I usually loathe Monday mornings. Something about earners shuffling about town like so many very important contributors to society highlights the sub-relevance of my position as a professional applicant but not this morning. I got some good news in the mail last Thursday… “Congratulations” it started; and my heart pulled off a neck breaking somersault. This Monday I have all the documents they required in a neat briefcase and am outside the lobby at 7:51 looking dapper in my best single-breasted grey suit and yes, I do say so myself.
The fellow who makes a dash at me from the personnel manager’s office while I introduce myself at the reception acts so familiar I almost lose my well rehearsed composure. Five foot five and so fair in complexion one would squint to look at him on a sunny day, he’s six whole inches shorter than me and with a grip like a vice, but what he lacked in height he more than made up for in cheerful enthusiasm. I soon learn Jason the personnel manager always wanted to be a pilot and has been saving to attend flight school like a million other aviators I’ve met who consider pilots with sacrosanct admiration in the aviation industry; poor misinformed souls.
Soon after my arrival, three other successful recruits follow and the morning quickly reels off into a tour of the facilities and way too many awkward introductions and loaded glances that I soon begin to wonder how long I’d last in this environment. Sky-jet was a small charter outfit cum training institute operating mostly two and four passenger carrying light aircraft with a staff force of eleven virtually unsupervised employees who casually determined their own work pace and timings and compared to that, this is a circus next door to Tuesday night bingo and though this was expected, I had no way of preparing for the overwhelming weight of professional responsibility I now feel strangling me. Thank God I opted to leave the tie today; jeez, Nigeria Airways! Talk about the big break and I knew the others feel just as elated and taut.
Finally we stand before the door to our ‘salvation’, an unassuming blue door bearing several cautionary placards and stickers proclaiming so many rules of thumb with a day planner from 2002 as a backdrop; beneath a brand new red sticker saying “turbines turning” close to the top is pinned a dusty ‘Notice To Airmen’ very possibly from the same week the door got installed and a “12hour bottle to throttle” green sticker to the right of the NOTAM.
Amid all the chaos however is an aluminum door plate with the words “FLIGHT LINE” placed up-front and centre in glaring defiance to its cohabitants. Now this I can relate to… though they all seem such wonderful people, I’ve heard of how vicious these career-sharks can be behind their colleagues’ backs from the guys behind that door. From my own experience, the flight line stands for field work and often represents an environment of measurable outcomes for every employee domiciled there during the work day.
Jonas pulls back the wooden door into an enormous hanger housing two 747s and a number of smaller turbo-props nestling beneath the colossus’ wings like fledglings reveling in the warmth of the bigger birds’ company and with a collective sigh, we filter in to the sound of cheers and more congratulations from familiar faces, comrades from our various academies and prior employment.
Once in, Jonas makes a path against our thronging colleagues towards the main hanger doors which lead to the apron where a chubby dark man nursing a mug of steaming black coffee stands squinting up at a sky dotted with stratocumuli in increasing patches riding a westerly towards the station… Tweedle-dumb. He wears his uniform like his casuals; worn-out, shabby and screaming for care. My least favorite interviewee spins around to reveal a name tag with “Captain Isiah Sule” emblazoned over his left pocket flap and to my surprise he lets slip a sly grin on seeing me before screwing up his face once more back to its default setting of mild disdain.
“Here are your boys and madam Captain” Jonas beams as we shuffle to catch up with him… “I’ve given them a quick guide of the facility and other relevant spaces, so now they’re all yours” he says and this time I have to steady myself.
‘If Captain Sule is to be our training captain which Jonas soon confirms as his introduction to us drones on as if from a distant time and place, muffled by my trepid thoughts, then my flimsy shenanigans from the interview could not have gone unnoticed could they?. Why does it seem his stare keeps lingering over me as he addresses us?.. Was that really a grin I saw, and why was it directed at me?…’ No time to dig around my own head anymore, paper boxes are handed out by an intern in khaki overalls and I hold out my hand in time for my box of materials to be shoved into them. ‘These will keep me busy for a while’ I think as I follow the crew in a halting excursion of the monumental complex.
The day wears on, and I make a number of heart-warming re-acquaintances, suppress the urge to spill my coffee into Ade’s crotch for a quarrel we had several months back over opposing political views on Facebook and bump into Tweedle-dweeb outside the restrooms. She appears genuinely surprised to see I made the selection which baffles me about as much as Captain Sule’s grin and reminds me to ditch my nicknames for them in favor of her “Sarah” and Captain Sule’s “Yes sir” before I smart-arse myself into a tight spot with what appears to be very demanding supervisors.
As I leave the imposing glass doors at 17:10 alongside so many cheering and wise-cracking colleagues, we make a bee-line for “The Outpost Lounge” where celebratory drinks and food had been placed on ice for our recruitment party by our more overzealous friends who’re always on the lookout for a chance to drink like sailors, I heave a mingled sigh of relief and contentment, yet noting a lingering nag. Sarah and Captain Sule reacted to seeing me very differently and unexpectedly. My friends were still serving up odd looks though, and I’d have to let it go or be forced to field their attempts to feign concern. ‘Well, that’s easy’ I started to think; with a night like we had planned, I’d be crazy to let trivial reactions spoil my night. It worked for about a second but since I had to always be a wise-guy, I soon thought of the advert that stated a requirement for three new recruits against the four we were today and completely lost my appetite for fun. Way to go Ali!