Wednesday, November 3, 2010


When we got to Darwin, I told the local employment agency that we were interested in short term work in any field, but that we drew the line at prostitution or workong for Macdonalds. Prostitution I rejected because I am too old, and Macdonalds I rejected on moral grounds. As a consequence I've ended up at Darwin airport cleaning 'planes 6 days (and / or nights) a week. I am embarrassed to admit that I actually enjoy the work, and I particularily enjoy the setting because Darwin airport, in addition to being an international passenger airport, is also a RAAF base. In the past week, I have seen a series of Hawk fighters, a Wedgetail AEW, and a visiting B-52. The people that I work with are almost uniformly pleasant, even if a number are suffering from terminal slackness. They work to NT time - that is, Not Today, Not Tomorrow, Not Tuesday and not Thursday. The hours are a little antisocial, and I naievely thought that being generally rostered for the 3am to 7am might allow me to take advantage of the night time coolness, alas, during the build up, and the early wet, minimum temperatures rarely descend below 29 degrees.
Yesterday, as we waited at the security entrance, the guard there was confonted by an extremely agitated young man who demanded to speak to Jetstar immediatley. The guard pointed to an emergancy telephone on the wall nearby, beneath which were listed a series of direct numbers. As a group we were witness to the following one sided conversation.
"I want to speak to Jetstar"
"I have to get on the 'plane to Melbourne"
"I have a ticket, and I must get on that 'plane"
"I don't care if it is at the end of the runway"
"I am not running late, I have been at this bloody airport since 7o'clock last night, and I fell asleep"
"I am telling you to order the 'plane back to the terminal"
"Look I'll lose my job if I am not in Melbourne today"
"Please, please, pleeease"
The fellow then hung up, and shuffled away from the 'phone, and we glanced at one another barely suppressing grins, which I am glad we did, because he suddedly threw his back pack on the floor, and proceeded to give it a damn good thrashing, punching and kicking and hitting it. Unfeelingly, we retreated through the security barrier, no longer bothering to control our laughter.
My job is also educational - some of our shifts are run by a delightful and competent lady, whose company I enjoy, and who has been only too willing to share her wisdom with us - whether we like it or not. The other morning, we were sitting around waiting for 'Ho Chi Minh' which was running late. On the previous 'plane we had not finished when the cabin crew arrived. The cabin crew (not including the pilots) are universally referred to as 'The enemy' On this particular occassion one of the Paris Hilton lookalikes walked down the aisle to be confronted by a small bag of rubbish, which it would have been perfectly easy to step over, or heaven forbid, to reach down and move marginally to one side. Instead, she came to an abrupt halt, sighed audibly, crossed her arms, and refused to move until one of the drones (me) deigned to move the bag a matter of a few centimetres. Following another sigh, she marched to the back of the 'plane. I mentioned this incident to the leading hand, commenting that the only other behaviour which annoys me more is the plastic bonhomie of the enemy, as when the simple act of passing one of them a headset, elicits gushings of "Thank you so, so much, I really appreciate it, I do " accompanied by the sort of smile which would make Tony Abbott seem sincere.
" Well I am not too critical of the enemy " my boss said " If you had to do what they have to do, you'd be miseable too" I asked her what she meant.
"Well you have noticed that they are all young and pretty ? thats because they are selected by men for the express purpose of sleeping with the pilots when on overnight stops, they have to do it because it enables the airlines to more economically recruit pilots during periods of high competition. They actually earn less than the cleaners, and if you glance at a few of the pilots, you will soon realise why they are all so unhappy"
I suggested that this might be a slight exaggeration, but she hotly denied it.
"Now that we are getting more and more women pilots" I said "I suppose that the male cabin crew will be forced to perform the same function"
"Don't be ridiculous" she responded indignantly "All the male enemy are gay"
Well it must be said that I had noticed the occassional effeminate squeak eminating from some of the more elaboratley coiffured stewards, but I suggested that 'all' might be drawing a slightly long bow.
Even more aggresively she disagreed "It is compulsory for all male enemy on Australian airlines to be gay, you are not permitted to be employed unless you can prove that you are gay"
You see what I mean by educational.

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