We had been speaking and holidaying in the US initially, and finished up in London in time for the Royal wedding at London’s St Paul’s Cathedral, on Wednesday, 29th July, when Charles and Diana set the world alight with pomp and ceremony.
On boarding our homeward bound flight at Heathrow Airport, we were seated three across in the economy cabin. We had the aisle and middle seats. The gentleman in the window seat immediately rose to his feet and introduced himself as Charlie from Ashgrove in Brisbane. He sat down and said, “all me mates call me Chas, so you can call me Chas too”. Chas was seventy nine, a dapper bachelor who had lived at home all his life and had nursed his very aged parents into their nineties before they both passed on a few years earlier.
Chas had just finished his four month ‘Grand European Tour’, a dream of a life time for him. He was quite stressed and nervous as he shared his travel experiences with us from the time we sat down.
It was evident from the start that his stressed state was continually centred around ‘thoughts about the future’.
Lifeline Australia recently released their 2014 National Stress Poll, and once again, ‘thoughts about the future’ heads the list. It was introduced as a stressor they measured for the first time last year, and it was immediately prominent.
Charlie was dressed in a suit and tie and wearing his white sandshoes. He kept apologising about his footwear as he had badly blistered feet, since he had walked from Croydon to St Paul’s Cathedral in Central London, some 18 kilometres, on the Royal wedding day, because there was a London Transport strike that day. He had worn his new dress shoes he had bought in London just for the occasion.
His stressed state on the day of the flight was because he had a belief that Qantas would probably not let him board the plane as he would be inappropriately dressed. The week earlier Qantas had refused boarding a twenty-two year old ‘yobbo’ who was wearing a singlet and jeans (it was 1981, after all).
During the flight, Chas continually brought up that he was ‘worried sick’ that his neighbour would not have watered his mango tree properly, and not used his Victor motor mower often enough to cut the lawns.
In the early morning of 2 August, 1981, we arrived home at Brisbane International Airport after the 26 hour long haul journey from the UK to Australia.
Oops… we had three bottles of liquor, and we could only take a bottle each into Australia at that time. We knew customs were running a hot program on extra alcohol, and one bottle would be confiscated. So, I asked Chas if he was taking any duty free items into the country. His answer was no. He was happy to carry our extra bottle through customs and give it to us on the other side.
Several flights had landed only a few minutes apart, and the Arrivals Hall was humming with people retrieving bags and then joining the long queues to exit. Fortunately, Chas had his bag from the carousel early, and off he went to join a queue. We waited for our bags to arrive.
The Arrivals Hall at the old Brisbane International Airport was like a huge barn, and totally open plan. The Customs Inspection Stations were at the end of the hall in open space. In those days, there were no Express Lanes for “Nothing to Declare”, everyone was asked questions and, very often, your belongings were searched.
When Chas arrived at the inspections point, he didn’t know what sort of duty free liquor he was bringing into the country. When the officer asks the question, Chas says, “hang on, I’ll ask John, because it’s his bottle, as he had one too many”.
Right then, Chas was in a state of fear and distress, fearing he might even be arrested, moved quickly and screams out in his best football supporters voice, “where are you John?”, the throng quietens as such a request doesn’t normally happen in the Customs Arrival Hall. “What’s this stuff I’m taking through Customs for you called, is it Kal-ooy-ah?”
The hundreds of people in the hall all start laughing, and instantly start scanning the huge barn space for the elusive John to answer. I called back in my best rugby supporters, “that’s it Chas, you’ve got the name right”. Once again, the mob burst into laughter.
When Judy and I arrive at the check point, the Customs Officer thanks me for creating such fun to start the morning.
We then exited the Arrivals Hall, Chas was standing no more than six feet on the other side of the electric doors, dead centre, with my Kal-ooy-ah in two hands. “Here John, here’s your bottle, mate. I got it through!”
Our friend, Jan, who collected us that morning, also dropped Chas off at his home, and his overstress instantly lifted as he saw his beautiful, massive mango tree thriving, and his lawns were perfectly neat and trim.
By Dr John Hinwood
for the Stress to Strength team