Ascension : Whyfly - By by Kate Pathak
Submitted by The Islander (Islander Internet Editor) 02.04.2009 (Article Archived on 16.04.2009)
Jed looked in the mirror. His left profile had the edge and was the most striking. Two questions had bothered him all night, the first had just been answered.
The fictional account of an airline and an island.
Jed looked in the mirror. His left profile had the edge and was the most striking. Two questions had bothered him all night, the first had just been answered. The phone rang and with the slight James Bond edge to his voice that unconsciously came into play when his physique was on his mind, he heard the news he had wanted. Now it was in the bag. The contract for the flights to the small but lucrative dots of land in the Pacific was his. Whyfly to the Wayward isles, a ticket ot paradise. He forgot the angst and corner cutting that had gone into cobbling the bid together. The cheapest planes and youngest crew would have to be assembled to make it profitable, but these were problems for lesser mortals. Whyfly was about to have lift off!
Gail tried to maintain a look of interest. It was difficult to imagine this spotty 17 year old youth, who was unable to think of why he wanted to fly, as cabin crew. Yet it was her job to get 30 cabin crew together in two weeks. Most of the promising school leavers had used their initiative and were now doing training schemes. The bitter truth was that the remnants, the dregs of the inner city, were all that were left to her. She put on her most dazzling smile and tried the deciding question
"So how would you deal with a difficult passenger?" suprisingly the answer was original and robust. Another one signed up. Just seventeen to go and her bonus was in the bank or should that be the Bahamas. Allowing herself a moment of day dreaming, Gail imagined her life as crew manager, permanently established on the Wayward isles. She would put behind her the broken life and slob of a man she had married and become the glamorous and cool chick she knew she was deep inside. In the meantime she thought of all the work that would be needed to turn this ugly duckling into a swan. "Ducky" unbidden words to describe this effeminate young man came into her mind and she tried hard to banish them. After all, many of the male cabin staff were of a similar disposition and it was an ongoing battle to prevent the flights from becoming outrageously flamboyant and to maintain a modicum of professionalism.
A week later Gail stood in the Portacabin complex known as head office and looked over her selection of aspiring air stewards and hostesses. Some were teenagers, some in their twenties and thirties, all with the dream of escaping from the uninteresting and repetitive jobs which was all they could expect in this tough economic climate. The first days were spent on self presentation. As the budget was tight Gail was doing most of the training herself. She took a deep breath and, remembering the chapter she had read last night on makeup, she launched into skincare.
At first glance the uninitiated may think a bit of eyeliner and lipstick was all there was to it. How wrong they were. painted faces needed firstly to be clean. The group were issued with a hairband to keep the hair away from their faces and a white towel to give the illusion of beauty salon cleanliness. It was always suprising how much filth came off onto the cotton wool pads with she gave out together with the large bottles marked "cleanser". Trying not to show her distaste she encouraged them to continue until the pads were less discoloured and then they studied their skin type. Greasy, dry, combination skin, spots and blemishes were discussed and identified. Next came the bottles of toner, now that did feel refreshing after the drying, astringent cleaning fluid. What was in it, she wondered, weak bleach? Still some of this lot needed it. Two hours later with hair bands still framing these young faces, Gail looked into a pair of mascara laden eyes and could see potential. More to the point the group were starting to look at each other in a new way. The journey had begun. These people who would work, laugh, cry and live together had started on their bonding as a group.
Time for some introductions. This bit could be tricky. Gail turned to the nearest girl and asked her to introduce the boy next to her. They had had five minutes to exchange information and it was obvious that some were going to struggle as they were good at talking and rubbish at listening. Despite the name tags they all wore some couldn't remember each others names. It was going to be uphill work.
Tracey never liked going first. All her life her surname Adams had meant she was first in line, first to be asked, first at register, so no chance to slip in late and follow the crowd. She took a deep breath and started in her thick local dialect to explain that Brad was really named Gordon and wanted to change his name by deed poll. He had hated school and been regularly beaten up for not being one of the tough crowd. Brad reddened under this unflattering and slightly contemptuous introduction. Gail noted this and with the accustomed ease of a social hostess she gave him a chance to redress the balance. He tossed back his head and with the light shining across his finely chiselled jaw line he informed the group that Tracey was with her fifteenth boyfriend. Furthermore she was waiting for a rich man to give her the life of luxury she had not had at home, the family of fourteen had meant it was a daily fight to get what she considered to be her fair share and none of life’s luxuries that she saw around her on TV and in magazines. This job was her ticket to freedom.
There was now a stand off between Tracey and Brad. Both felt unflatteringly portrayed and wronged. Yet the facts were true, Gail recognised that. Possibly most of the people in the room could identify with parts of their stories. It would take time for them to feel secure and to establish trust. There were many battle scars and defences from their lives so far. Time to move onto the future and the dream.
"We will come back to the introductions later, now I will tell you about your destination. As you know Whyfly has won the contract for the long haul island flight. That is why you are here. You will work a 17 day shift pattern with a mixture of day and night shifts. You will stay with your same crew and the flight deck, that means the pilots and first officers, will vary. You are the liaison between the passengers and flight deck. Who knows anything about the Wayward Isles? They are in the Pacific, inhabited by a transient population from both the other local islands, Europe and a smattering of other nations. We will fly to the airport there and you will live in a near by settlement where your accommodation and transport will be provided. You will be paid an hourly rate whilst you are there, it will be like a paid holiday inbetween flights."
A ripple of excitement went through the classroom. The walls of the Portacabin were as nothing compared to the dreams of the new cabin crew. The recent spats were forgotten and a new feeling of comradeship developed with the shared vision of the promised land. Gail was wise enough to withdraw and leave the group to talk and forge friendships. Now they were all on board and ready for the next phase of training.
To be continued next week.
If you have ideas on how you would like this story to develop, feel free to stop me if you see me on the street or contact ‘The Islander’.
by Kate Pathak