It was a sunny afternoon and the Manager felt quite pleased with himself. He had been planning this for months and the day had finally arrived. He had insisted on driving today, and though the Driver hadn’t been too keen on the idea, he had eventually agreed considering the Manager was the only one who actually knew where they were going.
”We’re almost there now.”
”Please tell me where we are going,” The Driver begged and looked out of the window for any signs. ”Fitton? Is that where we’re going? What’s in Fitton?”
”It wouldn’t be a surprise if I told you, now would it?” The Manager said and smiled at the man in the passenger seat.
”I know, but you could give me a tiny hint.”
”I could,” said the Manager, ”but I won’t.”
”You knew what I got you for your birthday,” the Driver argued.
”Only because you’re the worst secret keeper in history and told me.” The Manager said with a sigh.
”It wasn’t fun walking around with secrets. I like sharing fun stuff with you.”
”I know that, love, but you’re not supposed to tell the one receiving the gift what’s inside. Never mind, we’re here now.”
The Manager took a sharp right turn and a tiny airfield appeared before them at the end of the road.
”An airport?” The Driver said with awe. ”Here? Now this is exciting. Where are we going?”
”You’ll find out shortly.”
A cheerful looking man came walking (though the Manager would have described it as bouncing) towards them.
”Hello, my name is Arthur and it’s my pleasure to be being your cabin crew today together with Mum. Would you need some assistance with your mobile travel belongings?”
”Excuse me, what?” The Driver sounded confused.
”Can I help you with your wheelie bags?” The steward explained.
”Oh, we’re fine,” said the Manager. ”They’re not really heavy. Where do you need us to go? I haven’t been to this type of airfield before.”
”Just follow me, and we’ll find Mum.”
”Why do we need to find his mother,” the Driver whispered as they followed the man towards a shabby-looking portacabin. ”Does he live here?”
”Shhhh,” the Manager whispered back. ”Let’s just see. I did talk to a woman when I booked this trip, hopefully we’ll find her soon.”
The odd feeling in the Manager’s stomach from when he had first seen the tiny airfield didn’t exactly vanish when he met the rest of the crew, and certainly not when he saw the plane. The idea of a private jet had seemed like an amazing idea at the time, and when he found a private charter located not that far from them that he could actually afford, it had all seemed to be too good to be true. Apparently it was … His Driver seemed to be excited, though, and that was the most important thing.
”I’ve never been on a private jet before.” The Driver was practically jumping. ”Thank you so much!” He kissed his partner on the cheek and followed the steward towards the plane. The two of them looked equally excited, but the Manager followed a bit more hesitantly.
”You still haven’t told me where we are going,” said the Driver as he fastened his seatbelt and got comfortable in his seat.
”That’s because it’s still a surprise,” said the Manager and stuffed a book in the seat pocket. ”I’ve even told the crew not to say anything.”
”One of the perks of having a private plane,” he said and smiled.
”How on earth did you afford this? Aren’t private jets ridiculously expensive?”
The Manager started stuttering. ”D-d-don’t think about that.” He sort of wanted to add ‘you’re worth every penny’ but looking at the state of the plane they were sitting in, that might not really come out as a compliment.
”Oh, brilliant, you’re both settled,” said the steward. ”And I see you’ve already fastened your seat belts. That’s good, because then I don’t have to explain it to you in the safety demonstration. I always struggle with that bit. It’s really different when you’re not wearing it, you know. You have to use one hand for doing something you normally do with two hands and then you drop it and -”
”Arthur, dear. Can you go and check that the galley’s been properly secured? I’ll take it from here.” The CEO of the company interrupted, and the Manager sighed with relief as the steward bounded behind a curtain. It wasn’t that he didn’t like the man, but he felt that he’d be more safe if the information came from a more professional person.
”Good afternoon and welcome to MJN,” the lady started. ”Have you ever been on a plane before?”
They both nodded.
”Good, the same rules apply here. Keep your seatbelt fastened while you’re in your seat, keep your arms and legs to yourself, always remember to put your oxygen mask on first, et cetera, and don’t take out those life vest unless I tell you to. Oh, and don’t mind the buzzing. That’s completely normal, at least this week. Enjoy your flight.”
”Wait, what?” The Manager exclaimed. ”Was that it?”
”Aren’t you going to point out the emergency exits or demonstrate the use of the whistle? All that stuff?”
”If you’ve been on a plane before, I’m sure you can figure it out. The emergency exits are marked with green signs just like any other emergency exit in the world. It’s not a big plane, I’m sure you can find it.”
”Okay then. Do you have any questions about the safety you’d like to ask me?”
”Not any in particular,” admitted the Manager.
”Good, now are we’re all settled and ready to go?”
”I guess so,” said the Manager. ”But what is that buzzing you mentioned?”
”Never mind that. It’s nothing to worry about. It just happens.”
”But is the plane safe?”
”It’s as safe as any other plane of its kind. We do check it before every flight, I assure you.” The CEO’s face did something the Manager could only assume was supposed to be a smile, but it did not make him feel any safer.
”Relax,” said the Driver. ”It’s going to be fine. I like this plane. It has a certain cosy feeling. You know, like an old steam train, or like a cabin that’s been in your family for ages.”
”GERTI’s been in our family for ages, at least all of my ages.” The steward had returned. ”And this is a cabin! So she’s our cabin-cabin.” He laughed heartily.
”Arthur, is the galley ready?” asked the woman.
”Good. Let the pilots know that we’re good to go.”
The plane was a bit old and shaking a bit too much when it took off. The buzzing was annoying, but not scary. The service was… interesting, and the pilots’ cabin address seemed to feature a disturbing amount of Coppola films instead of actual useful information. But all in all, the Driver seemed to enjoy his trip and was promised, by the tiny captain himself, a little flight deck look as soon as they landed. The Manager knew the Driver understood why he had to wait because he himself didn’t like anyone disturbing him in the cab while driving. It had taken months before the Manager had been allowed to set his foot through the door.
The Manager finally started to relax. Maybe this trip wouldn’t be so bad after all. He let his head rest on his Driver’s shoulder, felt a kiss on his forehead and closed his eyes.
They had both been sound asleep for a while when the plane started shaking. The Manager was at once wide awake, while the Driver didn’t seem to mind the shaking so much and kept his eyes closed.
”Oh here we go again,” the woman called out. ”Prepare for the rubber jungle.”
”The rubber what?” asked the Manager, and was answered by oxygen masks dropping down in front of him. Frantically he started reaching for the one in front of the Driver. He had to get one on him as soon as possible, but the mask was moving from side to side and he had trouble reaching it.
”Stop that,” said the Driver. ”Grab your own, I can do this.”
The Manager didn’t obey. He was determined to reach the mask and had almost done so when the Driver knocked his hand away and grabbed the mask. The Manager was getting angry. Why wouldn’t the Driver let him help him? He had seemed asleep when it happened, so the Manager had to help. He tried to reach for his own mask, but it was all very blurry and hard to reach.
”Oh, look! I think he’s waking up.”
The Manager opened his eyes and looked straight into the face of a beaming steward.
”He’s awake.” The man cheered. ”Can I get you something to drink? Tea? Coffee? Oh, maybe water?”
”Water would be nice,” mumbled the Manager while removing his mask, and the steward disappeared behind his curtain.
”What happened,” he asked when he was left alone with his Driver. ”Did we crash?”
The Driver smiled. ”No, we’re still in the air. You just passed out for a few minutes.”
”But the oxygen masks…”
”Apparently there’s a problem with the pressurisation system on the plane.”
”Yes, we really ought to get that replaced,” said the woman who came with his drink of water. ”Third time this has happened in the last month.”
”You told me the plane was safe!” The Manager sat up straight and wanted to shout at someone.
”Relax, relax, it is,” she insisted. ”We are checking it before each flight and mending it as well as we can. Mostly it works, but sometimes this happens and the pilots have to bring us down to a better altitude. But it’s becoming too frequent for my taste. The trips take longer and it’s starting to cost us more money than replacing it would.” She handed him his drink and left them alone.
”Are you okay?” the Driver asked. The Manager took a sip of water and nodded.
”But what was that all about?”
”You and the masks. You know you’re always supposed to put on your own mask first.”
”But you were asleep.”
”I wasn’t for long. And even if I were, you should have done your own first. That’s what they tell you to do. Because you’re not very helpful if you’re passed out.”
”Then they should have told us that before we took off.” The Manager mumbled.
”No, that safety demo was - ”
”Brief and slightly rude, yes, but that was one of the things she actually mentioned. And you’ve been on planes lots of times, you should know this by now.”
”I still think that the demonstration could have been a bit more thorough.”
”Like yours are?” The Driver said with a smile.
”Love. You have the most thorough welcoming and safety greeting on any train in existence. And you can do that, because we can drive while you’re talking. The plane people kind of really need to do it before they take off.”
”It wouldn’t have killed us if she was a bit more detailed,” said the Manager.
”Maybe not, but this didn’t kill you either. It put you out for a few minutes, but you’re okay.”
”Good.” The Driver kissed him gently. ”Now, if they haven’t fixed the problem by the time we’re going back, remember to -
”-always put your own oxygen mask on first.”
”You got it,” said the Driver with a smile.
”But that won’t be a problem,” said the Manager. ”Because we’re not flying back.”
”I couldn’t afford more than one trip, so I’ve booked train tickets for our way back.”
”Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you,” said the Driver and kissed him again.