Sassy at Seventy: A digital detox weekend and surprising Queensland encounters

May 31, 2023
And so I sat and absorbed the sights and sounds. Source: Getty

Like a lot of folks who live in the Queensland region, I have to fly to Brisbane in order to catch a flight to another regional town. A recent trip to Mackay meant doing just that.

Although there was quite a reasonable amount of time between connections, my flight leaving my hometown was delayed by an hour, so I was concerned I wouldn’t make the Brisbane-Mackay flight. The flight attendant told the pilot, and as I disembarked in Brisbane, there was an open-sided buggy waiting at the bottom of the stairs for me and another woman also booked to Mackay.

The young buggy driver hurried us on board, snapped on our seat belts, and whizzed around the tarmac. I clung to the seat, hair whipping around my face in the wind, hoping my backpack didn’t slide off as we did a “U-ee” to the terminal door.

The driver flicked his pass to let us in, then charged to the escalator. He looked around for us, appearing puzzled that we were not exhibiting his same sense of urgency. I’m sure we felt it, but we were no match for his long legs and lack of carry-on luggage. 

When we got to the top of the escalator, another buggy awaited us. Once again buckled up and hanging on for dear life, we beep beep beeped our way at a galloping pace up the long corridor leading to a satellite terminal, with other passengers clearing the way for us.

I don’t know if they were being helpful, or just terrified that they’d get bowled over by our very enthusiastic driver who seemed to be channelling Harrison Ford or Gerard Butler or one of those “Save the President” movie characters. Perhaps he took his company’s “Flying Kangaroo” logo a little too much to heart.

When we arrived at the gate to discover passengers for our flight hadn’t yet embarked, he looked quite crestfallen. I’m sure he was looking forward to a dramatic dash to the counter shouting, “Hold that plane!”

He might have been disappointed, but I have to admit that I hadn’t had so much fun in a long time. Even knowing my hair looked like I’d been riding a broomstick, I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face.

Before I’d left home I’d decided that this would be a weekend where I would digitally detox. No internet. Not even a peek at an email. Not even watching an in-flight movie. A human-to-human weekend.

And so I sat and absorbed the sights and sounds. About ten FIFOs sat in surrounding seats, chatting as blokes who know each other well do. An older man was telling his younger companion about his daughter’s accomplishments and how proud he was of her. I hoped he told her. 

Another two were talking about their drinking exploits. I now know where to buy the most expensive beer and where not to buy the beer that tastes like – well, you get the idea. Apparently, the over $200 a carton beer is fantastic but it’s not a regular purchase. No guesses as to why.

We arrived in Mackay at 4.30 pm, but by 4.50 pm I was beginning to think I was waiting at the wrong carousel when a burly FIFO next to me said, “Don’t worry, love, we always have to wait ages for our luggage here.” Our luggage didn’t make it to the carousel until after 5 pm. I had to admire the patience of the passengers who waited so stoically.

I checked into the Motel Northview Mackay and was shown to my room by the most helpful, kind and caring motel owner I’ve ever met. She went out of her way to make sure I was comfortable and had everything I needed. Margaret, you are a gem.

On Saturday morning I decided to go for a walk. North Mackay is quite hilly, but the day was pleasantly cool, the streets quiet. I came across a Garage Sale sign, so, on a whim, followed it and the next few signs until I found the sale. 

Fellow Starts at 60ers, you will relate to the lovely lady’s reason for disposing of a lot of her “stuff”. Her mother-in-law had died, and she and her husband had gone through the difficult, and emotional, duty of deciding what to do with the old lady’s possessions. Which made her, some months later, look at all their own “stuff” and tell her husband, “We have to downsize. We can’t leave all this for our children to get rid of.” I’m sure we’re all nodding our heads in agreement with that. I know I’m still decluttering and looking at my “stuff” with an increasingly tougher view.

On her $1 table there were two little containers I liked, so asked if she would put them aside for me while I went back to the motel to get some money. She pressed them into my hand. “It’s Mothers’ Day next Saturday,” she smiled. “I’m gifting them to you. Have a happy day.” Yes, I know, so much for my de-cluttering, but they are very practical items and I’ve already used them several times.

The rest of my weekend passed pleasantly, and just as free of digital distractions. But I arrived at the Mackay airport on Sunday afternoon for my trip home to be told my plane had “engineering problems” and would be delayed several hours so I wouldn’t make my Brisbane connecting flight home. I was offered overnight accommodation and a flight home Monday morning.

So what did I learn on my digital detox weekend? Instead of rushing, of burying myself in texts and emails and the internet, I talked with strangers, made connections, enjoyed the luxury of meandering unfamiliar streets, and was reminded again how lucky I am to live in this wonderful country.

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