Stepping into an Abnormal New Normal and making history as we collectively live through these unfathomable and unprecedented times – the realisation and magnitude of which now hit us head on – we face a new reality that has rapidly overshadowed our pre-COVID existence.
Catching a nocturnal flight from a rigidly monitored departure point, with Melbourne and Victoria in stage 4 lockdown for who knows how long (not even a visibly uneasy State Premier can tell as things stand at present), I am officially granted permission to cross the border, break through the barricades, and leave Melbourne. As I set foot at Tullamarine international airport, filled with hustle and bustle, vibrancy and noise not long ago, during an era that has since been relegated to the sidelines, I am met with the eeriness of that artificial landscape Marc Augé calls the transient and transitory in-between “non-place” of airports and other spaces where travellers lead a fluid existence – neither belonging here nor there. We find temporary refuge here until our flights take us across lands and oceans to continents far away, magically bridging time and space and challenging the logic of both.
Very few aircrafts are allowed to take off this evening that will be forever etched into my mind. Gapingly empty check-in and departure areas, only a small number of travellers flock together waiting to be seen to by stoic attendants. We are all urged to doubly protect ourselves and others, face mask and accompanying face shield giving us a clinical look as we suddenly find ourselves characters in a dystopic sci-fi movie, leading a new otherworldly existence already prior to departure.
This is Melbourne Tullamarine Airport 12 August 2020, this is the surreal universe of which we are all a part and where we now collectively help create a sci-fi atmosphere also inside the comparatively empty aircraft as we take off into the dark night; the evening sky a silent witness to the global crisis that has reshaped the World as We Know It.
Leaving one continent behind, we traverse distances in search of another land but our shared (sur)reality remains the same wherever we go, no matter our cultural, religious or political affiliations and allegiances. We are all in this together, for better or worse, and our collective future is one requiring us to proceed with caution as we tentatively project ourselves forward to a new world where we take less for granted and learn to really appreciate the short time we all have on this Planet. It’s time to buckle up and brace ourselves for a completely new journey into the unknown.