Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Blue wings, white lies...

I flew to Edinburgh and back via Amsterdam, and on both occasions the departures from Schiphol were slightly delayed. This didn't really matter, as the delays weren't that long, but the reasons for the delays and what was told to the passengers were funny.

The Amsterdam-Edinburgh flight was flown with a small "City Hopper" jet, and so we all took a bus from the gate to the field where the youngling planes were herded together. We boarded (amazingly slowly given the small size of the plane) the Fokker that had been prepared for us, and then nothing happened. Fok.

Eventually the captain announced that we are waiting for some external equipment to help us start our engines, and we'll be off when it arrives, shouldn't be more than 5-10 minutes. He apologised for the delay and possible inconvenience, in that official tone that indicates it's not his fault and that he is making this apology for other people who also think these things just happen and are not that big a deal, while I dug in the New Yorker I had bought from the airport. In it, Haruki Murakami, one of my favourite authors writes how he started to run daily, without fail, when he was in my age. He had just sold his successful jazz club, moved to countryside and decided to become a writer. I had packed my running shoes, and while I was contemplating whether Jyväskylä counts as countryside and if running a jazz club could be a metaphor for a PhD, a van approached the plane and screeched to a halt next to it.

The insignia on the sides said "KLM Catering" and "Last Minute Deliveries". The driver opened the fridge door on the side of the van, took out a blue cardboard box that looked like a business class meal and rushed it up the steps. The air hostess received the box, paid for it with her smile, the driver gave her some change in the same currency, jumped into his car and sped away to make another delivery of external equipment to help start other airplanes' engines. The hostess knocked on the cockpit door to tell we're good to go, the engines were started and we taxied towards the runway.

On the way back, we flew grown-up planes, and so instead of the bus trip around the unisightly sights at the bowels of Schiphol airport, we got to do the usual anxious queuing inside a metal tube. The crew had problems in starting engines, and needed external equipment to get them going. This time, though, this involved being pulled back to the gate, lots of engineers and ground staff buzzing around the plane and various hisses and wails from the hydraulics of the plane. After 4 days in Edinburgh, one morning run and a jazz club later, I was reading reports of the latest cricket matches and eager to get home and back to writing.

(Pic: KLM MP3 player by
Shanghai Shininess Industrial Co. Ltd)

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