If you thought that Singaporeans were compulsive queuers, lining up for anything, and joining a line even if they didn’t know what they were lining up for, then you ought to take a look at Sydneysiders. We’ve got quite a few things in common with these antipodeans.
Two Tuesdays ago (20 Feb), Naomi and I decided to make a day trip out of Circular Quay, the Opera House and the Royal Botanic Gardens. We had heard and read that two of the world’s most famous cruise liners, the Queen Mary 2 and her older sibling, the Queen Elizabeth 2, were due in port that afternoon, and that traffic around the harbour was expected to be heavy.
The radio and newspaper announcements turned out to be understatements. That evening, news reports estimated that around 300,000 people had flocked to see the two big ships. Yes, just to see the two big ships! On a Tuesday! There were no free passes for an on-board tour while the ships were in port (for less than a day), no free souvenirs, no nothing. Just see. Or catch a glimpse of, as Naomi and I did, as we gave up walking to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair from the Opera House because the teeming mass of humanity was just too teeming.
We already had enough trouble getting to the Opera House by car. The original plan had been to drive down Mrs Macquarie’s Road and park at one of the many streetside lots that I remembered existed when I lived in Sydney 7 years ago – a plan which, Naomi says, had a high chance of failure because parking lots from 7 years ago had a very high chance of, well, not existing in the present day.
Not that it mattered, because just as we were about to turn into the leafy street behind St Mary’s Cathedral, we were turned away by a very apologetic park warden who told us we were better off not attempting to get near the harbour by car.
Since we had already spent a good hour and a half in the car travelling only a few kilometres, we endured the traffic a little bit more and inched ourselves to the Opera House car park, where we saw the A$18 an hour fee on the board and said fuck it, we’ll park. Of course, no one told us that 15 minutes would be spent trying to find a lot in the cavernous round and round underground car park of the world famous building.
One Sydney family had it worse, thinking it’d be a good thing if they took public transport, took a train from their home in the west, disembarked at Central Station, hopped on a taxi for what they thought would be a short 2km plus hop to the harbour. The taxi meter ticked like mad and they ended up paying A$40 for the ride.
Normally, we’d be grumpy as hell, holiday or not. But thanks to the almost overwhelming charm of Sydney (unless you’re Dick Cheney) and her attractions, we weren’t. Not when you see a signboard like this:
As for the ships the throng had gathered by the shore to see, we could only make out the top of the Queen Mary 2 on the other side of Mrs Macquarie’s Chair. QE2 hadn’t even arrived yet. But it was easy to understand that somehow, that wasn’t the point of being there. You’re just glad you’re just there, whatever the event that is going on.