on a Friday, during the commuter slots is an experience unlike any other in NZ
. Both the airports, during saner times of day are calm friendly places with good coffee, helpful staff and clean toilets.
Come Friday evening a manic air pervades the place, the stress and bustle is almost visible, sod’s law takes precedence over all and any other physical or mental laws of the universe and weird shit pays a visit.
The organisation had decided it was time Mrs W got to experience Lower Hutt by night, whilst I had a few days of being terribly important and smiley.
The organisation never puts two people on the same flight if at all possible and I had the 17:00 flight, Mrs W the 17:30.
Stumbling through the airport, which seems to be full of a dim gritty light during the Friday mania, I kissed Mrs W goodbye and shuffled up to gate 32.
All was well but the “paperwork” seemed a long time coming, men in flouro jackets came and went with clipboards in their hands, the FA
’s were turning from slightly dishevelled to more than a touch seedy and ready for a good glass of chardonnay and a romantic novel whilst the make-up slowly peeled earthwards onto the cat (and that was just the males!).
We waited…and waited…
“Bugger!......Mrs W will be getting into the air soon and on arrival will have to sit and talk to the CEO for ages, on her own, hope he’s sober..”
We waited…..all of a sudden through the bustling air; a commotion broke out at the forward door.
In came a guy who was clearly not having a good day, he was carried between a St John Para-medic and a large Maori guy who was pushing a stand with a saline drip suspended from it like some transparent piñata.
The patient was truly battered and bruised, covered in dressings and stitches around his face and arms, semi-conscious and covered in little blobs of black, dried blood.
The look on his face, or at least the bits that weren’t covered by an oxygen mask, was one of terror, resignation, hope and morphine.
He was lodged into an aisle seat a few rows up from me and the St John medic held him upright.
I prayed there would be no turbulence (for his sake) as the engines started with that strange “puff’ and then a muted roar that I had begun to miss so much in the last 45 mins.
I checked my watch, 17:41, Mrs W would be deciding on tea or coffee whilst hoping for a macadamia nut biscuit rather than a choc-chip.
How the lives of ladies who lunch are filled with such awful choices!!
But I wasn’t to know that the 737 at gate 30 wasn’t a new arrival disgorging a load of dishevelled jafa’s-who-commute, it contained Mrs W and the choice facing her was one the Clash would have understood in 1977:
“Should I stay or should I go?”
Things had been progressing swimmingly for the mother of my progeny, until start-up.
Not for Mrs W the soft “Puff-roar” of the worlds most powerful paraffin heater, nope, she got:
“Bang! rumble, phoot!” and then a great cloud of dirty white smoke came pouring out one engine, I couldn’t tell you if it was port or starboard for Mrs W sets little store by such things, her artists’ eye could instantly name the shade of smoke but left and right are trifling details to her.
Well, the expected flinging open of doors didn’t occur so Mrs W obligingly sat still, tried not to sweat too hard and put her trust in Air NZ
Had I known she was still on the tarmac at this point, and had I been able to catch her eye I may have indicated that discretion may well be the better part of valour and dragged her to the bar for a swift Speights before heading home up Highway 1.
But I was oblivious to her fate.
As we took off I winced at the sight of the Kiwi Patients tubes being jerked around in his arm and hoped he’d been dealt to with some serious drugs, by the sounds of the weather forecast Air NZ
would be providing the rock ‘n roll but sex was definitely off the menu!
It was dark outside and the dimmed cabin lights seemed to enhance the sense of urgency, disarray and dishevelled weariness that is the work of Taniwha’s (Maori sprites and goblins that cause mischief) on a friday commute.
The coffee was dispensed along with the eagerly anticipated biscuit. This was a Friday alright; the cabin, even with the lights back on, seemed dimly lit, as if the lighting had had a gutful of the working week too.
Talk amongst the pax was muted, what few glimpses out of the window I managed showed only solid cloud and a thin sliver of moon, New Zealand was wrapping itself into a snuggle-blanket ready to hibernate through another winter week-end.
As we left top of the glide (I think that’s what he said) I noted that we were to be approaching from the Nth and the Captain mentioned turbulence, wind and rain, the three necessary ingredients for a memorable Wellington landing, every Kiwi has a “WTN
landing story” or two, or three……...
Hmmm, Kiwi’s are divided, some hate WTN
from the Sth but I am of the other view that Nth ain’t nice, especially, as was the case tonight, if it is windy. Ha! And when isn’t it windy in Wellington? I hear the Jafa’s chant (Jafa = Just Another F****ing Aucklander).
Anyway I digress, being dark and being in an aisle seat made it worse, it all got very quiet as the updrafts from Porirua and the hills behind started tearing at the control surfaces, heaving the 737 about the skies
The approach seemed to take forever, not being able to sight the ground didn’t help, I had a mental picture of us hurtling down a long valley, aiming for a tiny patch of civilisation.
“Flight Attendants be seated for landing” said in a tone of voice that suggested there were some other things keeping the Captain’s attention occupied.
’s strapped in and no-one looked anywhere other than straight ahead..”boof, shudder, groan, heave, boof!”.
I managed a glimpse of rain and cloud tearing through the landing light beams.
I felt a bit queasy and everybody I could see looked a ghastly green pallor, except the Kiwi Patient, he looked away with the fairies and I considered taking a good hard swig from his drip.
“Crash, Shake, Judder, Sway, Jolt” there appeared to be hard lumps hidden in the clouds.
You could hear the engine note changing as the Captain juggled the throttles to stay high in the low bits and keep it real in the high bits, I began to envy Mrs W who I assumed was down on the ground by now.
In the cabin the pax seemed to be developing that bond that always attaches itself to humanity during a good disaster movie.
The cabin lights were dimmed “In accordance with international aviation law”.
The interior of ZK
-NGF was no longer the bright clean sanctuary it had seemed in sunnier times, the interior appeared a faded yellow and everything looked old and creaky, little draughts whipped about our ears, the a/c seemed to be in the throes of holding itself together for the last precious seconds of its’ (and our) life.
In reality she (Mrs W) was idly watching; “The nice man put a new spark plug in” which was actually a pretty accurate description.
The engine fired and Mrs W was soon skyward bound, wondering if I was getting worried about her as I must have been waiting for ages at WTN
I caught a flash of sodium street lights cavorting about on the starboard side but none of it looked too steady and looking sideways made my Chicken, avocado and cranberry panini long for the freedom of my lap.
“Jolt, Judder, sway” only my seat belt kept me on the cushion through that one!
I could sense that we were very near to the runway now, Jonah Lomu’s house would be to the left and…”Swing, judder, slap” the feverish working at the throttles was punctuated by silences which I assumed were moments of zero throttle, I pictured the two on the flight deck, swearing and yanking at the stick watching WTN
surge inexorably nearer awaiting the split-second when someone has to say “OK” or “Go around”.
They seem to have given up the fight at this point, the engines sighed into silence and we did one quick lurch skywards and then “crump, bonk, roll…reverse thrust!” we were down!!!!
The thick deep silence in the cabin instantly lightened and those who minutes earlier had been making promises to their god or gods that they could never keep were suddenly preoccupied with the mission in hand, in most cases going home, there was an air of general embarrassment as if we all thought that our prayers and pleadings might have been heard by others, a bit like finding your mum has brought you a cup of tea while you were busy playing with yourself.
I disembarked and the CEO was at the gate, white and shaking from nicotine deprivation as usual, the screens to my right as I walked up the corridor were a blaze of red writing..”Delayed” seemed to be the word of the week and the general air of storm-lashed panic and frantic re-scheduling made me feel like a battle-hardened survivor as I marched past pale anxious faces peering out through rain-lashed windows at the ranks of 737’s, SAAB 340’s and Jetstream 41’s bouncing about on their landing gear as the wind and rain battered them.
“I think Mrs W may be a trifle late” he said, indicating the (non) arrivals board,” just time for a smoke I fear”.
Half an hour later Mrs W emerged from the madding crowd that lead to gate 17.
?” I asked, concerned.
“That was an interesting flight”
“You’re telling me!” I interjected.
“Yes, the lady in the seat next to me was telling me about Rarotonga, we must go there sometime.”
I wonder about Mrs W sometimes, is she as cool as penguin shit or do some things on this earthly plane just pass her by?.
We, the undersigned, do hereby consent.....