pass on that kindness to others (and not just those lucky, lucky flies).

FOOTNOTES

  1. Us people pleasers have to get so far ahead that we don’t let anyone down even when we’re away ↩︎
  2. Yes, I know, it’s the same time every year, and we did book the plane tickets for November 1st, so were we really expecting Grace to let us off? ↩︎
  3. I’d say the chances of that are pretty low ↩︎
the reeves family picture

AUTHOR – BEN REEVE

Reeves Roam, is a first-hand travel blog. The Reeves have lived in the UK, South Africa and Australia and have travelled extensively in Europe and Southeast Asia.

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Thanks – Ben, Becca and Gracie

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