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Was It 15 Years Ago Today?

I had been visiting my in-laws in Queensland and stayed in Sydney for two more days to see friends. The night before I was to fly back to Hong Kong I sat in my room in the Harbour Rocks Hotel when the phone rang. It was my mother-in-law who strongly urged me not to fly the next day. When I asked her why, she told me about huge demonstrations in Hong Kong and the danger that China might move in any minute and take over the colony. I turned on the TV, and there the whole Tienanmen Square story unfolded. I had to fly back, of course, but since I only changed planes at Kai Tak airport I never saw what was going on outside.

How I came to be in Sydney at that particular time is a funny story. In early May of 1988 one of my clients suggested I should attend the 31st IAA World Advertising Congress in Sydney — a huge and very posh affair, held at the Opera house and sponsored by American Express; with tons of the most delicious free food and every imaginable label of Australian wine, in the boisterous “She’ll be Right” spirit of the late 80s Australia before everything went down the drain. For reasons of his own (well, probably tax reasons), this client bought me a first-class ticket to go there. When I travel on my own money, I am strictly a bargain-fare person; that is why I enjoyed the first part of this trip from Tokyo to Hong Kong in the front of the aircraft so much. In Hong Kong, however, and here the story turns slightly bizarre, I was bumped off my full-fare first-class seat and had to continue in economy. The Qantas people, on the ground and in the aircraft, were excruciatingly apologetic offering me all sorts of drinks and food. But best of all, after my return, I received a letter of apology from the airline with a free first-class ticket to Sydney. And that’s how I got to be there early June of 1989.

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