I’ve just flown home from an excellent holiday in Austria. It is always a wonder to me that we can pump a steel tube full of people and highly combustible fuel and fling it into the air, landing safely (almost) every time. What an amazing feat of engineering and human endeavour!
It was particularly surprising given all the odd things that happened along the way.
It started at the check-in desk. “Are you open for check-in?” I asked, in standard Tourist English. “Yes,” the man smiled, “we’re open now.”
I heaved my suitcase onto the scales, put my passports down on the desk, and waited. The man typed something on his computer. I coughed. He made a quick phone call.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “but you said you were open?”
“Oh,” he replied, “yes, but we’re not OPEN open.”
Ten minutes later, our bags have disappeared and armed with boarding cards we walked to security.
“The trays are just under the desk,” said the security guard.
I looked. “Um, they’re not there. I can see the guy bringing them over.”
“Well, they’re there. They’re not THERE there. But they are there. Now take off your belt.”
This is difficult to decipher from a burly guard in an Austrian accent, but I managed it. We boarded without incident, but as we were taxiing to the runway, the hair on my neck began to stand up.
“Flight deck to cabin crew,” came the voice over the intercom. “The runway is clear, repeat, our runway is clear. Stand by.”
There was a shuffling behind me, and I turned to see one of the cabin crew leaning over to peer anxiously out of the window. Her face was a perfect professional mask, carefully hiding a high degree of panic. She grabbed the intercom.
“Cabin crew to flight deck, there’s a flight coming in to land! The runway is not clear, repeat, the runway is not clear!”
“Ah, it is clear,” came the voice from the flight deck. “It just isn’t CLEAR clear.”
Well, we survived the flight, and on Monday morning, I was of course delighted to return to work after the dreary monotony of the beautiful Austrian Alps under an unbroken azure sky.
I quickly got myself up to speed on our latest projects. Within an hour I’d been called into a progress meeting with my boss.
“So, Al,” he asked. “The latest feature the team’s been working on. Is it done?”
“Of course it’s done!” I say confidently.
“… but it’s not DONE done.”