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Chapter 5 (of 7) — Danny and his former school pals debate their predicament.
Chief Stewardess Julie Davies, of the popular travel company Sunshine Holidays, based at Manchester Airport — Terminal 2, led the way along a corridor at a brisk, business-like pace, with Danny Dawson and his three fellow Air Purification Technicians — his former school pals — following closely at her heels.
A minute or so later, Chief Stewardess Julie Davies halted, and she pointed to one of two white-painted doors — the one that bore the sign: Gentlemen. “Toilets,” the senior air hostess said succinctly. “It’s a three-hour flight, to Corfu, and you won’t be able to go to the loo in-flight. Be quick — I want you all in and out of there, in double-quick time. I’ll wait here for you. Now hurry up, the lot of you!”
Once they were in the privacy of the Gents’ toilets, the four former classmates — all of them, eighteen-year-old school leavers with no employment or training to go to upon their leaving education and, would-be ‘career claimants’ — then had their first chance to talk to each other freely, about the mysterious, seemingly unfathomable circumstances in which they had all found themselves.
“Ruddy … ‘Air Purification Technicians’? Some joker at the Job Centre’s having a ruddy good laugh, aren’t they?” suggested Kelvin Costello, not unreasonably.
“Must be!” Eric Pierce agreed feelingly. “There’s no other explanation!” he opined with conviction. Eric added, cynically, “It would be just like them!”
“What do you think, Danny?” asked Alan Wallace. His dubious tone, clearly suggesting that there must be more to their situation than met the eye — ruddy hell! Nothing did, meet the eye!
“I dunno, Al,” replied Danny, just as clueless as his peers. “Your guess is as good as mine. I can’t make any sense of it. I mean, you’d think that you’d need some kind of qualifications, wouldn’t you, to be an—”
There was a loud knocking on the Gents’ toilets door, and the adjuring tones of Chief Stewardess Julie Davies harassed the four former school chums, interrupting their impromptu confab regarding the puzzling question at hand. “Hey! You lot! What’s keeping you? I said: Hurry! Up!!” shouted the senior air hostess, loudly and impatiently.
“It’s still not too late to do a runner,” suggested Kelvin. “I’m absolutely knackered. Oh, man, I’d love to go back to bed!”
“I feel like death warmed up too, Kel,” replied Eric. “But what’s the point of doing a runner? Eh? Our unemployment benefit payments would be stopped straight away. I mean, what would we do for money then?”
“I keep thinking this is all just some big mess-up,” said Alan. “You know; some imbecile down at the Job Centre has picked up the wrong folder by mistake, pulled our names out of it, and—”
“If only!” blurted Danny, interrupting Alan in mid-flow. “My mum says there’s no chance of all this being a mistake. It’s all to do with the Authoritarian Female Party — they are the ones behind these ruddy so-called ‘placements’. My dad has been taken off Disability Allowance, and he’s reporting to the Community Service liaison officer this morning — a Miss Martinette. My mum says there will be big changes now, with women running the country. Women casino siteleri like Caroline Flint, and Harriet Harmman. They are putting their foot down, on people like us, people who … who—”
There was a tremendous thudding upon the Gents’ door, as Chief Stewardess Julie Davies banged an irate fist against it.
Upon hearing the sounds of hushed conversation coming from inside the Gents’, the senior air hostess pressed her ear against the door, in trying to make out the gist of what her four nattering charges were saying to each other — just in time to catch Danny saying: “It’s all to do with the Authoritarian Female Party — they are the ones behind these ruddy so-called ‘placements’ …”
“You lot! Out of there! Now! This instant!!” the senior air hostess yelled furiously. And Danny and his three former schoolmates sheepishly exited the Gents’, having got no further forward in shedding any sort of light upon the perplexing mystery.
As soon as the unhappy foursome were out of the Gents’, Chief Stewardess Julie Davies irately confronted Danny. “Dawson, what did I just tell you?” she demanded. “I said time is short, and I wanted you in and out of there in double-quick time — not to waste even more time, standing around gossiping like an old fish wife! I shall have to make due note of this, when I write up your Satisfaction of Conduct report.”
Embarrassed and resentful, Danny’s face reddened brightly at being singled out for a sharp, belittling telling-off by the senior air hostess — right in front of his friends. Why is she picking on me? Danny wondered peevishly.
At a brisk — almost urgent — pace, Chief Stewardess Julie Davies then led her four still perplexed charges directly to Gate 16. The senior air hostess escorted the four Air Purification Technicians through an air-corridor that, at the end of which they found themselves at the rear entrance door of a Sunshine Holidays jet liner.
* * *
By now, all of the Sunshine Holidays passengers were aboard the airliner and awaiting take-off. The good-value, highly popular travel company’s jet liner was, as usual, full to maximum capacity, and its contingent of 200 package-holiday customers were waiting with growing impatience; itching to see the first sign of their being borne away to their Greek Island holiday.
At the jet liner’s rear entrance door, Danny saw a Sunshine Holidays air hostess waiting there. And, if her body language was any sort of guide, she was in a lather of agitation; appearing irritated, annoyed and impatient, as she awaited the arrival of her Chief Stewardess.
For the air hostess was repeatedly switching standing from foot to foot and, as soon as she had released her standing weight from one foot; with her uniform issue, dark-blue, two-inch heeled pump half on and half off her dark-hosed foot, she would repeatedly stab at the floor with her heel — as if she was unconsciously striking at the unknown culprit of her distress and displeasure.
Danny guessed the air hostess was about twenty-one years old — the same age as his sister Elaine. By air hostess standards, she was quite short and, though she was rather plump as well, Danny thought she was … well, kind of cuddly, rather than dumpy-looking. She had canlı casino light-brown eyes, neck-length blonde hair that was cut dead straight — as if she’d had it cut with a guillotine, rather than gone to the hair dresser — and an equally straight fringe. Danny thought she was ‘a bit of all right’, as the crude complimentary saying went.
Upon at last seeing the arrival of the Chief Stewardess, along with her four bemused charges who straggled miserably along behind her, the agitated air hostess waiting by the rear entrance door exclaimed, in obvious relief, “Julie! At last!! Where have you been? Buck’s been doing his nut! He’s been a right pain in the you-know-what. He says we’re in danger of losing our take-off slot. He says that, if we do, there’s going to be hell to pay!”
“Don’t you worry about Captain Marvel, Carol,” replied Chief Stewardess Julie Davies, coolness personified. “I’ll deal with Buck.”
To which, air hostess Carol — showing that she was already recovering her equilibrium — quipped, “Isn’t that called mixing your metaphors, or something?”
In a gesture characteristic of long-suffering, Chief Stewardess Julie Davies tut-tutted and rolled her eyes heavenwards. “Don’t start, Carol — it’s too early in the day. And I’m already in a foul mood, because of Dawson, here, almost making us late for take-off,” she said, indicating Danny with an inclination of her head. “First, he’s late reporting for duty. And then — lo and behold — he’s only holding a conference in the Gents’ toilet!”
Air hostess Carol glared at Danny; eyes blazing, and a rosy hue suddenly colouring her pale cheeks. “Oh! So it’s because of you, is it? Because of you, that I’ve been going out of my mind with worry! Because of you, that we nearly missed our take-off slot! Because of you—”
“Later, Carol. We haven’t got the time. You’ll have to wait until later, if you want to tear a strip off Dawson — and, while you’re about it, tear one off him for me too,” said the Chief Stewardess.
Danny was more glum than ever. Yet another telling-off! He supposed that this was something else that the senior air hostess was going to mention, when she wrote up his so-called Satisfaction of Conduct report.
Chief Stewardess Julie Davies then picked up the rear galley intercom microphone, switched it on, and spoke calmly and crisply into it. “Sorry for the slight delay, Captain Rogers. You can contact the control tower now, and request immediate clearance for take-off.”
“Good of you,” replied Captain Simon (‘Buck’) Rogers curtly. Only three words, yet the Captain managing to soak his three words in such sopping, dripping wet sarcasm, that Danny wondered if sarcasm was the normal mode of on-board communication between air crew — a sort of CB radio lingo of the skies.
“Good old Buck,” responded Chief Stewardess Julie Davies, with equally heavy sarcasm — after she’d switched off the intercom.
After the rear entrance door to the aircraft had been shut and secured, Chief Stewardess Julie Davies turned her full attention to the matter at hand. Her joker-in-the-pack colleague, Carol, had now been joined by the other two air hostesses who were operating on the flight, and who would be working the forward galley — Ann and kaçak casino Diane … And Danny thought that they — both very attractive, brown-eyed, tall and leggy brunettes — were ‘a bit of all right’, too.
Gesturing towards Danny and his three companions, Chief Stewardess Julie Davies said, “Right then, we’d better get a move on, and get the … the Air Purification Technicians, in … On Station. We’d best get cracking, we’ll soon be—”
There was the sudden sound of static as the public address system was switched on, and the sound of Captain Simon (Buck) Rogers’ debonair voice filled the aircraft cabin. “Good morning. This is Captain Rogers, extending a warm welcome on behalf of Sunshine Holidays,” the Captain said smoothly.
“Please ensure that your safety belts are fastened, as we shall shortly be preparing for take-off. Today’s flight to Corfu will take just over three hours — possibly a little longer, as there will be a slight headwind. Our cruising altitude today — for those of you who are interested in that sort of thing — will be thirty thousand feet.
“The weather forecast for the Greek Islands is reported to be generally fine and sunny, with light, to moderate winds, and with the temperature in the Ionian Islands today expected to reach about twenty-seven degrees Celsius. That’s the low-eighties, in Fahrenheit.
“This is your Captain, thanking you for choosing Sunshine Holidays, and wishing you a pleasant flight — on this, inaugural flight, introducing the very first team, of … ‘Air Purification Technicians’ … heh heh heh.”
Danny and his three former school chums looked at each other — their faces; bewildered, and etched with unease, concern.
Danny thought there was something … ominous, in the way the Captain had laughed. And, looking at the faces of Eric, Kelvin and Alan, he realised that they had sensed it too. They hadn’t liked the snide sound of Captain (Buck) Rogers’ little chuckle, either. They hadn’t liked the sound of it, one little bit … Just what the hell, was going on here? wondered Danny.
There was then the rising note of the aircraft’s engines, followed by the rumble and slight jolt of movement as the Sunshine Holidays jet liner began to taxi towards the runway.
Now, Chief Stewardess Julie Davies turned to her three colleagues — air hostesses Carol, Ann, and Diane — saying urgently, “We’re moving! Come on, we’ll have to hurry! We need to get the Air Purification Technicians into their positions, before take-off!”
And, as Danny looked at the faces of the four air hostesses, he was sure that he saw an amused, secretive, in-the-know smile pass between them. A smile of conspiracy.
Danny now realised, that he had seen that same amused, secretive, in-the-know smile before. He had glimpsed it, upon the face of the Sunshine Holidays Information Desk receptionist, Stella. When Stella had fluttered her fingers goodbye in a friendly, jaunty little wave of farewell to Chief Stewardess Julie Davies, when the senior air hostess had said to her: “See you on Thursday, Stel.”
Danny had heard a certain … smugness, conveyed in the Information Desk receptionist’s voice, while she was making her passenger information announcement.
Pleasure and gratification. That was what Danny had discerned, in the Information Desk receptionist’s voice.
When Stella had made her final call, for Flight SH 123 to Corfu.
Flight SH 123 to Corfu continues in Ch 6 (of 7).
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