In recent times, Contiki has been considered a right of passage for many young Australians. Their last ‘Hoorah!’ before stepping into the big wide world of responsibility. That was certainly my experience anyway.
But as I aged and continued to travel the world I realised that as fabulous as these team adventures were, they were also inevitably awkward. Particularly for my friend Amy…
We had barley made it to the airport after a very boozy Tight & Bright party – we’d been awarded free caramel-flavored ‘sperm shots’ all night for being the best dressed.
After narrowly making it to check-in we raced to the security checkpoint. By now my girlfriends and I were very familiar with these routine interrogations. Like every other suspicious traveler we obediently removed our shoes, jewelry and jackets and waited to be ushered through the gun-grey doorframe by He Who Could Not Smile.
At least on this occasion however, their warning stares seemed warranted. Our puffy, black panda-eyes appeared symptomatic of a life-long addiction. We even smelled like the sticky bar top we’d been licking tequila off only hours beforehand. Looking at my friends, it was certainly not one of our finest moments. And it only got worse.
“Excuse me Ma’am is this your bag?” asked one of the uniformed men. “Yes, it is Sir”, Amy politely replied. He was an intimidating man – tall with thick, dark eyebrows and thin lips that stretched across his wide mouth to reveal the top of his smoke-stained teeth. I wasn’t sure if he was smiling or snarling.
“Come over here”, he said, stepping across to another metal table. I noticed a few people in the group roll their eyes impatiently. At this pace we were sure to miss our flight. I was too tired to care. But I desperately wanted to sit down so I hovered nearby looking highly unimpressed. Surely he didn’t think four, dysfunctional blonde Australians could orchestrate anything too scandalous.
But as I watched him pull out a large phallic-shaped object, I wasn’t too sure what he was thinking. Amy’s face suddenly looked sunburned. I hid my face behind my hands and prayed that no one else had seen. I tried to maneuver my wide body to obstruct the others view but we could already hear them laughing hysterically in the background.
I took a closer look at the sausage-shaped package and my fuzzy mind suddenly focused. It was cheese! Over 300 grams of cryovaced Danish Gouda that Amy had decided would be a great idea to buy after a night of Karaoke. And cocktails. And tequila.
At this point I was giggling uncontrollably – until I saw what he pulled out next. “I Love Weed”, “High Life”, “Go Green”, “Time is Never Wasted When You’re Wasted all the Time” – an entire collection of stickers from Amsterdam that Amy tried to convince the man were “promoting vegetarianism”.
He continued to pull out other bits and pieces all of which, out of context, looked equally incriminating. Fluffy pink handcuffs (her prize for eating an entire pork knuckle), another block of cheese (from the abovementioned night), flavoured condoms (that had been served as after-dinner mints) and a fluorescent green, g-string leotard (part of last night’s winning ensemble).
“Okay”, he said and simply handed her back her bag. She turned around, aware that the entire Contiki group was still watching and laughing.
“That was weird”, she said to me. “I thought they would have at least taken this”. She opened her hand to reveal a shiny, brand new Swiss army knife (a gift she’d bought for her dad when she was sober).